Ghar 1964 Is A Haven That Brings The Warmth Of Home To The Hills Of Himachal Pradesh

Ghar 1964 Is A Haven That Brings The Warmth Of Home To The Hills Of Himachal Pradesh
L: Ghar 1964 R: Fathima Abdul Kader

As I sit in the sweltering heat of Kochi after what seemed like a fairy-tale escape into the Himalayas, I think of the pet-friendly, bright pink cafe and hostel ‘Ghar 1964’ that felt like home. The moment I got out of the pahad-approved Santro that took us up the winding path from Jibhi Pass and I caught my first glimpse of the pink wooden cabin, I knew there was something soothing about the tiny, character-filled property. Honestly, it reminded me of my best friend - a petite person filled to the brim with stories and was all heart and soul. 

There are many things travel has done for me as a person — I’ve met wonderful people, and I’ve had incredible experiences. But no matter how far I had travelled, I always longed to come back home. I’ve always been that person who thought that the most satisfying part of a trip was eventually coming home and reflecting on the experiences. But this was one of the few times when I considered giving up on meetings and real life, just to have a few more days and to remain in the rosy haze of this place and its people. 

Ghar 1964 Is A Haven That Brings The Warmth Of Home To The Hills Of Himachal Pradesh
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Music, Marshmallows and A Dog Called Machli

The weather in Shoja when I arrived in the afternoon was bitingly cold, even when Jibhi Pass a few km below from where I started, was pleasantly cool. I stepped out of the comfortably warm car and instantly rushed to put on my muffler and pull on my jacket. I saw how the bright pink cafe and stay was perched on the edge of the mountain, and how the view from the edge of its wooden railing was ghost-white fog, and perhaps a solitary conifer or two that peeked through. They had a makeshift bench right outside, for those who wanted to have a smoke and a warm drink while gazing out at the view, and taking in the sun, whenever it chose to peek through. 

Located right on the steep mountainside, the property is charming in its quaintness. While they only have room to house barely 10 guests at a time — split across a private room and 2 dorms - very few who visit Ghar spend their time in their rooms, except maybe to snuggle up and fall asleep in minutes at the end of the night when the temperature would dwindle to single digits, even in April. But most people spent their time going for walks and treks to nearby villages and attractions, or more often than not, just whiling their time away in the common space of Ghar 1964. I kept my essentials — my laptop, headphones, water bottle— and books in the entry area and went down and stored the rest of my things in the dorm that was located on the second level of the property. Yes, you do have to take rickety wooden stairs to get there, but after the initial descent you realise that much like most things in the mountains, it is surprisingly resilient. 

After a moment of tucking things away, I rushed back up to what I knew would be a warm welcoming space. Whether it was the impeccable service or the way one is welcomed into the place by fellow travellers or greeted by the resident doggo Machli, I felt at home — unwound and unstressed, without any effort. Lifafa was playing on the speaker and there was quite chatter from fellow vagabonds. The smell of warm coffee enveloped me, and there was a furnace that radiated heat through the space, and there were carpets and cushions galore, that warmed me up and calmed me down. I ordered my first cup of Hot Chocolate with Marshmallow and it was delivered soon enough by Jatin Maggo, (who’d already helped me down the aforementioned stairs and with my bags) who is the founder of the property. This drink would become a staple over the next two days that I stayed at Ghar. It was served in a hand-painted mug that depicted cabins akin to the wooden cabin we were sitting in, and  featured a big fluffy marshmallow, which when melted down, made this comforting drink even more comforting still. 

L: Machli 
R: Ghar Hot Chocolate
L: Machli R: Ghar Hot ChocolateFathima Abdul Kader

Making A Cabin Into A Ghar

In taking my time to make the most of my time at Ghar 1964, I didn’t ask as many questions as I would have on a normal trip when I was intrigued by the property. Whatever I did learn about Ghar 1964, was through bits and pieces of my fleeting conversations with Jatin and the other Gharwale. Running around in a single layer of clothes on most days, and always light on his feet, I was fully convinced that Jatin was a local, who had called Shoja his home from day one. After picking up on my love for tea (I confess, I’d already had 5 cups of lemon tea in 10 hours), Jatin suggested that I try out the Arjuna Bark Tea which was a local treat. Over the pleasantly tart cup of tea that was truly novel to me, he sat cross-legged next to me, playing with Machli - the most beloved member of the household, and talked about how he’d found his way to Ghar 1964 on one of his many sojourns, and how he toyed with the idea of starting up an optical clinic, before deciding on making it a stay and cafe. As our conversations weaved in and out of the origin story of the property, he mentioned how even trained himself to get comfortable with leading a life in the mountains, by carrying baskets and loads up the terrain on foot like the locals do - talk about ‘method-living’. 

