Just a few days had passed that singing legend Lata Mangeshkar had passed away, leaving the entire nation grieving. The memories of the blue day were still fresh when we stepped into Chhuti Holiday Resort last month for its 30th anniversary invite. Entering the premises through the bougainvillea-clad gate of this beauty tucked away in a quiet neighbourhood of Bolpur’s Charu Palli, Jamboni, the first bit of information we received while registering our names was about India’s Nightingale’s stay at the resort. That was enough to get us goosebumps! But hers is not the only name associated with the historic cottage 16 out of the 22 cottages in the premises. “Lata Mangeshkar, M.F. Hussain, R.P. Goenka, Om Puri and a lot of film personalities from Bombay stayed with us. Author Mani Shankar Mukherjee (renowned as Sankar) had come to check the place before R.P. Goenka’s visit and film-maker Goutam Ghose stayed with his team while shooting his film in Santiniketan…,” reminisced Siddhartha Roy, the humble 71-year-old founder of Chhuti, over an evening tea adda later, at his 40-year-old home at Santiniketan during our visit. His humility reflects upon his unostentatious creation, Chhuti.
A warm bath in the stone-tiled washrooms attached to each cottage followed by a hearty, homestyle Bengali lunch had our hearts on day one after an exhausting early morning road trip. Instead of the conventional Bengali bhaat-ghum (after lunch nap), the three bigha premises of Chhuti enticed us to take an afternoon stroll. The entire property shaped interestingly like a hexagon has its 22 tiled-roof and stone-floored cottages named after Rabindranath Tagore’s poems such as Kheya, Patralekha, Sphulinga, only the last one is named after a novel, Shesher Kobita. The reception with its thatched roof is aptly named Porichoy. Fresh winter-spring blooms and over 100 trees in the property adorned with stone sculptures contribute to rejuvenate the soul.
Siddhartha Roy (left), founder and owner of Chhuti, with son Surya Deep Roy, director, Chhuti Holiday Resort
The resort adorned with terracotta carvings on the cottage walls offers three categories of rooms — AC Deluxe, AC Standard, Non-AC. The rooms with large windows are well-lit and come with a view of the garden outside. Stone bed and cane furniture add to the decor of the interior, in keeping with the rustic feel. Amenities include TV, mini fridge, room heater, Wi-Fi, geyser and extra bed (chargeable). Accomodation is available with breakfast, dinner and lunch packages with a choice of the cuisine. Guests can also book cottages under special holiday packages.
“Chhuti is the name Rabindranath Tagore endearingly gave to his wife Mrinalini Devi. Chhuti Holiday Resort was dedicated to her memory. Established in February 1992 as probably one of the first private hotels/resorts in Santiniketan, it was like a desert when we came here 30 years ago. All the trees were planted by me. I kept the land just the way it was, undulated. No cluster is on the same level, I maintained the natural formation of the land. I didn’t want to disturb the natural scenario. The shape of the huts is typical rural Bengal architecture. Earlier we had thatched roofs, now tiled for safety reasons,” said Roy, who worked in a German shipping company before venturing into hospitality.
An interesting platter of snacks greeted us in the evening at the 44-seater restaurant. The restaurant, done up with stone walls and glass windows, is illuminated warmly with cane basket hanging lamps. Lunch and dinner are also, usually, served here but can be ordered in the room on request. The evening adda was wrapped with a soul-soothing baul performance at the resort’s vast garden, the perfect mood-setter for such performances.
Robi Baul of Santiniketan mesmerised us with his renditions.
Chhuti boasts of an elaborate multi-cuisine menu and the food is available for home delivery at nearby locations. We got a hint of the reason behind its popularity at dinner time, when an impressive continental spread awaited us. “Thirty years back when I used to come to Santiniketan, there was only one place to stay and it was not a pleasant experience. I felt Santiniketan had room for better accommodation than what was available. That’s how the idea of building a resort started. I bought land and started to cook my own food. I wanted to create a village sort of environment blended with basic comforts, maybe a bit of luxury, and good food, hygienically cooked and served,” recalled Roy.
Starting the morning with a delish breakfast including the Chutti 30th anniversary special omelette on day two, we set out to get an unfamiliar glimpse of the familiar nearby places. Our car drove through the empty Visva Bharati campus, 10 minutes away from the resort, taking us to our first stop of the day around 25 minutes away, the Sonajhuri forest, minus the haat. We found our way back to the resort in a fun Toto ride, for a tempting Chinese cuisine lunch. The indigenous village known as Santhal Gram, behind Shonajhuri, river Kopai on a full-moon evening and a fair were some of the other places we visited post lunch — all within a distance of 20/30/40 minutes from the resort by car along the river Khowai. We ended the final day of our two-day trip with an Indian spread for dinner, accompanied by some more heart-to-heart adda.
What stands out about this simple, homely place is its reminder to the visitor that the essence of Santiniketan lies in the heart of Chhuti. “Chhuti was built more from the heart than the head. I wanted to build something that blends with the spirit of Santiniketan. That won’t stand out,” Roy had told us the first thing when we met for the evening adda, and we agree.