Urban Himalayan Homestays in India – Weaving lives, one ‘reyso’ at a time!

This spore of an idea spins its own tale in a quiet semi-urban rural area; at the outskirts of the hill-town of Darjeeling!
REYSO (‘a strand’ of spun yarn or wool) first threaded its way into what it is today, as the brainchild of a young working mother who had a keen interest to pursue her passion for ‘knitting’ and ‘crochet’ along with few of her friends.

 

A motley gathering of local womenfolk would come together with dreams to create and sell regional handicraft and gradually formed a small-time cooperative society by the name of Adarsh Kala.  However, afflicted by the lack of economic resources and structural planning this little-known society failed to thrive as an independent body,  but what it did was succeed in sowing the seed of a noble idea. Little did they expect that this ‘seed’ would eventually take root and grow into a social campaign called ‘REYSO’ a few decades later with the joint effort of a small team of like-minded individuals.

 

With a conscious effort and sincere passion to bring about a much needed social initiative, REYSO was registered as a society in 2014 and it started off with a small store.  Every Saturday since then, this store welcomes an excited conglomerate of local women here. Most of them are unemployed womenfolk from around the area and also includes a few financially impaired Tea Garden workers.  For them, REYSO offers not only a much-needed source of additional income but also a meaningful way to spend an afternoon with friends and like-minded associates over a cup of ‘Chiya’ (tea), while they deliberate over a new stitch or pattern for their latest knitting venture.

 

You can visit https://www.facebook.com/reysohandmade/or take a quick peek into the delightful world of authentic REYSO products on Instagram @reyso.handcraft.  Every item ranging from a crochet Tea-cozy,  a bedspread or cushion cover comes along with a guarantee to add colour and warmth to your personal space. Every REYSO handicraft that you purchase adds just another ray of hope for many in this local community. So, head over to their store if you find yourself in these parts during your next Himalayan adventure. A mindful souvenir and a cup of Darjeeling tea may just be waiting for you at the REYSO store.
Now, what is fascinating about this enterprise is that it does not just end here. Realising the potential of the abundant local natural resources and the appeal of simple rustic lifestyle for a world traveller, REYSO  recently opened the doors of their boutique urban homestay to a heartwarming response.
Imagine a private natural haven just outside the bustling town of Darjeeling and yet not quite in the rural villages and tea gardens? The REYSO urban homestay promises an interesting mix of experiences.  It is a mere 10minute drive from the main town of Darjeeling where you can easily rent a local taxi after which it is a 5minute walk along indigenous narrow lanes and steps. The location is perfect for those who love to walk and seek to experience the actual, non-touristy lifestyle of Darjeeling
Garden and main courtyard at Reyso Urban Homestay
The main courtyard with its plethora of local flora greets you warmly as it leads you to the Homestay that has been tastefully renovated into a traveller’s dream-stay in the hills.
You can take your pick of the room options from the  ‘Attic Suite which comes along with an attached bathroom and a balcony garden.  The ‘Family Suite’ has two adjoining rooms with a twin set in the second room while the ‘Backpacker room’ is another option for the traveller. The Family Suite and the Backpacker room have private bathrooms but they are not attached.
There is no television in the rooms and this offers a purposeful ambience to relax and unwind in natural surroundings. For practical reasons, wifi is available upon request.
The lounge serves as a Dining room for the Homestay and is common for all guests.  All meals are cooked in the main kitchen and the produce are mostly organic, sourced from local farmers.  The food is vegetarian traditional Nepalese and prepared with a mix of local ground spices that have a distinct flavour of their own.
In tune with the inherent motive to contribute towards local livelihood and promote Responsible Tourism, a range of handmade products are showcased at the REYSO Homestore too https://www.facebook.com/reysohomestore/
And just in case the serene environment, refreshing greenery all around and clean organic food inside manages to call out the artisan or the creative diva in you, head over to the Homestay’s small ‘Art Studio’ that is replete with basic paraphernalia for some craftwork or painting.  A fine water colourist himself, the owner, Ujjawal Chettri and his Homestay team look forward to encouraging travellers who share a passion for art, craft and music. The place indeed is an ideal retreat for Artists, Musicians, Writers and Photographers any time of the year.
The Homestay is very exclusive and caters to those who appreciate the concept of natural, responsible tourism. They are yet to link up with Travel agents and portals as the initial reviews have been very positive with guests directly calling to book through word of mouth.
For quick snapshots and reviews of REYSO Urban homestay tune into @reyso.urbanhomestay on Instagram.
Stay tuned to Sketchywanderer for more vignettes of hidden places and spaces. I would love to hear your thoughts & feedback on this blog.

Landmarks of Darjeeling – Capital Hall & Clock Tower

Perhaps the best days of my early childhood were those Friday evenings when the entire family would get ready for the evening show at Capital Hall. This was the early 1980’s when there was a choice of two cinema halls for the avid moviegoers in this small hill-town. The Rink Cinema (now developed into the Big Bazar / Inox complex) was almost always the second choice to the Capital Hall with its option of a Balcony section.

As a young child, I clearly remember the grille design of the front porch entrance to this grand building, the smell of fresh pop-corn that was uniquely different with its pungent mustard flavour, the crackle of fresh local potato ‘chips’ and the general waft of smoke & mint in the air.

This prominent landmark and colonial heritage since 1917 met a sad turn of events when a fire broke out in 1996 bringing down the dreams of many in its smouldering flames.  Since then, the building has mostly stayed closed and was briefly occupied by the CRPF during the recent political upheaval.

If you are in Darjeeling you will not miss this grand structure on your way up to Ladenla Road, leading to Nehru Road and the Mall. The Capital Hall is one of the few Colonial Buildings that lends its appeal to Darjeeling’s old-world charm.  Its present state is a woeful sight as it stands gravely in lack of care and maintenance.

My sketch is a tribute to this prominent landmark and the memory of what it stood for.
Pencils, Pen, Cretacolor Hard Pastels & Camlin Charcoal on Fabriano A4.