The People of India – JANHAVI PRASADA

JanhaviHill stations in India are charming and reminiscent of the British Raj. I live in a house called Abbotsford that belonged to an Englishman, John Hope Simpson, Esquire of the Indian Civil Service in the erstwhile United Province of Agra and Oudh. My great grand parents bought it in 1903. A century year old legacy of my family carries on with this jewel tucked away in the Kumaon hills of the lake district of India – Nainital.

I remember the  house was mostly used as a summer residence – when my entire family, the staff and a retinue of dogs was transported to Abbotsford. Rations for the next 6 months were also brought along as social life in the hills was rather hectic. Days beginning with breakfast, calling on with coffee mornings at a friends, afternoons could be a game of tennis with the Governor and in the evening’s, dinner parties galore.

That was a good 30-40 years ago. We grew up and went about our jobs away from the calm of the mountains. But my love for the mountains kept bringing me back to its fold.  I decided to restore the house to its old charm and open it to the public so that a part of history as well as the soul of the place can be shared with all asunder – only happiness and cheer is brought to a house once full!


And so a countryside heritage homestay is what Abbotsford is. I could have turned it into a “hotel” but that would mean parting away from my heritage – i was not willing to do that. I want to share my family’s hospitality with our guests, share the style of living, share the traditions, food from our age-old family recipes – after all our tradition teaches us that all guests are a semblance of the God – so must be treated with care and love!  So we welcome like-minded guests who enjoy nature, birds and the Himalayas. It is a place of rest, of some great walks, picnic spots, beautiful views, sit out around the fire over a hot mug of soup and sumptuous food from our local Chef.

I wrote most of my Graphic novel on Gandhi in this surrounding, I have some of the best shots taken with my camera here and I have cooked some delicious desi gosth on the wood fire right here. My garden cafe – Cafe Chica is a quaint little sit out in the premises with a rather brief menu but the best!

The fresh air at Abbotsford is what beckon me to be there once a month away from the madding crowd of the city of Delhi. It’s a 6 hour drive which becomes beautiful as you hit closer to the foothills. The best times to visit us are Mid September to November and then again from Mid February to April end. The lake is beautiful, the Boat house club is great for a glass of beer , the yachts are available for sailing easily….and the rest you must explore when you get to us.

Janhavi Prasada is the owner of Abottsford, Nainital and author of I Am Gandhi, Youth for Gandhian Foundation.

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