The Bhuj House.
A quaint heritage home in faraway Kutch, The Bhuj House is love at first sight. Nestled between the Bhujia Hill and the walled city of Bhuj, the homestay run by Jehan and Katie Bhujwala, dates back to the 1890s and maintains the old world charm of its heydays.
About the homestay.
Built 1890 by Pestonji Sorabji Bhujwala, a prominent businessman of the princely state, The Bhuj House is the only surviving Parsi house in a neighbourhood that entirely belonged to the community at one time. While the house had always been with the family, it had fallen into disuse and was also badly damaged in the 2001 earthquake. This was before Jehan, the great, great grandson of Pestonji Sorabji Bhujwala, and his wife Katie decided to restore it as a homestay. “We wanted to ensure everything in the house was just like it had been at my great, great grandfather’s time, so we had to bring down the modern parts and restore the older sections,” says Jehan while telling us about the long restoration process.
What came out of the restoration was a magnificent 19th century home with tiled roof, large courtyard, an open pantry, many terraces, and a large kitchen. To ensure that the place had all modern day comforts ensuite bathrooms, Wi-Fi, and air conditioning were added, but without compromising on the vintage feel. Spread over two floors, the homestay now has 5 rooms done up with antique furniture, crafts and textiles from local crafts persons, and the family’s personal belongings. An old gramophone, complete with vinyl records, welcomes you in the front room. A vintage typewriter occupies the study table. The grandfather clock sits next to the grandfather’s picture on the wall, and the Hichka, a traditional Gujrati swing, adorns the Hichka Room.
Every room has a name in The Bhuj House; every room also has a story. The Nano Room, for example, was carved out of a store, the Jafri Room, used to be a set of loos, and Rohee’s, a suite, is dedicated to Jehan’s cousin, the last Parsi to have lived in Bhuj. The soul of the house however is in the courtyard. A large pantry, an old swing, shady trees, and lots of chatter make it the favourite of the Bhujwala family and their guests too.
About the Hosts.
Jehan and Katie Bhujwala lovingly run The Bhuj House. When they are in town, they personally attend every guest and ensure all their needs are taken care of; else their caretaker looks after the guests. Jehan grew up in Mumbai but was always attached to the house and wanted to do something with it. After studying geology – a way to escape city life – Jehan moved to the Kanha forest to open a camp resort and finally returned to the family property in 2012 to begin renovation.
“After the Jungle Retreat: Shergarh at Kanha, we were more confident about being able to work with the house,” Jehan remembers. “So Katie and I moved to Bhuj for some years to oversee the restoration work,” he adds while telling us how keeping the original structure intact and yet creating a modern space was daunting and rewarding in equal measure. The challenge, however, is far from over. Even though the homestay is doing very well, keeping such an old home running is a task in itself — not that it intimidates Jehan or Katie who happily split their time between Kanha and Bhuj.
Being a Parsi household in the middle of Kutch means the kitchen here is always working. The 24-hour Pantry in the center of the courtyard is where you make your own tea-coffee, or help yourself to fruit and lemonade. All meals are prepared in-house by the cook with spices used made at the manager, Khursheed’s home. Special Parsi tea, made with mint and lemongrass, is a highlight, as is the Dhansak, Akuri, Macchi Ka Patya, and Chicken Farcha. The breakfast is a part of the stay; the meals are prepared on request.
Eating authentic Parsi food in the courtyard among bougainvilleas and neem trees for company is almost a meditative experience.
48 Hours in Bhuj.
Bhuj is in the heart of the Kutch district and offers much to do. The Great Rann of Kutch is about 90-minute drive from the homestay and makes for a great day trip. The ship building unit at Mandavi, a coastal town that was once the epicenter of trade in west India, is another interesting place located at an hour’s drive.
Bhujodi village, 30 minutes from the homestay, is a treasure trove of Kutchi handicrafts and textiles. Azjrakhpur, also 30 minutes from The Bhuj House, is home to the world famous Ajrakh print and houses workshops that excel at the craft.
The walled city of Bhuj itself is a treasure trove of arts, culture and heritage. Bhujia Hill, Hamisar Lake, Bhujia Fort and the meandering lanes hide many a treasure for those who seek. Shroff Bazar, Ramkund Stepwell, Old Court, Royal Cenotaphs meanwhile are some other places ought not to be missed.
Getting There: Bhuj is accessible by flight from Mumbai. Trains connect Bhuj with Mumbai, Pune, and rest of Gujrat. The roads to Bhuj are excellent driving to the town is a great idea too. The Bhuj house is located 10-15 minutes from the Bhuj airport and 5 minutes from the railway and bus stations.
Tariff: Doubles start at Rs. 5100/- per night for upto 2 people. Extra bed costs Rs. 1500/- per person, per night. Tariff includes breakfast and all taxes; lunch and dinner is prepared on request and costs Rs. 400/- for a vegetarian meal and 500/- for a non-veg meal.
The story first appeared on Conde Nast Traveller.
Pictures Courtesy The Bhuj House.