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Couple Quits City Life to Build Dreamy Homestay That Uses Natural Spring to Heat Its Rooms

Nestled beside the Beas River in Manali, the ‘Raison D’etre’ homestay by Shalini and Nitin Beri offers guests an escape from city life — featuring rooms with stunning mountain views, access to natural spring, and locally sourced food.

Couple Quits City Life to Build Dreamy Homestay That Uses Natural Spring to Heat Its Rooms

Do you remember as kids how we used to draw two mountains, a small hut, and a stream with a river flowing nearby? In my mind, that painting was the epitome of peace and nature. We all grew up with a similar image in our heads, but what if I told you that this picture truly exists?

Nestled in the beautiful hills of Manali, right beside the Beas River, is the homestay of your dreams. ‘Raison D’etre’, which means ‘the purpose of someone’s existence’ in French, is truly a labour of love by its founders and hosts, Shalini and Nitin Beri.

“Here, you can chase butterflies, bask in the sun, marvel at the night sky, and savour the simple flavours of life. We wanted to escape from the city and its hustle-bustle, and we found our home in this place,” says Shalini to The Better India.

In search of a simple life

Most of us struggle with the impending question of ‘what we are doing with life’. The fear of not following a plan slowly creeps into our system, making us question our decisions. Shalini and Nitin realised that this was not their calling after spending years working in the corporate world.

The biggest fear that Shalini and Nitin had about life was ending up stuck in a “corporate rat race”. To deal with the fear, what did the couple do? They decided to quit their careers and move to the mountains!

Raised in Kullu the couple met in college. The two fell in love and eventually decided to get married. “We were working in cities like Mumbai and Delhi at advertising agencies. While we loved our lives in the city, what we missed most dearly were the mountains,” Shalini says.

Raison D’etre in Manali.
Raison D’etre in Manali.

The urge to move back home became stronger and stronger with time for the couple. “I think that if you don’t do something while you are young, then there is a chance that you might never do it. While we did enjoy our time living in big cities, I always feared that I would never leave the city!” she says.

“I was living with this fear constantly, and in 2013, we decided to quit our jobs and move back to Kullu for good,” Nitin says.

The couple had an existing ancestral Home in Kullu which gave them the idea to start a homestay. “But it was not big enough for a project like that,” says Shalini. So, the couple started to look for properties around the place.

When the duo first came across the land where their home stands now, they were taken aback by its beauty — it looked straight out of a painting! “Since then we have built the property piece by piece, pouring our hearts into it,” she says.

The home features four bedrooms — each named after one of the four seasons of the year.  The ‘Spring’ and ‘Summer’ rooms are situated on the ground floor, whereas, the ‘Autumn’ and ‘Winter’ rooms are on the first floor.

Each room opens up to magnificent views of the Himalayas and Beas River.

What to expect at the Homestay?

“The rooms do not have TV,” says Shalini, “I don’t understand why anybody would want to sit in their room watching TV when you can sit outdoors in the orchard and enjoy the views. There are flowers, butterflies, and fruit trees all around.”

Guests can also take hikes up the hills or serene walks along the river and to nearby villages. 

“There’s also a huge riverside area with a tiny ‘beach’. We also have hammocks, creating a very relaxed atmosphere. Additionally, there are books available for reading. In our lounge area, we have board games like Monopoly and Clue,” she adds.

The homestay sits right beside Beas River.
The homestay sits right beside Beas River.

The place even has a natural spring on the property. “Back in the day when we were growing up, you could simply open a tap, stick your face under it, and drink water, right? Here, you can do exactly that! The taps are connected to the natural spring water and you can drink it,” she shares.

Apart from enjoying nature, guests can also indulge in the delicious meals that Shalini prepares.

“There are lots of edible weeds growing on the property. So, my favourite thing is to pick a whole bunch of what is growing in the garden. Locally, they grow urad dal (black gram) and make little dried badis (vegetable nuggets) out of it for winter, because nothing grows here in the cold weather. So, they dry whatever they grow in summer or make these badis and keep them. I love serving my guests these badis,” she says.

“We also make a lot of zucchini-based dishes because it grows here in abundance. We prepare it in various ways. There are also local dishes like siddu which is like a bao stuffed with chutney,” she adds.

Shalini also uses fiddlehead fern to make pickles along with other produce like persimmon achar, plum chutney, peach jam, and quince jam.

A homestay steeped in sustainability

Nitin is the one who handles all the ‘jugaads’ (an innovative way of problem-solving) as Shalini puts it.

Nitin informs that the homestay was made keeping in mind that it does not disturb the nature around. “We’ve implemented a lot of eco-friendly and sustainable practices right from the design of the place. We also wanted to minimise our energy requirements. To achieve this, we started from the architecture and planning phase, where we utilised natural ways of heating and maximised sunlight exposure during winter while minimising it in summer,” he says.

It offers delicious meals like siddu, badi, and homemade pickles.
It offers delicious meals like siddu, badi, and homemade pickles.

In terms of construction materials, most buildings in the hills are built with wood as it is a good insulating material. “Additionally, we’ve incorporated insulating blocks in the construction, which further reduce heating and air conditioning costs. These blocks are light enough to float on water and insulate the entire building. Furthermore, all windows are double-glazed with argon gas in between for additional insulation, and the roofs are insulated as well,” he adds.

For heating, the property utilises geothermal heat pumps, tapping into a spring on the property for ground source water. “This water, naturally warm in winter, is cycled through the geothermal heat pump to extract heat, which is then used to heat the building. Underfloor pipes, spanning almost a kilometre, distribute this heat throughout the building, providing an efficient heating solution,” Nitin explains.

Having faced several power cuts in the region, the couple decided to be more sustainable and go solar. “We run our operations entirely on solar power. We have a solar system in place that generates electricity, and our entire house runs on this. Even on days when there’s as little as 30% sunlight, the system works efficiently. Additionally, any excess energy generated during the day is stored in batteries, which we then use for power backup when needed,” he shares.

In the six years of operations, the couple has hosted countless number of happy guests so far. Among them is Mumbai-based Priyanka who stayed at the property.

“Located on the banks of the Beas River, Shalini and Nitin’s homestay exceeded all our expectations. Surrounded by beautiful fruit trees, depending on the season you visit, you can indulge in farm-fresh fruits every day!” she remarks.

She goes on, “The food we experienced here was truly exceptional, offering some of the finest and freshest meals we’ve ever had — things we don’t find back home. Throughout our five-day stay, we were treated to a diverse range of cuisines, including Chinese, Italian, Thai, and Indian dishes, crafted with care and love by Nitin and Shalini using locally sourced ingredients.”

Describing their homestay as a dreamy getaway for city folks looking for respite, Nitin and Shalini share that day-to-day beautiful experiences keep them going. “We believe this place we have created is somewhere you can truly heal,” says Shalini.

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“Currently, a mother and daughter pair are staying with us. The mother who is a pranic healer mostly engages in meditation and yoga, taking the silence in, while the daughter keeps running around chasing butterflies. The homestay is her playground, and the natural elements are her toys. It is amazing to see how two generations are enjoying the property in their own ways at the same time,” she adds with a smile.

(Edited by Pranita Bhat; All images credit: Raison D’etre)

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