Mango Mulch – Part 1-An Overview

Part 1 of the 3 part series on the Mango Mulch home stay, covering the overview, activities and food.

Yeh Dil Mango Mulch ? I gave my heart to this delightful home stay that I visited last week !!!

What happens when an architect and a civil engineer get together ? A state of the art commercial space or an apartment complex with hundreds of dwellings or perhaps a sleek, fancy Mall ?

Surely not a gorgeous traditional house set in a peaceful mango grove in the midst of rural surroundings, far away from the concrete jungle, right ? Well this couple dared to do it differently and left behind the hustle and bustle of the big bad city, for the rustle of the mango leaves and their beautiful home stands amidst the mango trees, as a symbol of their passion for all things traditional and rustic !!!

Ashwini and Sudhakar, hereinafter referred to as AshSudhi (and sometimes Ash and S respectively) 😀 are the proud owners of this 8 acre grove that they have named Mango Mulch, a label that stands for the millions of leaves that carpet the land under the canopy of their monumental mango trees and eventually break down into mulch that organically adds nutrient value to the soil.

How it came about –

Right from his childhood days, S always had a dream to live on a farm in the midst of unsullied nature. Luckily for him, Ash too shared the same passion and in 2007, 3 years after their marriage, their search literally bore fruit when they found this perfect mango grove near the little town of Talakad in Mysore district, which is also Ash’s native place.

The Talakad region is a beautiful one and it’s allure is enhanced by the gentle Kaveri (Cauvery) river that flows alongside its vast wetlands. Paddy, sugarcane and various vegetables add their shades of green to the landscape of the fields, a canvas that is punctuated by the stark white of the storks and egrets as they go about their business of feeding off the insects and other prey of the land.

When AshSudhi initially saw this farm, they fell in love with it and decided that this would be home for the rest of their lives. Considering themselves blessed to benefit from this idyllic life, they generously decided that they would also open their doors to like minded people who would appreciate what they had. Thus in Nov 2016, was born their home stay where they treat their visitors like revered guests and share the charming experience of their life.

I would take the risk of mentioning right at the start, that alcohol and non vegetarian food is not allowed or served on the premises. But I do it with the confidence that those who continue reading, will discover that the fresh food and pure air are more than enough to satiate the belly and intoxicate the mind.

About the farm –

The serene farm lies alongside the road leading to Kurubalhundi, the village that is hardly 200 meters away. There is nary a sign post or board indicating its presence and as one approaches with the help of Google maps, S guides you on the phone across the last few meters, though the simple, unassuming gate with a metal Om framed in the grillwork.

Sugarcane plants flank the driveway and gently wave you through the short path and the breeze whispers Sssh’weet nothings through their leaves, as you emerge into a veritable paradise of gigantic mango trees.

These ‘Raspuri’ mango trees are the hallmark of this farm and of the 60 trees that were initially on the land, 5 stalwarts are over a hundred years old. This fact is corroborated by the oldest villager there who is over 90 years of age and remembers climbing these trees in his childhood. See that’s what unadulterated village life does for memory retention 😀

Being of the Naati variety, these gentle giants spread their branches wild and wide and the canopies cover a very large radius, unlike their subdued and obedient, hybrid and grafted counterparts. Some of the branches are nearly at ground level, and one can actually sit on them. Terracotta painted pots suspended from the branches, serve as lamp shades and exude a fairy land glow at nights.

Naati or country variety, refers to plants that grow Naati’rally without any intervention … now I am just being Naughty 😀

In the last few years, AshSudhi have planted 60 more mango trees, some of which are already yielding a range of varieties, all of them organically grown.

The farmland is at a slightly higher altitude than the wetlands that lie on the same plane as the river and therefore depends on ground water for its sustenance. Also the primary aim of the owners, was just to revel in the simplicity of rural life and not  stress on being agriculturists. Hence the other crops that they grow are those that are low maintenance and easy to deal with.

Despite that, there is an impressive range of crops, fruits and vegetables that are found on the farm. Their idea of stress is clearly different from mine 😀

The 1 acre of sugarcane at the entrance, gets replaced in turn by ragi or gram or whatever takes their fancy.

Papaya, gooseberry, chikoo, water apple (jaam), rose apple, java plum (purple jamun), limes, musambis, bananas and even a lone Kumquat, find their roots on the farm.

Vegetables like pumpkin, ladies finger and various greens are grown and find their way into the delicious meals that are cooked with a serious amount of love (more of that excitement in the other post)

The 100 coconut trees yield very sweet tasting coconut and the cold pressed oil is used in their cooking. They also provide a handy perch the Ibis and other birds.

