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LEISURE

Resort to lost paradise

RUPA GOPAL

In Pondicherry, experience simple beachside shack living turned into one of pampered luxury.


IF life were an endless holiday, it would be meaningless. But if a holiday were to be a grand interlude, as refreshing as gentle rain in a parched desert, then it would be the answer to many prayers.

The Dune, a beach village, on the East Coast Road (ECR), just before touching Pondicherry, is quite a refreshing experience, offered to the public by the visionary Dimitri Klein , a Frenchman of Russian origin, now settled in India. His eyes light up with the passion he feels for his 27 acres of land, and dulls with the pain of the loss of over 6,000 plants, and 650 prized orchids, by the freak tidal wave. The ever-present sea now is so poised and inviting, a perennial lullaby playing along the shores of "The Dune", silvering the warm golden sands of the property, landscaped and built on in a most artistic manner, under the able Niels, a young German architect, here by chance, and trapped by choice! He keeps fit by charging up and down the stairs of the tower he lives in, overlooking all that he can see for miles around.

Individual in design, luxurious

Twelve chalets or cottages have so far been built on the vast grounds, each highly individual in design, set in surrounding relative privacy of flowering shrubs and greenery, complete with a spacious patio, or enclosed compounds, all well-spaced out. There is a harmoniously vibrant use of striking colour by way of glass and textiles, set off beautifully by well-sourced genuine antiques, all restored and polished with care. Old carved doors, teak and stone pillars, chests, statues, stone idols, chairs, beds — it's all used in these near-natural settings with a daring aplomb, turning simple beachside shack living to one of pampered luxury.

The bathrooms in each of these cottages is very different, actually rather daring in many — open to the sky behind high walls, completely louvred and shuttered, or as a separate shack, adjoining the cottage. The cottages all vary in size — one close to the shore is now occupied on a long-term basis by a German lady working for a charitable organisation, of which Dimitri is a vital part.

There is one with a pasha's tent-like ambience — on an upper level, with a bamboo-log floor, the bed swathed in rich blue silk curtains, and the simple cane furniture painted gold.

The family cottage is a large one, simply opulent with its theme of pink and yellow, looking out on its own walled garden — perfect for a large group to have a rollicking time, or even a small concert, or event.

A complete Kerala home has been assembled at "The Dune", to be ready in a few months. The Pub house is a shelter full of colourful plastic kitsch, decorated with laminated old Tamil film posters — this is obviously a place for many, many Happy Hours! Surrounded by plants, it is bound to relax, and ease all the rigours from one's mind.

The nursery

PHOTOS: RUPA GOPAL

ENCHANTING: "The Dune" promises an enthralling time.

Dimitri's passion is the garden nursery, having many plant varieties, and the large vegetable garden, where he grows new types from imported seeds, as well as local vegetables, all on organic basis. Even the water for the gardens is recycled water here. Almost everywhere is green — designed patches of bright portulaca at the base of palms, tall oleander, hibiscus, jasmine and green borders.

The kitchen cum dining hall is the meeting place of the visitors, a large open thatched structure, with an open-plan kitchen. Here Niels delights in serving strong coffee to guests. Pondy's tasty Ashram bread, organic fruit jams, fresh salads and fruit, divine desserts — The Dune does justice to the tummy. The resort is soon going to have a French chef coming over to stay, to whip up exotic dishes. Indian and continental dishes are already on the menu, and Dimitri is quite a dab hand at putting the finishing touch — he deftly parboils an egg, scoops off the top of the egg, places it in the middle of a rice dish, leaving it to cook further in its own heat, sprinkling it gently with salt and fresh pepper. Voila! the dish is ready for me to shoot!

Outdoor activities

"The Dune" organises horse riding, cycling, dance and yoga classes, massage sessions, boating and fishing, full moon walks, kids' entertainment, etc. Swimming in the sea is to be clearly done at one's own risk, as the currents are very strong in this part of the coast. Watching the fishermen bringing in the catch is itself good entertainment. Long walks along the shore, or sunning along the waters is very relaxing. Trips to nearby places like Auroville, Pondy, Chidambaram, Gingee, etc. are arranged by "The Dune".

It also promotes an Artists-in-Residence Programme, for talented people to stay and create wonders, like the huge door that symbolically opens out onto the beach, near the small dune. With a well-trained staff, plenty of security, all modcons, adequate medical facilities nearby, "The Dune" is a near enchanting place. And long romps with Pongo, the resident Dalmatian turn the haven into a dog lover's paradise. And if that is too energetic a past-time for the sybarite, nothing could be better than just sitting in an easy chair, enjoying the cool breeze, with a long drink in one's hand, and watching the dragonflies and butterflies busily tire themselves. This lazy idyll will be frequently disturbed by tiny twittering birds in myriad hues. Did I mention paradise?

For more information visit: www.indiaresortssurvey.com/resortinfo-2937.php

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