Jatin is a trained optometrist from Delhi who was bitten by the travel bug and did so extensively before the pandemic. On one of his many trips, he discovered the spot that Ghar 1964 today is perched on, and the only elements then were the solitary tree that you first see when you peer through the windows of the property, and the rudimentary structure of this building. According to Rishabh, a budding filmmaker and one of the many wonderful people I met during my time here, the story of how Jatin brought Ghar 1964 to life is a saga in itself, but one I didn’t have time to coax out of him while flitted around the space - rekindling firewood, checking people in, taking orders at the cafe, playing with Machli, doing a card trick or two, and a million other essential things, all while making sure the music is just right. 

L: Arjuna Bark Tea
R: Kadi Chawal
L: Arjuna Bark Tea R: Kadi Chawal Fathima Abdul Kader

Home Is A State of Mind

As someone with pretty bad anxiety, it is often hard to feel at home even in my own home. It was truly shocking to me that the moment I saw this property, it felt reassuringly familiar. In looking back, I realised that my comfort stemmed from how I easily sensed that the property was the realisation of a dream that many people harboured, including me - of creating a safe escape with an impeccable view, to offer comfort food, good music and is always open to good people (and pets), and is filled with intentionally curated details, while also bearing the marks of a life well-lived and the art left behind by those that had made it their ‘home’, even if just for a day or two. 

The little details are everything here, from clear glass pane windows that ask you questions and give you little assurances — from "Who Are You When No One Is Watching?" and "How Is The Weather Inside You?" to "Sab Theek Ho Jaega" and "I Hope You Heal From The Things You Don’t Talk About". There are little magnets that one can paint, and a few illustrated postcards of Ghar 1964 that are sitting next to me as I write this feature. There are artworks and scribbles left behind by guests. Looking at these pictures from Ghar makes me feel at home, even though I am home. I met a fellow Taylor Swift fan who was living out her ‘folklore’ dreams just like me in this cabin in the mountains. We bonded over our shared neurodivergence. She someone who saw me in all my raw, dysfunctional glory and held space for me as I rushed to pack up and leave.

Whether it is a manifestation come to life or simply the power of marketing by word of mouth that brought only the right kind of people, Ghar 1964 which Jatin created intending to be a home away from home, had achieved just that. Inadvertently, his welcoming nature and the way the people of Ghar go out of their way to make you 'Be At Ease' is evident from the moment you get there. Even though I am back in my ‘real home’ I don’t think I have ever thought of returning so soon to a place that I had travelled to for a mere few days. For someone who struggle to feel at home even in her own home, it was downright magical that ‘Ghar 1964’ made me feel like I was coming home to myself more than anything, simply by holding space and providing respite, warmth and the chance to just be, at my own pace. If time at Ghar 1964 taught me anything, it is that home is a concept, or a state of mind, and has more to do with the kindness of those around you, and their willingness to provide space for you, more than anything. 

As for the question of the story behind the number (or year) 1964, it is one would have to ask Jatin himself. For the sake of this feature, I could have sent him a message or given him a call, and asked him to reveal that part of the story. But then I figured — the beauty of Ghar 1964 is in the fact that it is not a place whose story is out there for everyone to know. My visit was my chance to learn through conversations and first-hand experience. And frankly, if your curiosity has gotten the better of you, take a trip up to Ghar by yourself, order yourself a hot chocolate, give Machli loads of cuddles (if she permits) and ask Jatin the story behind the ‘1964’. I’m sure he’s got a hell of a story behind the number, as he does with everything else. 

You can stay tuned to Ghar 1964 here.

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