According to AshSudhi, they are attempting a self-sustaining model of living by growing their own crops, rearing their cows and using the waste that is generated, as organic manure. they are also harnessing solar energy for some of the cooking.

About AshSudhi’s home –

Though I should be focusing mainly on the home stay, I cannot proceed without waxing eloquent over the grand house that AshSudhi have built. The house lies surrounded by the magnificent mango trees and is a thing of beauty. So please bear with me as I rave over this traditional home or Thotti Maney as it is called locally, after the Thotti or sunken tank that lies within the house, surrounded by pillars, like an internal courtyard of sorts.

 

 

Using their expertise in architecture and engineering, they have incorporated elements of traditional design and with the help of a carpenter who was on the premises for a whole year, they came up with this exquisite home where the pillars, doors, windows, beams of the ceiling and antique show pieces, were brought from old homes after months of seeking and searching far and wide.

The front door is a magnificent specimen and I could not resist using it as a backdrop for the brilliant red Jaam that I styled in the antique scale. A door that was such a perfect foil for the bright fruit, that using it in my shot was just the Weigh to go 😀

And as for the fate of the Jaam that Hung in the Balance, it is certainly not too hard to imagine what happened to them *evil grin*

The large window in the hall, is framed by wooden slats which let in the cool air which then cross ventilates the rooms before it exits from the open space in the roof above the Thotti … a natural air conditioning that keeps the place cool even during the heat of prime summer.

A large wooden swing hangs from the ceiling, suspended by thick iron chains, and one can gently oscillate while gazing mesmerized at the several pillars that stand like sentinels through the house.

The 7 bedroom home is a veritable holiday destination for the lucky relatives and friends of AshSudhi. By the end of my stay, I made sure I was firmly on their list of favorite people 😀

S has also built a temple outside the house and every morning they perform their pooja with fresh flowers that are plucked and offered to the large, beautiful idol of Shiva, known as Dakshinamurthy which means a South facing form.

There is also a pooja room within the house which is designed so that it is visible through the front doorway itself.

The specially ordered floor tiles outside the pooja room, glow in the morning sun and add to the divine aura.

While in the bedroom, Pine wood cross sections fashioned into tiles, form the flooring, a design visualized by Ash and crafted specially on order.

About the home stay –

There are 3 cottages on the farm of which the one that they originally built for themselves while supervising the construction of their Thotti Mane. This follows what is known as a Golghar design, with a Katte which is a stone or concrete seating at the entrance, where people used to relax in the days of yore.

The other two are twin cottages that are partially circular. The aesthetics of the high ceiling has been enhanced by a layer of wooden slats and the roof is thatched from the outside, in order to maintain a cool interior.

Of course the mango trees have canopied everything in their realm, adding to the coolness factor of the cottages (pun definitely intended).

The flooring is of an endearing red oxide and the bathroom though sufficiently modern, is set in stone flooring which adds great charm, besides being skid proof.

The room has a comfortable double bed and a very retro feel is lent by the side table fashioned from a Singer sewing machine, an old fashioned heavy wooden chair and a large bay window with a ‘katte’ where one can sit leaning on the colorful cushions and gaze at the greenery outside.

There is a fan but no AC but one does not feel the necessity. There is no TV either but I do not even view the TV in my own house, so that was no big loss 😀

The internet is is sketchy but not too bad either and there are various spots where connectivity is good enough.

The twin cottages share a common verandah where one can sit and soak in the sun dappled surroundings.

A fascinating fact of the home stay is that the staff is so honest and the safety factor is so high that neither do the owners find any necessity lock their houses nor are the guests given any facility to lock their cottages, unless specifically requested.

My room stayed unlocked for the duration of my stay and I was very impressed with the outcome 😀

A hammock (but of course) swings between the mango trees.

 

A wooden swing and a hammock chair sway alongside and would serve to bear those who are impatiently awaiting their turn on the main hammock 😀

The dining space is a thatched ‘pavilion’ right outside the cottages and one enjoys an open air repast at every meal.

The birds and the bees (literally of course) are your only company and apart from the constant rustling of the ssshugarcane (now you know why they call it Ssshugar), there is an ongoing melody of  chirping and cheeping and chirruping. And yes there is the Mewing but not of cats. The peafowl that roams free all over the farm and surrounding fields, call out stridently the whole day long. Unfortunately these birds are extremely shy and it’s quite a case of ‘so Hear and yet so far’ as you strain to catch a glimpse of the scintillating plumage and hope to witness a dance or two.

Ash being an avid bird watcher and skilled photographer, has figured out their game and managed several stills and even videos of them in action.  I however was not that lucky or well equipped and while Ash took a lot of trouble to get me to view them, I did not get very good shots for my album. I am therefore borrowing her video for your viewing pleasure 😀

In addition to this fauna, there are 3 dogs and 2 cows on the farm, the latter are fed from the lone haystack that stands sentinel near the house.

