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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

'The Rosewood' restaurant on Varuna lake road

Neelima Bhat was a reluctant restaurateur, forced into the profession by the untimely demise of her husband. Thirty years after taking reins of ‘The Rosewood’, she still had not accepted the fact of her, a woman, managing an eatery. Married as early as 16, Neelima knew that her husband’s family owns one of the best restaurants in this small hill station, but managing it for rest of her life never crossed her mind. Bhats are among the most respected and wealthy families in the town and reside on the lake road, the exclusive address which had unobstructed view of the grand Varuna lake. Not even tourists had an easy way to this part of the Himalayan hill town. Everyone had a private balcony that overlooked flowing clouds that fell over Varuna changing colour every few hours.

The Bhats converted a part of their bungalow into ‘The Rosewood’, way back in 1920s. ‘The Rosewood’ remained the only comprehensive and easy access for the tourist to the lake view. No wonder it was never out of business whether it snows or rains, Neelima always had visitors. The Rosewood was styled in colonial architecture and always charmed the foreigners, babus from Delhi, writers and romantic urbanites who always looked for the last best symbols of the Raj on a Himalayan journey. And undoubtedly the lake view offered a lot more in addition.

Neelima was always charmed by the beauty of the lake when she came into “The Rosewood” nonchalantly in her late teens, on a quiet evening to have some romantic moments with her husband away from the gaze of the in-laws. Prakash, her husband would often show her the lonely moonlight dinner suite in the restaurant.

Even today, Neelima sits alone in the moonlight dinner suite on days of full moon remembering the beautiful moments she shared Prakash in the that corner. Ram Parwesh, the sixty year old manager and Prakash’s old friend managed everything such days and closed the moonlight suite from tourists.

Neelima’s young daughter is now back at home after spending six long years in a boarding school in Dehradoon. She wanted more of her mom and was not quite comfortable with her being in the restaurant all the day. Neelima also wanted to bridge the distance with her daughter by making surprise intermittent visits to the house during the day. But Nidhi, her daughter was not amused.

(The picture here is taken by Samrat Mukherjee, one of the best photographers of our time at Har-ki-Dhun in the Himalayas)

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