The destination of “a road runs through it” is the Basunti Lodge, where the yoga retreat, the impetus for our trip to India, is taking place for eight days.
Basunti Lodge is the ever evolving manifestation of a vision of David Butterworth and his wife Izzy to create a home and a small paradise in the northwestern corner of India. Painstakingly designing each little detail, planting with trial and error, employing local labour to support the community, growing food organically, boring a well for clean water; the couple has built a tranquil peace on earth, perfect as a respite from the rest of the world. David, with his swashbuckle voice and equally exotic background, regales with stories of India, the people, the history, and most especially the ecology and nature of the area. Izzy completes with insights into the arts and craft of the people, and provides insights into the art of living amongst her countryman, in the country side, in this country.
The meals are vegetarian, which I must admit, was not something I considered. The Simpson’s episode where Bart and Homer are dancing in a conga line, singing, “you don’t win friends with salad, you don’t win friends with salad” reverberated through my mind. How much salad can a person eat? And a whole week? When the menu was discussed with the group, I jokingly talked about foraging through the jungle (apparently the local name for the forest) hunting for meat while the rest of the crew would be practicing yoga. Cows were off limits, but other beasts would be fair game.
However……the food here has been delicious. Much of it is harvested from the gardens on the premises and is locally sourced from the farmers. David has carefully planned a variety of dishes, some spiced with a touch of chili, simple combinations of exotic and standard vegetables. I now laugh and proclaim a desire to join the cause. David has promised fresh fish from the lake for the last meal here, for anyone interested. The taste should be the antidote to restore my carnivorous predilection.
And the people on this yoga retreat have been a welcome source of friendship and companionship, travelers all, with experiences in almost every part of the world. Their interests and curiosity and respect for others is heart warming, affirming my belief in the merits of travel and restoring my faith in the importance of understanding and empathy.
The Basunti Lodge is situated in the countryside, surrounded by small towns and villages, at the edge of dam created lake. David has taken the group through several trails all of which end at the water where one can swim and enjoy the vegetation, the birds, the sounds, the calm. One of the walks takes you to the end of the road to a tiny village of, maybe, ten houses living off the animals and fruit it can grow. The proliferation of monkeys, however, has made the latter increasingly difficult, threatening their livelihood and consequently their ability to remain on the land.
The lake itself is a wonder, the product of a dam built in 1976 which forced some 80,000 inhabitants of the once thriving meadows to be relocated to another part of the state, leaving behind walled towns forever lost to the bottom with only the tip of a tower peaking above the water line as evidence of their existence. On one of our walks to the lake, we were joined by a newlywed couple and the brides parents on a pilgrimage of sorts. The father’s family once lived in the valley. In a sort of baptism, the family washed their hands, their arms, and their face with the water as they viewed span of water burying their ancestral home. We were touched by the scene and felt privileged to witness their homage.
From the meditation platform, overlooking the lake, Olga and I read and write and reflect.
Is this heaven? No, it’s Basunti Lodge.