As your passport gets smudged with new stamps, fattened with permits and employment visas, it becomes harder to remember what home actually feels like. Having not stayed in one place for more than two years over the last decade, I’ve come to appreciate places that have provided familial comfort despite being far away from my official place of residence. The Native Place in Kamshet, nearly a three-hour drive away from Mumbai, has become that kind of place for me in India.
I have first come to Native Place almost two and a half years ago. I don’t remember whether I found out about it through friends or I read somewhere about paragliding in Kamshet, but I was curious to give it a try. What attracted me about it was the opportunity to learn a new skill of controlling the chute yourself, instead of paying for a short pilot-flown tandem flight. For the first three days of the course, I went from from the ground handling to bunny hops to my maiden two-minute short flight. I loved the first surge of adrenaline as I jumped off the edge of the cliff, with nothing but the chute, the harness and the radio to communicate with the instructor 70 meters below.
Yet while I came to Native Place for the chance to paraglide, I stayed for the tranquil getaway from the Maximum City. Over the years, the place has provided comfort and stillness that I didn’t think was possible in India. The backyard is dominated by a sprawling fig tree with large inviting hammocks hanging in its shade. The multi-level building has an unexpected number of stairs connecting different floors and rooms, and it easily evokes images of Escher. The clientele ranges from large Indian families to the corporate types looking for an escape, from thrill-seekers to hippies, from expert paragliders with their own equipment to the newbies who signed up for an introductory course. All of them gather at the Native Place on a Saturday night, which becomes the social zenith of the weekend, when the delicious Indian buffet dinner is washed down with thirsty gulps from the large Kingfisher bottles under the cloudless pitch-black sky. The spacious rooftop terrace opens onto an expansive rainwater lake, and only recordings of chants from the neighbouring village pervade through the otherwise silent night.
And so it was this time, as we sat on the terrace, as we sipped our beers and clumsily invented Indian festivals, I thought about my time in India running out and how this might be the last time that I will be at the Native Place for awhile. The weekend wasn’t good for paragliding, as the weather was not as clement as it is in December, and the strong winds forced us to stay put for most of the day. Still, it didn’t matter one bit, as the weekend was savoured by the dips in the lake, naps in the shade, books in the laps and lunch on the steps. Using the meaning of the prefix “para-” as “beyond”, this truly was paraliving at its simplest.