Top-notch professionals are now going in for farm tourism packages, where they and their kids learn everything rural — from taking mud baths to milking cows.
Casually dressed men, women and children sunbathing on charpoys in front of terracotta and ochre-coloured mud and straw huts. The only sound one hears is the chirping of birds and the rustle of trees in the chilly December wind.
This is Surjivan!
It’s not a village in Rajasthan’s hinterland, but a farmhouse near Sohna, 30 km from Delhi, which provides packaged tailor-made rural experience to urban Indians looking for a slice of village life.
An increasing number of Delhiites are travelling to scenic farmhouses in the countryside around Gurgaon and Faridabad, not just to unwind, but to familiarise their children with their ‘roots’. It has given a strong fillip to farm tourism in the NCR. “Ours is a purely rustic place, which exposes city dwellers to authentic village life—something most of them have never experienced. Many of my guests are top-notch professionals who come here and relax on charpoys while gazing at the stars,” says Deven Srivastav, director, Surjivan.
The guests live in farmhouses and eat food prepared in chulhas.
For recreation, Surjivan organises activities such as tractor and bullock-cart rides, rural games such as gilli-danda, pitthu, lattoo kanchey, teerandazee, Rassa-kashi, etc. Besides this, the farm boasts of several medicinal, aromatic and mythological plants such as the Kalp Vriksh, and also engages its guests in cattle-feeding and cow milking activities.
Haryana Tourism launched the concept of farm tourism in 2004, when it persuaded some farm owners to open their gates to tourists. Today, there are 18 such farms in the NCR that provide rural experience packages to city slickers. Each farm has its own USP.
If Surjivan—which grows everything from wheat, gram and vegetables to pulses, oil and spices—prides itself on its rustic charm, Botanix, another famous farmhouse near Damdaa Lake in the area, describes itself as a biodiversity village. Spread across a whopping 40 acres, the farm offers its guests the options of staying in not just mud huts, but also in tents and igloos. But Botanix’s real USP is its myriad theme gardens. There’s a shrub garden, a fragrance garden, a rose garden, a herb garden, a butterfly garden, etc. It’s orchidarium showcases rare species of carnivorous plants.
On arrival at the farmhouse, the guests are taken to the reception in a bullock cart. During their stay, the farmhouse engages its guests in activities such as chuhla-cooking, mattha-making, ploughing fields, etc. “We have combined farm tourism with garden tourism—a new concept in India. The idea is to expose our guests to the wonders of nature and rural life. We want to take them back to their grandma’s time,” says Atul Vashisth, the owner of Botanix, who trained as a landscape designer and horticulturist in the US. His farmhouse, popular with top-notch schools of the NCR, organises recreational-cum-educational programmes in conservation and biodiversity for schoolchildren.
“Many children who come here believe that milk comes from Mother Dairy and aata (flour) from Big Bazaar,” laughs Vashisth. No wonder parents feel that a tailor-made rural experience is edifying for their kids.
“Our children have never taken a bullock cart ride and seen how a cow is milked. This place will help our children understand the various aspects of village life that they will otherwise never get to see,” says
Ashok Malhotra, a businessman from Delhi, who is holidaying at Surjivan with wife, 21-year-old daughter, Bhavya and 14-year-old son, Pavan. Both Bhavya and Pavan are thrilled as they try their hands at the aata chakki and go for a tractor ride in the 50-acre farm.
“We have some relatives in villages, but we haven’t been there for years. Then, this place is more rustic than villages where many aspects of urban life are fast making inroads,” says Monika Agarwal from Delhi, who is at Surjivan with her husband and sons, 6-year-old, Saharsh, and 3-year-old, Parth
In fact, cashing in on the growing trend, many tour operators in town now provide exclusive farm tour packages that cost anything between Rs 3,000 to Rs 7,000 per night for a family. In fact, many corporate houses too organise their conferences and team-building programmes at these farmhouses. “Farm tourism has huge potential; it’s the next big thing in tourism. But both Haryana Tourism and farmhouses need to do more in terms of marketing and promotion,” says Ashish Sawhney, CEO, Ashex Tourism, a company that specialises in farm tours.