The fresh milk, butter and ghee make breakfast worth looking forward to and now all this talk is making me hungry so I need to wind up here quickly and get on to telling you stories of the food in the other part of my tale.

Visitor profile –

This place is an ideal getaway for those who are seeking to get away from the big bad city and spend some time in quietude and calm.

The number of visitors is limited to the size of the accommodation and at a time the numbers would hardly exceed a total of 10 people, making it suitable for those who want to be far from excessive human interaction 😀

It is also a great place for those families who would want their children to experience rural life and climb a tree or two or play with the cows and dogs or feel the excitement of the peafowl’s call … the thrill of the shrill, as I want to call it 😀

AshSudhi make it very clear that it is not a place for an action packed holiday or a partying destination and they personally speak to every prospective visitor before making bookings.

They would like to entertain only those who are in tune with their sensitivities and they want such people to know that such a haven exists. Which is why they charge a very nominal amount (at the time of writing this, it is Rs 1500 per head) which includes the stay and all 3 meals.

Best time to visit – 

While anytime would be a good time to visit, March, April and May could get a bit warm.

End of May brings the mango harvest and would be a really fun experience.

June to September is monsoon time and would be quite delightful to experience.

Winter and spring of course are everyone’s favorite times 😀

Getting to Mango Mulch –

The best way to get there from Bangalore or Mysore, would be by one’s own vehicle or cab.

Bangalore – is 135 km away and is a 2 to 3.5 hour drive depending on traffic and which locality you are leaving from. One would go via South Bangalore and choose to use the Mysore road or the Kanakapura road route.

Bangalore Airport is 175 km away and one can book a cab from there.

Maddur bus stand/railway station is 55 km away and can be accessed in an hour’s drive (AC Volvo buses/trains from Bangalore to Maddur  take about 1.5 hours).

Mysore Railway station/Bus stand – is 55 km away and will also take an hour by road.

For those who would use public transport, there are a couple of direct buses from Bangalore to Malavalli, a town that is 28 km away. The buses though, are not the air conditioned, express ones and they will take around 3 hours to get to Malavalli, after which one has to find local transport like a local bus or cab or auto.

Buses from Malavalli are available to the nearest town of  Talakadu, 5 km from the farm from where one will again have to use Autorickshaws or cabs to get to the farm.

So like I said, cabs or own vehicles are the least stressful way 😀

My journey –

I traveled by cab from Bangalore and the driver opted for the Mysore route. Since I left at 10 am which is quite the peak time, it took me 3.5 hours to reach. The first one hour was spent in extricating ourselves from the Mysore road traffic. Once we crossed Bidadi, it was smooth sailing all the way and after Maddur we branched off towards the route to Kollegal.

The roads are excellent and it is only a tiny 1 km at the end that is a mud road. But this is also in the process of being fixed.

Closer to the farm, the journey gets more scenic and apart from glimpsing the Kaveri flowing alongside, there are also a few beautiful lakes that one will pass by.

The village roads are also impressively good and admirably litter free and clean.

Read on for information about the activities and food – Mango Mulch-Activities and Mango Mulch-Food.

For more pictures, see My Facebook – Mango Mulch-Part 1-An Overview

Booking and contact – 

To book a stay at Mango Mulch, contact the owners at

email – ashsudhi@gmail.com, Ph – 8277126558

Pl Note – This assignment has been carried out by me, in collaboration with Mango Mulch. The information in my narrative is based on the inputs that I received from the client and also from my personal experience.

 

Mar 12th-14th, 2018

 

 

 

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10 Responses to Mango Mulch – Part 1-An Overview

  1. Bharat Kumar Mehta says:

    Highly impressed with the gut feeling both of you took to conceptualise your dreams into reality…which very few people can dare to venture out. My hearty congrats to both of you & I will be extremely delighted to visit both of you and perhaps stay there for a couple of days with my like-minded friends… perhaps in the month of April end oray first week.

  2. Meenakshi says:

    This is like visiting Mango Mulch, while already planned to visit with friends, i want to go there with family

    Really nice writing carol. I have to share this with friends.

    Meenu 🙂

  3. Suman says:

    Great narrative carol. The pics are also very cool. Waiting for the day to visit this place.

  4. Sujatha says:

    Superb Carol….both the pictures and the marvelous commentary accompanying it. Waiting to go there eagerly.

  5. Deepak Murdeshwar says:

    Very interesting read. Thank you for that very informative journey through your stay at Mango Mulch. It definitely is a beckoning kind of place.

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