Located 35 km off Chiplun on the Mumbai-Goa highway, Rustic Holidays is a set of mud cottages for guests alongside the 230-year-old ancestral home of Nitin and Shilpa Karkare.
Nitin gave up his career as a successful sound recordist and editor in the television industry when the couple decided to spend more time in Chiplun, slowly shifting altogether from Thane to the family home on 110 acres of land in Tural, 650 feet above sea level, surrounded by hills, dense forests, birdsong, a variety of flora and fauna, dozens of nature trails—and a rich local history in culture and cuisine.
What started as ‘Mama-cha gaavala jaauaya’, a summer camp programme for children is now a yearlong destination for tourists looking for a holiday close to nature and sustainable living. In 2012, when the Karkares finally left Mumbai, there was no television, no newspapers and no Internet at their farm stay, perhaps Konkan’s first home-stay.
“We think tourism means experiencing another culture,” said Shilpa, and the Karkares resumed ancestral farming practices, cultivating local rices, kulith (horsegram), etc. Besides interesting places in the village and surrounding natural landscape, Rustic Holidays has also become a destination for weddings, thread ceremonies and other traditional rituals.
Chef Abhijit Berde, who has been in the food and beverage industry for over two decades, has visited Rustic Holidays 15-20 times. “I see Konkan as the Bali of India—it has the same topography, same climate, but the potential has remained untapped,” he said. “Rustic Holidays is utilising resources in the best way possible, without simply monetising the land but building a legacy, showcasing what Konkan has to offer in an environmentally friendly way.”
From the garden to the mud cottages to the home-cooked food, this is what Konkan stands for, ad in addition Shilpa has given local women the opportunity to be empowered, with skills and employment, through Rustic Recipes Rasamatru, a brand that markets locally sourced and manufactured products ranging from mango to amla.
Berde is all praise for their ‘7-layer kokam’, the original traditional method of preparing kokam from the ratamba fruit by coating it seven times with the juices that the fruit oozes as it is dried after salting. Another product he mentions is the jackfruit seeds ground into a flour, a gluten-free product rich in nutrition.
“Shilpa says these are not innovations but actually going back to our roots,” he said.
Nitin has also skilled local community members to work at Rustic Holidays as gardeners, carpenters, housekeeping staff, plumbers, etc. “All our construction was done by local people, local artisans, there was no outside labour,” Shilpa said.