Holiday Home Times

Dr Om and Chandra Kaul’s home away from home in Karjat

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Moving away from the hustle and bustle of city life, Dr Om Kaul and his wife Dr Chandra Kaul decided to settle in Karjat three years ago, to lead a more peaceful existence. Om, a consultant for well-known companies, and his wife, a gynecologist by profession, in their quest to find peaceful surroundings, left their lavish house in Lokhandwala to move into a small village, and they don’t regret it.

The interview…

Please give me some background information on yourself.

Chandra Kaul pursued her medical degree from KGMC, Lucknow before moving to England where she stayed for two-and-a-half years, doing a couple of jobs. After getting married she moved to Mumbai in ’71 and practiced gynecology from 1972 to 2007. Om Kaul obtained his Masters and Ph.D. Degrees from the US after completing two Masters Degrees in India. He was the professor at NITIE in Mumbai for six years teaching business strategy and human resource management. He has worked for Hindustan Lever, Lipton, Tata Unisys, before becoming the Group President – HR for all six companies of Essar Group. He is the managing director of his management consulting firm, Om Kaul Associates.

Why did you decide to settle in Karjat?
My wife is a green thumb and I was born amidst the greenery of Kashmir. We always wanted to live in a village, close to nature without any door bells ringing, no courier or intercom ringing; it was chaos in Mumbai. We wanted to have a holiday home away from Mumbai and yet close to the city. Other places like Panchgani take five hours to reach; we had a 5,000 sq ft plot in Pune, but it is also congested. We looked at Nasik, Lonavala, Lavasa, but we didn’t want a small row house. We wanted to build something of our own and not opt for a readymade villa. Then we thought of Karjat and bought 2 acres of agricultural plot near Kadav in 2007, took the collector’s permission to convert it into a NA plot. The village is close, on the main road, not crowded and secured as well, since we have a watchman. It was the ideal place.

What do you like about the place?
Karjat gave me the chance to pursue my hobby – gardening. In Mumbai I had 40-50 plants growing in the balcony. But here I have my own garden, it’s spacious and peaceful. The best time is 5.30 am to 6.30 am. It’s fantastic to watch the sunrise while sipping tea. We relive our childhood days here.

What do you do for recreation?
I like reading books. Sometimes I read at odd times from 3 am to 6 am, listen to music. My wife likes gardening…likes to invest so watches the stock market, enjoys cooking and play Sudoku. We get our freedom here. Sometimes, my daughter, who lives in Mumbai, also comes to visit us.

What are the problems you faced in setting up your house or otherwise?
Personally we had no problems. Civil construction was local, electrical contractors and painters were from Mumbai. We are well accepted in the village. We order for medicines from a chemist close by, newspaper guy arranges for English dailies. Only problem I can think of is that we don’t get Amul milk, since local milk is diluted, and also brown bread is not available.

What is growing in your garden?
We grow different kinds of vegetables – bottle gourd, ridge gourd, bitter gourd, ladyfingers, brinjal, mint, spinach, methi, drumstick, zucchini, cucumber. In winters and during the rains we get lot of veggies. Only in April-May there is nothing growing. Bananas, chickoos, mango, guava, papaya, pomegranate, coconut, kala jamun, mulberries – we have 100 fruit-bearing trees.

How is your social life here?
The Karjat Farm Owners club is a good meeting place. We come across a network of people like green thumbs, IT guys, engineers, etc. They visit us or we visit them sometime, so it’s not a dull life. We are happy from within and with each other. When we were in Mumbai we realised, even in the same building people don’t have the time to visit each other. Now traffic has become so nightmarish, nobody wants to travel.

What about medical facilities in Karjat?
I am lucky I have a doctor at home, but sometimes we go to Mumbai. It’s just 2 hours from here. Karjat is like a first aid center, no specialty clinics here. But when we need a particular medicine, the chemist in Kadav arranges it for me.

What is the budget one needs to keep in mind to invest in Karjat?
Land has become expensive. Plus it’s not as fertile as compared to Nasik or Panchgani. The new projects don’t deal in guntas, only square foot basis. For mid-level spenders, one can get 3000 sq ft with a house for Rs 20 to Rs 25 lacs.

How has Karjat changed over the years?
It has become disproportionately expensive, farm labor is difficult to find, since the locals are selling their ancestral land and they don’t want to work. I can see the level of urbanisation increasing. Karjat will become an urban education complex countered to Pune, since so many educational institutes are opening here. So if Pune has 2 lac students, in 10 years Karjat will have 1 lac students.