A Soulful Retreat: The Magic of Fresh Mountain Air And Vegan Food

There is something beautiful about life. That from one day to another it feels the same. Yet look back a lil farther and everything seems different. When I look back, even a few years ago, there was a time when my work kept me away from the things I loved the most. And then there are days like today, when it is the very opposite.

Come October, I’ll be at the Himalayan Vegan Retreat. It’s a personal initiative that lets me bring together, the two elements most sacred to me. First are the Mountains – for they have silently shaped my childhood memories. And the second is Food, which has been my inspiration, both personally and professionally.

As a therapeutic chef, I help people regain wellness through whole plant based foods (WPBF). All living beings are born with an intuitive sense towards food that’s best suited for them. We too have this ability. But as we grow, this mechanism is systematically ignored and supressed, until it becomes dormant. A part of my work is to awaken this natural sense, so that we can understand what our body truly asks for. This I feel is of a much greater value, than to blindly follow a diet plan.

The one thing I enjoy about my work is how it leads me to some amazing people and places! People who decided to pause the ‘general manner’ of living and see if it can be done differently, if it can be done any better. And the spaces such people give birth to are an absolute delight to visit and one such place which is ‘The Goat Village’.

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Located in the pristine air of the upper Uttaranchal, this place stands testimony to what is achievable, when our hearts are set in the right direction.

During my stay here, I experienced life in its wholeness. On one hand was the nature – with her abundant and pure bounties. And on the other, was the harshness of a place designed to keep alive the rawness. It feels like something kept safe against time and that twisted definition of development. The land, the animals, the people, all echoed a sense of deep harmony. Most of my time was spent walking around aimlessly. Such places have a way of calming the thoughts that are otherwise disobedient.

There were times I would stop by the kitchen to ask what was cooking and the staff would simply smile and say “dekhte hain” (let’s see). On most days, the staff scans the surrounding for what is freshly growing and sufficiently ripe. They then dig it up or pluck it, mix and match together, use the local flavours in cooking and dish out surprises to the guests. So when they said, “dekhte hain”, it was not just a light hearted joke, but also the way they approach the whole process of cooking. It is absolutely spontaneous and hence they themselves did not know what was going to be served, until the very end.

With each passing day, I could see how simply and deeply were the basics of a good life embedded in the set up. The efforts put in by the Green people of India are astounding. The team is very specific about consumption of local resources and has kept it to a minimal, which is something admirable.

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The cottages have been constructed in traditional architectural style, which is estimated to be over a thousand years old and best suited for this region in all possible manners. The team went looking for the masons who still knew this style of work. Most of them were idle due to lack of work, as the villagers were starting to prefer concrete walls to earthen ones.

Someone from the staff informed me that this region is home to several fruits and rare herbs. So I put on my shoes and went around for a walk. To most mountain regions, berries are a native fruit. But imagine my surprise when I discovered bushes loaded with a native variety of yellow Goji berries! This lil fruit is essentially a superfood loaded with rare antioxidants. On most days my berries come from an aluminium can, so plucking them straight from the bush made me a happy person.

The few days that I spent at the Goat Village were enriching at so many levels. So it isn’t surprising that when I was sat thinking of a space to host the retreat, the Goat Village emerged effortlessly. The energy of the mountains is infused into everything that lives, grows and moves.

This retreat is for those of us who wish to re-kindle that subtle connection with food. Who feel that the food we’ve been eating, seem slightly off, like it takes more from the body than it gives. The one key learning I’ve gained from my own process is that ‘Health occurs naturally when we live in tune with nature’. While the retreat focuses on healthy eating and vegan food, what we are trying to achieve, is a manner of holistic, conscious living. Having practised yoga and meditation from an early age, I know how beneficial they are in realigning ourselves to the balance. And hence they will be an intrinsic part of the retreat as well.

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For those of us who are familiar with healthy eating and eco-agro tourism, this will be a great chance to connect and share. The surrounding here are a pure inspiration. And for those who are yet to experience this, I would request if you feel there is in you, even a slight call to explore something like this, come be a part of this initiative. This is a life experience that can significantly open up the dimensions of our conventional thinking.

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