As I move closer, inching slowly towards Wardh, she instinctively turns her head towards me. I softly run my hand along her sweeping, velvety jawline, and in response, she nuzzles my other outstretched palm and eats the green blades of grass that I, a complete stranger, have been patiently holding out for her. Considering that Wardh cannot see, it is an incredible act of trust. At this moment, a strange sense of calm sweeps over me. In this expanse of green against the calming backwaters of the Andhra dam, I finally understand why animal therapy has such a soothing effect on our mind and body, and thrilled to discover one of the few places in India that offers it.
Set amidst 68 acres of lush forest and farm land overlooking the Sahyadris, it’s hard to believe that Fazlani Nature’s Nest is cushioned midway between the two thriving metros of Mumbai and Pune. When I first step into the plush retreat, little do I know that a different world awaits me outside my suite and its lavish welcome replete with chocolate coated cherries! I freshen up and leave for lunch, and that first meal itself is a sampler of what lies ahead. The nurturing kitchen here largely draws its principles from Ayurvedic eating and believes that the right food is panacea for the body. At no point, however, will you feel that this is frugal eating; from quinoa biryani to paneer khumani kebabs, and from cabbage rolls to scallops in carrot sauce, there is something designed for every palette. I round off my meal with an innovative peanut butter and jaggery ice cream, before leaving for the equine therapy session I have been waiting to experience.
Closer to the entrance area, the stables are home to over ten horses, most of whom are injured or retired race horses. With the help of their caretakers, guests have a chance to get up close with these majestic creatures. Popular in the west, equine therapy is slowly gaining popularity in India as a powerful treatment tool that aids people in emotional recovery and positive psychological transformation. Therapeutic experiences include petting, brushing, walking and caring for these gentle animals, and the results vary from individual to individual depending on specific needs, time devoted, the bond created between the two parties, and other factors. Great for people with symptoms of hyperactivity, autism, stress, and other issues, Animal Assisted Therapy is believed to create a sense of calm, safety and positivity. I experience a range of these not only with the reassuring feel of the horses’ soft skin, but also while feeding the flock of eager sheep in the pen across, and running with the entourage of ducks, turkey and pheasants waddling around in the open spaces at Fazlani’s, fostered for this specific purpose.
Walking around across this vast area can be tiring, and a session at the zero-emission wellness centre of this alcohol and smoke free property is the perfect antidote for it. Amarnine Medi Spa doesn’t only offer relaxing massages and mud baths— under the guidance of expert doctors, a slew of traditional treatments like acupressure and acupuncture are prescribed for lifestyle disorders, as well as unique treatments such as heliotherapy, magnetotherapy, and chromotherapy. I get a clean chit by the doctors, so I’m rewarded with an Abhyangam, a generic Ayurvedic massage to get the circulation going, and for relaxing the muscles.
The following day is marked with walking around and exploring this nature retreat and its sister ventures, including commercial initiatives like one of India’s largest rose farms, and social causes like the orphanage and school it supports, both of which the farmland originally kickstarted with. The walk also gives me a glimpse of the retreat’s sustainable practices. Nearly half the land here is used for growing organic produce for not just the kitchen, but also for the team, and guest sale. All kitchen waste is recycled or turned to vermicompost, and drip irrigation is used to farm its fruit trees and vegetable gardens. The wander leads me to its pool area, a most exquisitely landscaped one that blends in with the nature that surrounds it. The only sounds I hear are those of the birds and the crickets snoozing in the jackfruit trees, and the coconut thicket covered slope that goes all the way down to touch the shores of the lake below. The warm afternoon calls for a dip, and as I pause in between laps to admire the rolling Sahyadris in the distance, I whisper a prayer of gratitude for sampling a slice of heaven in this most unexpected corner.
Fazlani Nature’s Nest is 60kms from the Pune airport. For more info, log on to www.fazlaninaturesnest.com