In the north eastern state of Meghalaya, put your care in the hands of the locals and experience staying at a home instead of a hotel. You’ll be cared for like a family member.
A cornered compound of red and white buildings dominates its lane in Laitumkrah, a neighbourhood in Shillong, the capital of the north eastern state of Meghalaya. Before coming here, I had seen pictures of it but it recaptures my imagination when I actually stand in front of it. It’s a beautiful house, very different in architecture and design. It’s charming and reminiscent of an era bygone.
As I shoulder my bags to step in, Janessaline Pyngrope or Janess comes out to greet me. She calls out to me casually, like one would greet an old friend. It’s not so strange for me, even though I’m only meeting her for the first time. I have been coordinating this trip with Janess, so I know she’s friendly. I’m at Boscobel, Janess’s home. She helps her mother Mayborn Pyngrope run a home-stay facility in one of the buildings in its big compound.
A flavourful stay
Janess invites me to lunch after showing me my room, which has two single beds. The other room, with a king size bed is occupied by a lady who stays at Boscobel nine out of ten times she is in Shillong; and she is in town every month for a week.
Janess had been considerate enough to ask about my meal choices before hand, and aunt Mayborn kind enough to prepare a hearty vegetarian meal.
I devour a plate of raajma chawal (red kidney beans and rice) prepared for me. The curry is intensely aromatic and it is one of the best raajma meals I’ve ever had. “I’ve added freshly ground spices to it. A friend of mine from Coorg (a district in south India known for its plantations of spices and coffee) often sends across pepper and cardamom, which I use in preparing the meals,” aunt Mayborn tells me. Over the next few days, as I get to spend more time with her and have delicious meals, I learn of her passion for cooking and running Boscobel as a home-stay.
A home of legacy
“My parents brought this house in 1960 from a British gentleman who married a lady belonging to the Khasi community. He had named the house Boscobel after his house in London, and requested us to retain the name,” recites aunt Mayborn. “The guest house is built in a traditional Assamese style. It is also earthquake resistant as the Britishers built their houses that way considering that the state is prone to the disaster,” she adds as a matter of fact.
Janess and aunt do not advertise the property and have only been getting guests through word-of-mouth publicity. Aunt Mayborn is also very selective about the guests she welcomes, since it is her home she is inviting strangers into. Having stayed with the Pyngrope’s for five days, I could see them justifying their tag line of ‘home away from home’ and having met other people around, I can say many other hosts share the same sentiments.
A home(stay) wherever you say
There are more home-stay facilities in Meghalaya than hotels and lodges; and more are coming up. “It’s been three years we have been running this and I am getting many guests who are reading reviews online and contacting me,” says Marlinda Phanbuh who runs a home-stay called Pateng in Cherrapunji, a town in Meghalaya known for being the second wettest place in the world.
One can also find home-stays in Mawlynnong – Asia’s cleanest village, and in other small villages across Meghalaya. In Shillong, other than Boscobel, Ha-Lum Apartments run by Kenneth Sawian is another option.
For those looking at something exclusive, there is also a home-stay aboard a boat! Called The Houseboat, it rests on the Umiam lake, popularly called Barapani, just 15 kms outside Shillong on the Guwahati-Shillong National Highway. It is the only home-stay on a boat in the entire north-east India, or so as its owner claims. “Guests can have the entire arena to themselves, making it a unique experience. They can also trek around, camp and even go fishing,” says Michael Syiem, the owner.
Read the full article in our September-October 2018 issue of the India & You magazine.