All-India Congress Committee chief Sonia Gandhi along with her daughter Priyanka paid a discreet visit to Shimla on Sunday to inspect the latter’s “dream” summer cottage in Chharabra, located about 15 km from the state capital. Accompanied by two architects from Delhi, they flew to Chandigarh and were then driven to Shimla in a black Range Rover with a brief halt in Kandaghat in Solan district. News of their visit created a hubbub among residents of the city.
The convoy of vehicles carrying the “VVIP” guests entered the luxurious Oberoi Wildflower Hall hotel at about 11:30 am. The hotel is located just two kilometres from the woods surrounding Chharabra village, where the cottage is being built. After resting till about 4pm, both Priyanka and Sonia were taken to the cottage site accompanied by architects and local builders. They spent nearly an hour inspecting the construction work that is nearing completion.
It is learnt one of the architects, Sunita Kohli, who is also an eminent interior designer, architecture restoration expert and furniture manufacturer, was conferred the Padma Shri in 1992 for multidisciplinary design.
Some of the celebrated projects executed by her firm – K2 – in New Delhi include restoration of many British era buildings designed by Edward Lutyens, Herbert Baker and Robert Tor Russell, notably Rashtrapati Bhawan, the Prime Minister’s office and official residence, Hyderabad House, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum and the British Council building and library.
Sonia and Priyanka went around the two-storied cottage that developed structural flaws three years ago and was then demolished in order to construct a cottage with new designs. Priyanka worked out details about the interiors with the architects and wanted the cottage to have a slate roof to be installed before the onset of the monsoon.
Situated amid the dense pine and cedar forests, the new cottage is being built on about 1.4 acres of land and is close to The Retreat, the summer holiday resort of the Indian president. The late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi often stayed there during his visits to Shimla. As kids, Priyanka and her brother Rahul are said to have played at the site on which the rebuilt cottage is coming up. In 2007 Priyanka bought the land for about Rs 47 lakh. Its market value is now estimated at Rs 5.2 crore.