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Fit for a Queen

Built like a Spanish hacienda, Naina Balsaver?s home is a dream come true.

india Updated: Jan 02, 2004 15:41 IST

While she was contesting for the Miss Universe pageant in 1976, the then Miss India was asked about her dream home by a friend. She replied, “I would love to spend life on a farm with seven dogs and my entire family”. After more than 20 years, the former beauty queen-turned-politician, Naina Balsaver, lives in a Spanish hacienda on the outskirts of Sainik Farms with her family and three, not seven, dogs. A dream, come true? Absolutely!

“Whenever I am reminded of this incident, I feel that I have in a way fulfilled my dream, with my entire family (husband, four kids and two nephews) living with me in a home that partially resembles a farmhouse,” says Balsaver. “Though the house is too large for my liking, it is a dream home as far as my husband (Akbar Ahmed ‘Dumpy’) is concerned,” she says.

Built in true zamindar style, the house, spread over eight-and-a-half acres, tells a story of a bygone era. While a moat has been built in front of the house with an island in between (“with the idea of constructing a gazebo on it to hold barbecue parties”), the front door resembles an ornamental qila darwaza with a small door carved in it for entry. The lobby which has huge old portraits of a Mughal emperor (possibly Shah Jahan) and an ancient chest, leads into a courtyard with a glass ceiling, antique chandeliers and a flight of green marble steps that lead up to a French window. Paintings by artists like Sunil Das and Yusuf Arakkad can be seen all over the house.

“The place resembled the ravines of Chambal but, our painstaking efforts transformed it into a green paradise with lush lawns visible from all the bay windows. When we were married in 1989, the designing of the house had been left to an architect as well as relatives and friends living in Delhi,” says Balsaver. But, she soon realised what was coming up was not to her liking and pitched in to assume control. “I could not accept someone else’s idea of a home and decided to design it myself. Though it might have turned out to be crooked in places (as it has been built gradually), it still caters to our needs,” says the former beauty queen.

The house has six bedrooms, a living room on the first floor and a main lounge and drawing room on the ground floor. “The furniture in the house is all old which I restored after buying,” says Balsaver, adding “the house exudes a warmth that gives it a very welcoming effect”. What about her favourite room? “The living room on the first floor,” says Balsaver, adding “I particularly love its floor which is made of a rare pinkish Rajasthani stone, porous with granite polish. I don’t like marble which is normally associated with tombs and bathrooms.”

Of note is the colourful combination that the small seating room next to Balsaver’s bedroom sports. A story in yellow and orange, the room includes a three-seater, two two-seaters and two pouffes, all hued in a combination of the two colours. The striped curtains in the same combination add to the appeal. The dining room, on the other hand, has been designed on classical lines. While the walls are hued in maroon, the room has an eight-seater wooden table, a console with a mirror above it and green and maroon striped curtains.

However, even then Balsaver is always “grumbling as to the kind of place I live in.” “Being a Mumbai girl, where space is a big problem, residing in such a huge house sometimes in itself becomes difficult as sitting in my room I suddenly become cut-off from the rest of the world,” she says.

“In fact, I feel guilty living in such a big house which is why for the other two of our properties — in Corbett National Park and Ramgarh respectively near Nainital, which have both been converted into resorts — I made sure that they were smaller in size. The main reason is — they were built dil se,” says Balsaver.