As is generally the case when trying to mobilize a dozen twenty-somethings to do anything, planning New Year’s Eve was proving to be a futile task. House party? No empty house. Head to a bar? Too expensive, crowded, unreliable. Plan a weekend away? Ideal, but where do we find a house to accommodate us all?
Unsurprisingly, we went around in circles for a few weeks, until a friend of a friend recommended we scope out Velvett Homestays. Genius! These are friends I need more of in my life. We scoured the website until we found a home that ticked every single box: large enough for 13, close enough to drive, and most importantly, affordable. We booked immediately. WhatsApp chats ensued, barbecues were arranged, provisions accounted for and a departure time set.
And so we set off in a mini-motorcade, an expected two hours later than we should have. The painless drive, punctuated only by snack and toilet breaks, soon led us to a crop of farmhouses set some distance apart. Let me preface by saying that no matter how lovely the photos on the website, they do not do enough justice to Amber Farms, Karjat. The house cuts a striking silhouette against a backdrop of foggy hills, a white structure standing two stories tall. Perched atop a pond, surrounded by green, with huge amounts of outdoor seating to lounge about on: Amber was now ticking boxes I didn’t even know I had.
The very sweet cook had prepared lunch for us, a spicy feast of chicken curry, rice, veggies, and daal. The day was young, so we took off to explore the property. The more active bunch struck up a game of frisbee, while the lazier lot (yours truly included) wandered around admiring the farm’s offerings – breadfruit, chikoos, a hundred other plants and trees all meticulously labeled and blossoming. Sunset drove us back to the sprawling verandah, where, drinks in hand, dinner prep began. We’d transported a barbecue to Karjat along with veggies, meat, and a host of goodies to grill. Here’s a riddle for you: how many city-slicker millennials does it take to fire up some coal?
A little perseverance and a lot of gin later, we were up and grilling, the outdoor picnic table heaving under platters of juicy chicken, smoky sweet potatoes, garlicky mushrooms and vinegar-braised broccoli. Plates were cleared, refilled, cleared again.
A stack of games is found in the house, much to the group’s delight; music is played, much dancing occurs. It’s a few minutes to midnight now, and the champagne is perfectly chilled. We count down from ten; toasts are raised, tight, warm hugs exchanged, and the dancing resumes – and will continue till the early hours of 2018, till one by one, we fall off into the kind of deep slumber that only arises from perfect contentment. We wake leisurely the next day to a hearty breakfast and chai on the porch before heading home.
I looked around as the clock struck twelve that night, almost in disbelief. These were friends from all over the world that I am fortunate to see even once a year; yet here I stood, surrounded by all of them in one place under a blanket of stars. There are few occasions in my life during which I can confidently say that I was utterly content; no more, no less needed. New Year’s Eve at Amber Farms ranks high up on that list.
as narrated by our guest Ms. Shyamali Patel