A Village So Hidden, Even Google Doesn't Know It!
Mostly Yes! Because the Mountain View, California-based company uses a huge set of computers to crawl through billions of pages to fetch information from the Web.
Yet Google Maps satellite image on Latitude 19.54508 and Longitude 73.31891 shows a thick canopy of green with not the slightest hint of the Village hidden below with rustic country homes, water bodies and resort staff trudging up and down the meandering paths, serving guests.
Pardon us for this hyperbole, exaggeration for effect, in saying ‘Google doesn’t know’. The rest of Google knows and Hidden Village is all over the Web with rave reviews. We are simply proud that we created a jungle so thick that the best of world-class tech, Google Maps, can’t peep in. Click Here.
It wasn’t always like this. Back in the scorching summer of 2002, this was barren land, laid waste by relentless chopping of trees for firewood. ( Click here ) You could not stand under the afternoon sun for more than a few minutes, but it had one single redeeming feature – amid that searing, dehydrating, heat, there was a tiny muddy stream of water that went trickling by.
That, for close watchers of nature that we are, told us that that there was a fresh water spring somewhere nearby, so we bought into the story and the land too.
It started with love of the land and nature and the other elements fitted in later – how does one get staff for a Nature resort in a village that has no literacy, no requisite skills, no awareness and very little motivation.
City-Smart Assumptions and their Fallacy
We were wrong in our city-smart assumptions – they may not have spoken English, but they naturally knew ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, a guest is God. They did not show motivation because there were no opportunities to display them.
Hidden Village took its first baby steps in December, 2009, with just three small abodes and a team of eight. Now it employs close to 45 local villagers of the same Grampanchayat now fully acquainted with Guest Hospitality.
That puny stream of water that we spotted 18 years ago is now a gushing monsoon-fed private waterfall frothing down thunderously from July until November, after which a milder flow continues to feed our natural water rock pond, rivulet and swimming pool.
It is rare, but murderers exist in plant life too.
Along the way we learnt some very valuable lessons on nature – Not all greenery is benign and harmonious to fellow plants – there are murderous ones too. Like clinging vines that look dainty, pretty and harmless when young.
Called Bokad Vel locally, the creeper wraps itself around massive full-grown trees and reaches right up to the canopy of leaves.
Then the vine spiraling around the tree grows thicker to over six inches in diameter and tightening its grip, starts to strangle its benefactor to a slow death, like a python does, to its victim before swallowing. Sorry to be telling you such real bad stories, but we’re just following today’s trends – Bad news is good news for our TV channels.
Now we shall proceed to tell you the 99% percent good news of Hidden Village’s plants, birds and animals. But if you do desire your daily dose of bad news, we have TV sets in each room with all city comforts so you can go see ‘what the nation wants to know’. We recommend you do not do this because there is so much more joy and healing in nature.
Black lives matter as much as white lives do
We have Aien trees that are not racist. They come in black and white too.
Black Aien wood is dense and so strong that it is tough to hammer a nail through its trunk. That is why this sturdy gift of nature is used in building homes and furniture. White Aien is soft and caring – shavings taken off its bark and ground into a paste are a wonder ointment to heal cuts and wounds. Together, they make a wonderful couple.
We, at Hidden Village, are more than a couple: We are triple, or is that a treble – just checking because we don’t want English language trouble from Shashi Tharoor. To put it plainly, we came along to put three elements together.
A) To protect and nurture plant and bird life to its original habitat across five acres on the outskirts of Sakhroli village on the periphery of the Tansa backwater forest. Tansa Lake is one among major suppliers of water to Mumbai city
B) Get Sakhroli villagers engaged back into their traditions of centuries – benefiting more from caring for nature rather than profit short-term by cutting it for firewood. Adivasis, the original tribals of the land, comprise the majority of our staff, most school dropouts, others widows and wives of alcoholic husbands.
C) Get city-dwellers to come over with their children to see what they lost and to know that it can still be reclaimed, not fully, but in substantial measure.
It has worked well and we are immensely grateful to all our ‘urban’ village guests – even more so to those repeatedly visiting us and saying encouraging things, and to those who threw barbs at us too, because it goaded us to work even harder on our beliefs.
Birds that high fly perhaps like Wi-Fi
The most gratifying virtue of our journey is that even the birds agree with us: Such as Jungle Crow, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Black Rumped Woodpecker, Golden Oriole, Oriental Magpie Robin, Hoopoes, Common Kingfisher, Indian Cuckoo and White Spotted Fantail.
Then the migratory birds such as Oriental dwarf kingfisher that like the Mumbai torrential rains because they don’t travel by local train. The red-breasted flycatcher, which love Mumbai outskirts winters, cool and crispy, but not the freezing Ladakh cold.
You can’t spot all these in a single visit, of course, because many are rare visitors, flying in whenever time and inclination permit. Not just that: Chameleons, Squirrels, Monitor Lizards, Mongoose, Mud Turtles, Crabs and Frogs too are sometimes spotted darting away into shy shadows.
Some make reservations at Hidden Village just for the night – such as Little Cormorant, Cattle Egret and Indian Pond Heron that spend all day at Tansa Lake enjoying their fish meal. At dusk, they fly back six kilometers to our tree tops to roost and rest.
We don’t know why: Perhaps it is their way of saying: “Good job Buddies, for turning barrenness into greenness”.
Or maybe, just maybe, they like our free Wi-Fi.