VISHALLA in an exclusive photo-essay.
It was my secret desire to visit Vishalla, the Chowki Dhani of Ahmedabad on my sojourn to Ahmedabad, since the time I had read about it in some newspaper. Considering the time constraints, it was looking impossible and the distance we needed to travel from our place of stay to Baroda highway. But as the luck would have it, despite drizzling, we changed the venue from Atithi for dinner to Vishala in a jiffy and around 9 PM we reached there.
As I mentioned that I was very curious to visit the place owing to its uniqueness on many parameters like true to its literal sense, its vast, open spaces that free the mind. There are no physical obstructions, even in the form of doors or walls. My research revealed that, Vishalla’, the traditionally designed restaurant, came into being on 27 March, 1978. The designer, Mr. Surendra Patel, discovered the name ‘Vishala’ in the book Bhattachintamani of a religious group called ‘Swaminarayan’. The name caught the sensitive eyes of Mr. Patel as it related to his vision of the restaurant, a place for homely, staple food in a relaxed atmosphere and with a free mind.
The facade is so mesmerising and, the interior design is certainly in a class of its own, proudly symbolizing Indian culture, it looked like compact Gujarat with mirror on the cover. Truly reflecting vibrant culture of Gujarat, I was very delighted to be there. The walls have photographs of those who have visited Vishalla in the past, and believe me they are who’s who of the country. We were accorded a very warm welcome with roses and the payment counter was replica of Gaddi in the olden times. We were made to wait, the time which we utilised to watch very interesting puppet show. Interestingly, I enjoy the puppet show like a child.
I found myself in the true Gujarati Village where there are no closed rooms or halls, lanterns used instead of heavy lighting, natural air replacing air-conditioned air, folk songs being sung without mikes, muddy lanes, homely food served on a tree leaf, and everything around resembling a typical Indian village. Another distinguishing characteristic of the place is that you get to decide the menu and pay the bill at the reception itself. Well, if you haven’t heard of any such place, Vishalla is there.
Vishalla is not only designed like a village; the staff accords to you the same, warm hospitality you would likely experience in an Indian village. The atmosphere is imbued with a proximity to nature that relaxes the mind. There are no doors to be seen here – which emphasizes the focus on freeing the mind. The waiters and other staff are dressed in traditional Indian gear, with either a turban or a topi on their heads, dressed in the very typical dhoti-kurta.
Then we moved to eating area which was set on floor with multiple cuisines served on pattals in unlimited quantity. We enjoyed the food cooked in Desi Ghee which included: Puris, Bakhris, 4 Subzis, khichdi, kadhi, dal, achaars, papads, thali peeth, halwa…what not. All of enjoyed the meals very much in the lantern lit dining area. After the meals we decided to stay for some more time to enjoy Kathiawadi Dance Performance and other performances.
Children Rishabh, Rashi and Tanya wanted to hang out for some more time…but it was 11 already and time to move. All in all it was wonderfully spent evening and the pricing is not at all steep…it is certainly value for money. Considering the distance and rains, I was pleasantly surprised to note the impressive line up of cars in the parking.
The natural connect with the plants and the muddy lanes itself delivers the mind from all day-to-day concerns. The pronounced village-like environment is experienced in every nook and corner of Vishalla. There are lanterns to light up the place, the entire area is mud-plastered, and even the entertainment section uses no modern sound systems. The effect is further enhanced with the staff dressed in a traditional, Indian style. What’s more, it is not merely the village-style apparel donned by the staff; they also exhibit a heart-felt hospitality typical of village folks!
Indeed the place leaves you with lasting impression…where I would like to visit again!