It feels strange to straddle two states at once, encountering signs that belong to both cultures and languages. That’s exactly what transpires when we enter Gholvad (sometimes referred to as Gholwad), a village on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border in Palghar district. We have heard much about its Parsi heritage and chikoo orchards but Gholvad charms us from miles away, as we drive through mountain-flanked roads in the green, monsoon month of July. If it weren’t for the existence of Masters Paeridaeza, a beautiful Parsi bungalow open for rent on Saffronstays, we might have never ventured into this coastal town. And what a pity that would have been.
We arrive on a Saturday morning, after having made a pit stop at Dahanu Beach, around half an hour away from Gholvad. The cool and moist monsoon wind has already put us in a good mood and when we spot the lovely Masters Paeridaeza, nestled among a dense cluster of trees, we’re certain that we’ll enjoy this homestay experience. We park our bright red Figo (on rent from the super convenient and cost-effective Zoomcar) on the shell-strewn yard and freeze at the sight of two large and boisterous dogs. Fortunately for us, they are quickly reined in by the caretaker and Nimu, the local help. But as we’d discover over the next 24 hours, these canines are actually big softies.
Porus Master, the Parsi owner of this idyllic bungalow emerges from the staircase with a huge smile on his face. He’s obviously happy to have us here. “Welcome,” he says and that’s only the beginning of a long string of fascinating stories as he shows us the rooms for rent and the rest of the luxurious house. “This is going to be my retirement home,” he says with obvious glee. A gifted architect, Porus is based in Mumbai but escapes to Gholvad on weekends. Who wouldn’t, when the town is so delightfully rustic, unblemished and verdant? His spacious three-storey house is littered with gorgeous souvenirs from his numerous travels.
And guests are free to enjoy a cup of Irani chai and batasa (cheesy little biscuits that are dropped into the tea and eaten) in the majestic hall with its open indoor courtyard. There is even a quaint washbasin operated by a foot lever next to the dining table. But we love the sweeping veranda the most, with its bird’s eye view of the surrounding greenery and Bordi beach in the distance. “When I got married, I built this veranda so that I could enjoy a cup of tea here every morning. My wife made it the first day but after that, nothing!” Porus tells us and we chuckle, as we have several times in his humorous company.
Finally, we settle down into our spacious and homely room in the annexe that comes with its own dining and sit-out area. We are delighted to see a TV set (the subscription hasn’t been activated but Porus can sort that out for you), a little window overlooking the greenery outside and a cute Mickey Mouse rug in the bathroom (but no soap or dental kit – we manage to get the soap from the caretaker but not toothpaste). There are two rooms in this area and the fact that it is quite removed from the main house affords much-needed privacy. At the same time, Porus and the main house are just a gate away so you can always hop over if you need anything. Nimu and the caretaker slip in and out without your even noticing.
The hunt for Parsi food
We are famished by now and Porus recommends Crazy Crab for lunch. It’s en route to Bordi Beach and offers scrumptious Indian and Chinese but no Parsi food, much to our disappointment. We also hunt for Parsi bakeries and find one opposite Gholvad station but it’s a regular bakery. There is however a small bakery next to Golden Hotel with excellent mawa cakes prepared in the local style. We slowly realise that although Gholvad has a Parsi history (the story goes that hordes of refugees from Iran landed on Gujarat’s shores and began practising agriculture there. Eventually, they moved to other areas like Sajjan and Gholvad), it is now more a melange of Maharashtrian and Gujarati cultures. You only get the authentic Parsi feel at the Iranian bungalows and resorts. For a lavish Parsi thali, inform the folks at Gulkush Resort (a little ahead of Bordi Beach, opposite the fire temple) in advance. The vegetarian thali is priced at around Rs 350 and the non-vegetarian thali will cost you Rs 550. According to Porus, the Parsi sanatoriums also serve food at times and there are better bakeries to be found at Dahanu.
After a sumptuous meal, we drive down to Bordi Beach. I’m aching to get out of the car and feel the wind on my face and the sand beneath my feet. Driving is great but for me, walking trumps all other forms of sightseeing. The beach is not as clean as we would have liked but it’s better than Dahanu Beach. We see floating plants in the distance and a beautifully decorated camel reclining on the sand. I don’t support the use of animals for rides but one cannot deny that the camel makes for a lovely addition to this seaside landscape. The beach is surrounded by tall coconut trees and dense vegetation that make the climate cool and inviting. We spot a father and son duo scouting for shells in the sand and proceed to do the same. The best shells I’ve ever collected are from Pondicherry – incredibly huge in size and in mesmerising shapes. I’m not as fortunate here. But a shell is still an enduring memory of any seashore and I pocket a few small ones.
In the late evening, after a session of photography in the becoming light of dusk, we pay a visit to Porus’ personal menagerie. We’ve been hearing the ducks, hens and geese all day long and it’s a delight to see them at last in their large enclosure. The little birds go into a frenzy at this new foreign presence and there is a beautiful spotted black, rotund hen that is particularly shy. Seeing them run helter skelter makes us think we’re not welcome but they settle down eventually. We enjoy watching a duck with a red patch on its face sip water from a puddle. Nimu and the dog wait for us outside and we manage to get them to pose for a photograph. The two dogs have their favourite spots around the property and the docile one is content to lie on the staircase and watch you with doleful eyes!
The Warli village
The next morning, we wake up at the crack of dawn for a stroll around Gholvad village before our breakfast at Masters Paeridaeza. Nimu’s nephew accompanies us but walks so fast that we lose him every time we pause to take a picture (which is several times)! Still green ponds nestled among chikoo trees and wild bushes, smiling cyclists and village children, thatched Warli houses and soft black goats munching on fresh grass are some of the sights that greet us as we walk by.
Our guide engages some pretty Warli women in conversation so we can go click-happy. They are more than happy to oblige once they’ve gotten over their endearing shyness. A couple of local boys take us to a cage full of exotic birds like cockatoos and parakeets. Their racket slices through the quiet morning air but we’re delighted to see them pose obediently whenever we point our camera at them. We don’t want to go back but our tummies are rumbling and we head back to the farmhouse for a tasty breakfast of rava upma, toast with cheese, jam and butter and steaming hot Irani chai and batasa.
Although there aren’t too many attractions around the area, we’d recommend Masters Paeridaeza for its beautiful location and quietude. Go during the monsoons to experience its greenery and breezy seaside coolness at its best. Rooms start at Rs 3500 per night and are inclusive of breakfast. For bookings, visit Saffronstays, email email@example.com or call +91 8080620320.
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