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November 11, 2017

Reclaim Your Health At The Hilton Shillim Retreat And Spa

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena

From a focus on holistic rejuvenation using core elements of Ayurveda to novel art therapy, the retreat curates a balanced recipe for conscious living

Last Friday, I along with a very small group of like-minded travellers, drove out of Mumbai for a weekend getaway at Shillim, a relatively lesser known destination in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra. Our appointed address for the two-and-a-half day getaway was the wellness resort, Hilton Shillim Retreat and Spa. Eager to escape from the routine of everyday living – and looking forward to the wellness programme over the next two-plus days – we set forth in three SUVs that were suitably equipped for the journey without a pause.

We exited the Mumbai-Pune Expressway for a 45-minute drive to the property. I thanked our sturdy SUVs for the last stretch of the journey – the road once we turned off the expressway was bumpy, but the views made up for it as we passed several nurseries and caught glimpses of Lake Pavana and Tungi Fortress. A smile lit up my face as I sighted a tiny school, where a young teacher was taking a class with tiny tots – their faces turned curiously towards the roads as the cars sped by.

The retreat stretched across an expansive 320 acres – and was part of the Shillim Institute and Resort that is even more widespread over 2,500 acres. Driving in, we alighted from our vehicles and gladly stretched our legs, breathing in the fresh air that permeated the entire space – and almost within an instant, the bumpy discomfort of the last stretch faded into oblivion.

Green thinking and living
Completely taken in by the sheer amount of greenery, I stepped into a Nano and was driven through the narrow winding roads to my abode for the stay. Since we were on our wellness trip, I was shown into a spa villa – that was endowed with all the essentials needed for a comfortably luxurious stay.

The French windows – when the curtains were raised – gave me a wonderful view of nature, and I took in the view once again the first thing in the morning as soon as I opened my eyes. The doors glided gently open to enable me to walk out on to the patio and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the sun or sip my early cup of green tea amidst nature. During the next two days, I indulgently luxuriated in the verdant embrace that nature so lovingly gave me!

All about wellness
In the tea house, one of my favourite spots to relax in – where I sipped on endless cups of lemongrass and ginger green tea – I chatted with Abhijit Ghosh, the general manager who had come here after a stint in Maldives. He emphasised that they had incorporated a holistic approach towards transformative wellness. “We focus on different aspects of living – physical, mental and emotional in the way we have planned the retreat and the services here. Unlike any other destination, you do not need to step out to experience different activities like hikes and trails, river walks, pottery, culinary experiences – apart from curated meals and spa treatments. You can just soak yourself in the environment and be happy. And tell me, what is happiness or success? It is not only about the money that you have. It is having the right money and spending quality time with yourself and your family. You need a work-life balance to complete your life.”

It was in this sunny room – and again over my cup of chai – that I spent some time with Dr. Arun Pillai, director of Spa & Wellness, with more than 15 years of professional expertise in Health, Spa & Wellness Sciences. “One of the core elements of the wellness programme here is Ayurveda – so we focus on a variety of aspects to create a holistic balance between the five elements (earth, fire, water, air and sky) in our lives. Several factors create an imbalance in us – two important ones the are environment and nutrition. A balancing act happens through changes in lifestyle, nutrition, activities and environment – if required medication comes into the picture to balance the doshas.”

Think wellness and a session of yoga – which to be honest, I observed from the sidelines – and a time at the spa is a must. I immersed myself in the latter completely. What enhanced the entire experience was the walk from the changing to the treatment rooms – across a paved path amidst nature. Serenity, I realised, has just got another name!

In sync with their emphasis on wellness, Shillim Hilton Retreat & Spa has just initiated a programme of inviting visiting healers, like crystal therapist and spiritual guide Ashtar Tashi, and work out schedules to rejuvenate their guests. I relaxed in the calm, meditation sessions, the stint on the terrace on the full moon night and most of all the art therapy, conducted near the pool – which took me back to the Taare Zameen Par finale scene, and I created my own masterpiece to bring back home – my fingers completely smeared with bright hues.

Plate Pleasures
One of my main obsessions on a vacation, anywhere, is the food that comes to the table. This time, though the fare was regimented, I was not disappointed. Under the guidance of Chef Shubhendu Kadam, the wellness cuisine menu at the Green Table served dishes recommended by the ayurvedic principles of dosha.

For us, these included a trio of cereal basket with fresh fruits and nut milk, ragi idli, cauliflower-mint soup, amaranth walnut and orange salad, ragi pancake with grilled fish, chicken or vegetables, lemongrass panacotta and more.

One night we were presented with a thali meal (it was then that I fell in love with ragi rotis) – and on another night, we put on our chefs’ caps and aprons to whip up our dinner, naturally under the eagle eyes of the professionals. This one comprised broccoli and basil soup, salad with leaves and nuts, zucchini noodles served on a bed of tomato and garlic puree, and a dessert prepared with raw cacao, dried apricots and nuts.

I left the retreat, bidding adieu to my green escape and returned to the bustle of urban Mumbai. But, I did carry back with me not just memories of a weekend well-spent but a newfound awareness (better late than never) to live consciously!

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