A visit to Adi Davierwall's Shirin Hotel in Matheran provides both mental peace and physical wellbeing. So it has been this long last weekend, beginning early Friday afternoon.
The long roundabout drive via Chowk and Karjat and Neral and then up a treacherous road that has yet to be certified as motorable by the RTO, the compulsory walk beyond the car-park barrier, though a thick forest of jambul and mohad trees, past the bazar lined with all the tourist junk from Bombay, then the final stretch on unused city legs to the 120-year-old hotel, constructed on a red terrace and looking like a turn-of-the century Parsi's idea of a Swiss chalet, all contribute towards the hearty dinner that follows.
Mr. Davierwalla, known throughout the Raigad district for his traditional hospitality and personalised service, is normally waiting with a torch at Hope Hall to welcome his pre-booked visitors.
The hotel itself is in the tradition of Parsi-run hotels of Matheran and Mahableshwar; heavy four-poster beds, old hat stands, damaged by the monkeys, large bathrooms with poor hill-station plumbing, a large family table on the verandah in front of every room for the meals.
You find these only in the hill-stations of Maharashtra, Dina Hotel in Mahableshwar, and I1 Palazo and Mr. View in Panchgani, and Adi Davierwall's Shirin in Matheran.
But it is the meals that make them really different.
Let me consider what all I ate in between one long walk to One Tree Hill and several short outings to Charlotte Lake and the Bazar to admire Jimmy Lord;s bougainvilea from Japan, Simla, Kashmir and Matheran.
For breakfast, there was always the Parsi akuri, eggs scrambled with fried onions, chopped tomatoes and green chillis, fresh kothmir. The eggs gaoti, the tomatoes and kothmir fresh from the village farms under the ridge of Mather an. And also for breakfast, there was kheema, made the Parsi way with a lot of gravy and sliced potatoes, and bread from Lord's Bakery, vitain-rich, and butter and jam and tea.
And lunch, of course, was dhansak, rich and savouried with masalas grounded in Davierwall's kitchen and mutton from the Neral goats.
And I had all the other Parsi dishes: papri-ma-kabab, and payas stewed in their own thick sticky gravy, and masoor-ma-gosht, with roughly cut raw onions, or kachumber with Rezashah'' vinegar.
And, above all, the personalised service of Adi Davierwalla, hovering over the tables, ordering more food, inquiring what you would like to order the next afternoon.
Right now I am thinking what I will order the next time I go to Shirin Hotel, Matheran ('modern sanitation, full of amenities, proprietor's own supervision').