“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out
I consider myself most fortunate that I got the opportunity to stay at Shamnath Villa for four weeks recently. As it turned out this happened to be one of my most memorable stays outside of my own home ever. Wait..wait..wait, it’s not a holiday resort or a seven star luxury hotel ……….. It is a bed n breakfast hotel located in Civil lines Delhi, a place referred to me by my friend Sudhanshu, on whose recommendation I went through its reviews at www.tripadvisor.com and decided on giving the place a try. And what a decision it turned out to be.
The credit for my wonderful stay goes largely to the hosts, Mr Arun Shamnath & Mrs Shalini Shamnath, who have given hospitality a totally new dimension. Most other guests in the hotel were repeat visitors or those who chose the place through referrals.
|Mrs Shalini Shamnath with other guests|
Shamnath villa is located in Civil Lines, right next to the serene and picturesque North Ridge a.k.a Kamla Nehru Ridge, on Shamnath Marg, which is certain to be one of the finest localities in North Delhi. I had no clue that a place like this even existed in Old Delhi. Shamnath Marg itself is named after the erstwhile Mayor of Delhi who happened to be Mr Arun Shamnath’s father. The villa is replete with artefacts, paintings, marble statuettes and photos reminiscent of the bygone era. It also has a lot of history for the inquisitively inclined.
|Mr & Mrs Shamnath|
The warm welcome that I received from the hostess, the ever so graceful, polished, courteous, compassionate, knowledgeable and erudite and Mrs Shalini Shamnath(one of the most remarkable women that I have had the good fortune of meeting) set the pace for things to come. One cannot but be touched by her caring, thoughtfulness, warmth and spontaneity. Mrs Shamnath thereafter, was to become a constant companion on the dining table, many a times along with other guests. The day, more often than not would begin with a stimulating breakfast table conversation with one or the other of the guests and would end with dinner table tete – a- tete with another……….. and each one of these guests more learned than the other in his or her chosen field. So much so, that I would look forward to the next opportunity to meet and chat with these fine people .......... and of course one would never tire of talking to the hosts themselves. I got to meet and talk to Anthropologists, educationists, businessmen, tourists, historians and so on. It was amazing to see so many people from across the globe congregating in this awesome hotel, make it their temporary abode and mingle freely with other guests like family. It is this family atmosphere created by the hosts assisted by the most charming staff, that makes this place unique and sets it apart, as opposed to a regular hotel with their impersonal and businesslike demeanour.
|Mr Arun Shamnath's mother(extreme right) and father(second from left)|
Thank you very much Mr & Mrs Shamnath, I hope I have made a friend for life and will always look forward to meeting you again and again and ……. again.
“Eating, and hospitality in general, is a communion, and any meal worth attending by yourself is improved by the multiples of those with whom it is shared.”