The steep path up to the cottage, lined with fruit blossoms
Thanks to Thanksgiving, this month has that air of counting your blessings and sending a quick mental thank you note to the stars above for all that is good in your life. For the things that seem destined and for those events that are serendipitous. For chance meetings and instant soul connections. For the dreams, wishes & hopes that finally got actualized. For having the courage to let go of things, people & places not meant for you. And for me, more than any year, I also feel a deep sense of gratitude for the work that I have chosen to do and for this now-not-so-little blog of mine. Apart from the happiness & the amazing creative opportunities it has given me, it has also made it possible for me to know and meet some incredible people over the years. Complete strangers, many of whom are now an integral part of my life. Usha, is one such special person. I had blogged about her lovely studio & apartment a few years ago, and since then we have been in touch. From appreciating each others work and aesthetics, to finding common ground in our love for animals, we also bonded instantly over our passion for the mountains.
Usha's painting in progress, in her sunlit studio
This corner of the living room, overlooking the valley and distant snow clad ranges, is my favorite corner!
As Usha started building her beautiful cottage in the Himalayas, I followed her daily joys and trials that come with following your heart and building a dream home ground up. She had invited/cajoled/scolded me many a times to make a plan to visit her, and finally, during my visit back to Gurgaon this Diwali, I spent an absolutely brilliant weekend with her. The exhilaration of driving on my own, for the first time, on those curves and bends and the highs and lows of hill roads, is an experience to remember! Crossing tiny villages, asking for directions every few kilometers and keeping fingers crossed that I don't take a wrong road, for if there came a moment where I would need to reverse on those narrow uphill roads, I basically would have no option but to abandon my truck of a car and walk the rest of the way. Yes, I had that scenario all planned out in my head. Thankfully, apart from a few minor hiccups [like ignoring the cut off from the highway and merrily singing & continuing for some 80 odd kms into the heart of Punjab before the realization hit and the u-turn was taken], the drive was a breeze.
Wild flowers on the table on the porch and late afternoon sunlight in the living room
Usha's bedroom with handmade quilt and her art
The striking Shiva painting has also been done by Usha
Every little thing has been carefully selected and restored by Usha. Gorgeous chair in the bathroom
The welcome hug from Usha and the welcome leap-lick-drool-cuddle from her gentle giant of a dog, Henry, was the warmest possible. As we walked up the steep path to her home, the stunning cottage revealed itself! Usha's home, all of stone, brick and old wood, sits snugly between pine trees, tall wild grass, and the most fabulous view of the valley. Designed by her daughter Vibha, the home feels personal and unique in every sense. Usha's excellent design aesthetic makes its presence felt as you enter the home - every little corner, each piece of furniture, lamp, furnishing, even the bunch of dry weeds in a vintage jar - are put together so beautifully that my aesthete's soul seemed to have found it's heaven. A home filled with sunshine, books, art overflowing in each room from the artist-in-residence, self-designed handmade heirloom quilts, warm rugs, fireplaces, vintage deco knick-knacks, french cottage chic furniture, wild flowers in unexpected vases, hot food and good wine, and a personal extra large body warmer of a dog - what more could you ask for when in the mountains! I could go on about how beautiful and seemingly effortlessly chic Usha's home is, or I could do better and share these images with you. I couldn't stop taking pictures, even as Usha said, oh but the house is yet to be finished. It's a home I would move into, without changing a thing!
Antique four poster bed in the studio for siesta
Artist's tools and her work space
The sheer beauty of a simple rustic window corner in the kitchen
Central island in the cozy warm kitchen. Favorite place to hang out during the day
The delightful guest bedroom had a deck that looked out to the lights in the valley at night
A chinoiserie art work at the entry foyer to the bedroom
Usha's love for gargoyles is evident with this little one in her studio and a massive one right at the entry of the cottage, sculpted by her niece Deveshi Sehgal.
Oh, I loved the play of light through the day through the beautiful rooms..
Usha has the knack of picking up the most beautiful distinct objects and making them look good together!
The three days were spent in long walks & treks, chatting with the villagers, polishing off finger licking good local delicacy at the local ayurved's home, picking up kitchen tricks from Usha [now that I cook for myself in Goa, in my lovely kitchenette, I am discovering a love for cooking], sitting around the central island in the warm & lovely kitchen and cooking, eating, drinking, listening to music, sharing stories and chatting. Oh, how much we talked! I spoke about serendipitous soul connections and right there, in the hills, I found one in Usha :)
We exchanged notes on the weather as she sat drying chillies and corn kernels
Going searching for the cat with a recent litter of 4 kittens! With Usha, village kids and the local ayurved, who also doubles up as the night watchman. I requested him to pluck these flowers which were high up on a tree, and later, they found their way to the kitchen, dressing up the table for dinner.
Good ol' wine from the local fruit orchards warmed us up in the night as cold winds roared outside
I can not end this post without talking about Usha's work. Usha Hooda is an artist, aesthete, interior designer par excellence. She has been working for years with áari' karigars (embroidery craftsmen) to design and produce one-of-a-kind textile masterpieces. Some of Usha's art and interior design work can be found on her page on facebook. She has recently been featured in Architectural Digest, among many other publications in the past. She can be reached via facebook or via her email.
Tree Of Life designed by Usha and executed by Aari karigars
An absolutely wonderful trip ended on a high note with me reccying a pretty little cottage for myself further up the hill. I can not wait for the day when I am able to move bag baggage and cat to my mountain abode, after I have spent a while and some in my sea side abode. There are many stories and gorgeous pictures from my jaunts within Goa that I have in my bag to share with you - watch this space!
This view. Sigh.
[All Images & Story: Bhavna Bhatnagar - An Indian Summer. Featured Usha Hooda's Home]