Zorba The Buddha
For a very long time I was looking for a hideout where I could scoot off to hibernate. Now, as I write I realize that hibernate would be a wrong expression. The idea was to go unwind someplace else neither too near nor too far from home. It so happens that one never gets opportunity to explore one’s own city where he/she may have lived for donkey’s years. In my case, it is the National Capital Region (NCR) and how it has grown is a topic of a separate post!!
I had been surfing the net for a while in search of that perfect rejuvenating spot but as fate would have it all such runaways happened to be located outstation. Though ideally one should always take a break, at least half yearly, to travel out of one’s cocoon, but given my domestic constraint that option is not always exercisable.
Then one fine morning suddenly my eyes rested on an ad for registration for certain spiritual programs which were being held within NCR, not exactly at stone’s throw but definitely within reachable bounds. I quickly dialed their number to find out more about the place.
I think it was the unusual name of the venue that caught my attention – Zorba The Buddha – situated on 7 Tropical Drive, Gurgaon. Digital reviews said it was a place where you go to stay for a day and land up spending months. I was definitely intrigued.
Upon my telephonic enquiry, I was told that the concerned person, one Mr. Dhirendra, would call me back. He did but I missed his call. When I called him back he smsed that he was busy and would return my call as soon as possible. In short, it did not seem to be the ripe time for finding out more about Zorba.
Then last week, I just fancied calling him up again. This time I was lucky to get his call back. He said Zorba was a hub of cultural and spiritual activity. Rooms were available for residential programs stretching for days, if required. Even otherwise, anybody could go stay at Zorba, without subscribing to any particular spiritual path or program. This was very encouraging as I preferred to do my own which was kind-of-free-lancing-in-meditation. I said I wished to check out the place before booking for a weekend night. They were game for that as well. However, one had to fix an appointment to have a look around which I did for this weekend, i.e., yesterday.
Zorba, by the Google map, is around 40 Km from my place which should make an hour’s journey. However, considering the on-road traffic (especially on MG Road), there is every possibility that the commuting may lengthen to incalculable hours. The easiest way, therefore, is to take the Metro straight to Ghitorni station where autos and e-rickshaws are aplenty and the drivers can almost read your mind before you tell them your destination.
All the premises on Tropical Drive are heavily gated. Zorba is no exception! We had to pay an entry fee of Rs. 200/- per person (we were a twosome – me and my sister) before being allowed to meet the concerned at the Office. The one thing that was immediately noticeable was Zorba’s subscription to organic living. Every room, hall and the office had to be entered barefoot so the one thing which was common to all these were the wooden racks kept at the doorway for the visitors to take off their shoes before entering. Low-watt electric bulbs hung from branches of trees and bamboo shoots cleverly positioned.
Mr. Dhirendra, the reservation in-charge, was a pleasant personality who apprised us of a series of programs scheduled to be held in the coming months at Zorba which included drum circles, moonlight meditation, breath-works, dark meditation (week long shamanic group meditation conducted in darkened rooms) concerts, kirtans, therapies, yoga, mind and body healing, spiritual chanting, art classes, dance recitals and the works. No wonder the premise was choc-o-bloc for the season. There is no peak or off season for Zorba, we were told. It is teeming with activities throughout the year. In fact, programs were being conducted in all the halls at that very moment while we were exchanging notes with him.
Notwithstanding, Mr. Dhriendra graciously allowed us a tour of the premise. All the rooms, designed in the fashion of thatched-roofed mud huts with bamboo ceilings, are air-conditioned and provide basic amenities. The beds wrapped in mosquito nets almost touch the floor carpeted with bamboo mats. Each room has one entire wall of glass which serves as a large window opening out onto the greenery adequately lighting the rooms as well. The attached bathrooms are spacious, well maintained and fitted with modern amenities.
Foot Note: Room Charges are on per night basis and include all three meals.
Check in at 10.00 AM and check out at 12.00 PM
15% Tax extra on Bills
Charges for attending ongoing/pre-booked sessions is additional
Though, we did not get a peek in, the halls, we were told, are also fully air-conditioned, varying in capacity and can accommodate from 35 to 65 people at a time. As we passed by we could hear soft music floating out which was a testimonial to the sessions going on inside.
Being in the same locale, a comparison with Anandgram, comes naturally. In so far as landscaping is concerned, Anandgram is vaster and easy to cover by foot. Zorba, spread in 3 acres of land, appears smaller in size as there are no-entry zones barricaded off for trespassers. Moreover, the landscape is undulating and therefore difficult to traverse on foot for elderly persons.
The lunch hall is again in the open and doubles up as an open-air amphitheater as well for the nightly festivities. The dais where the buffet tables are laid is a longish rectangular plateau of baked mud. Green mounds with seating arrangements atop abound.
Zorba claims to serve organic food which is light on stomach but overpriced (Rs. 500/- per head). Dinner is costlier (Rs. 700/- per head). As I did not stay for the night I will not be able to comment on the quality and spread of the nightly meal. Same goes for breakfast which costs as much as lunch. All meals are Buffet lays.
Lunch seemed to be an informal affair. White moulded chairs are arranged in groups. Concept of a dining table is deliberately absent. Idea is to let the inmates mingle and interact with each other over food. One can also have lunch seated on the grassy inclines. Interestingly, the lunch space is a mobile-free zone.
Lunching at Zorba – Why am I always clicked eating?
Behind the lunch space a muddy path takes one to a patch of green well-shaded by leafy trees. An art class had just come to a close. Plastic tables and chairs lay asunder with remnants of a colourful session strewn here and there.
Beyond the patch is a pond which is the home for a cute flock of ducks swimming happily in the waters. Some rest on the grass island in the middle of the pond. Feeding the ducks is a strict no-no.
You can take a U-turn by the side of the pond and following another mud path reach the front where the office is or you can sit on one of the protruding rocks by the path and take stock of things. This side is unusually quiet and away from the sun. With the session’s end participants of the art class strolled back home this way.
It was during lunch that we could get the actual feel of the place with the crowd frequenting the place around. Again interestingly, they were mostly girls in their early twenties and thirties. If we had to plot the ratio between the two sexes it would definitely be to the tune of 80(female):20(male). A distinct class and age divide was also observable here – the older and the younger, the conservative and the adventurous, the ones who were set in their ways and the ones who were ready to experiment with life.
Zorba’s ambience is predominantly Osho. There is an undercurrent of free-spiritedness in the air. Again in comparison with Anandgram, the seriousness of pursuit is sadly missing. Since, I did not stay overnight I cannot commentate on the atmosphere after sun down. My friend says the place is famous for its cultural fests. I am yet to experience one. However, staff here is again young and courteous.
Zorba thrives on digital/oral marketing – word of mouth, FB postings, tweets and the likes. It is difficult to form an opinion whether the residents of Zorba are truly intense self-seekers or merely followers of a whimsical fad who wish to make a statement to the world by swimming against the tide. For me jelling with the environ is much more important than the degree of comfort and quality of amenities provided in a retreat. Zorba may be fun, one-time or more, but surely not for those who are seriously and deeply into spiritual quest. Lack of profundity is palpable and the genuineness of pursuit is alas missing. There is an air of poorly disguised artificiality which is bothersome. If you are on the lookout for an electrifying energy field throbbing like a livewire, Zorba is not the place for you. It is definitely fashionable going by the gentry and the rows and rows of gleaming cars parked outside the premise. But it is neither the perfect mating ground for hobnobbing with souls attuned to the Divine to a higher and greater degree than yours nor the impeccable hermitage for a few days reclusive living.
At least not for me….