Q&A: In conversation with Abhijit Mukherjee,
Trustee - BGCT
Abhijit’s first job was with Hindustan Unilever Limited and it was a job that became long relationship with the organization. Very few people left Levers those days, he says - because you didn’t need to. So after a really long stint of 26 years, he joined Duncans for a change of pace and did a short stint with them.
In 2007, Abhijit decided to switch lanes from the corporate world, to actively dedicate time and energy to the social sector. He joined The Association of People with Disability in Bangalore, and stayed with this NGO till he retired in 2015. Post retirement, he was inducted into their Board for three years. He is currently a Trustee at Biswa Gouri Charitable Trust (BGCT) – another NGO that runs a school for children within the autism spectrum.
Abhijit loves travelling with his family to quiet and tranquil places where he can be at peace with nature. He also loves books, good movies and his select collection of music.
This interview features excerpts from conversations we had with him on another long association that he has really enjoyed and benefited from. His association with Orange County – now Evolve Back Resorts.
Over the years, Orange County has become our second home. My family - which includes my wife and our two daughters - agree with me when I say that we have enjoyed going to Orange County - year after year for our annual vacation.
As Orange County says on their website, When you step into the portals of Evolve Back Chikkana Halli Estate, Coorg, you leave one world behind, and step seamlessly into another: the bygone era of the gentleman planter.
What greets you here is a lush 300-acre plantation paradise, with the welcoming aromas of coffee and spice. Now that’s a great way to start your vacation.
To start with you are right in the middle of nature’s green canvas – at a resort that blends in with the surroundings. And your vacation is packaged to deliver a unique world class experience – right from their beautifully designed water bodies (swimming pools) to their truly romantic coffee lounge & library – and of course their Ayurvedic Spa, which takes the pampering to a totally different level.
To sum this up, you can expect a very comfortable stay at Orange County. The cottages are absolutely clean, well maintained and spacious. They have truly unique theme restaurants with cuisine options there are really superlative. Sporting activities are available for those who desire, though I have not availed those. Their guided trekking tours to coffee plantations are something to look forward to.
Above all you can expect to experience excellent and efficient hospitality and housekeeping. We feel at home - and that in itself is good reason to feel comfortable and happy.
They basically love the abundant opportunities to connect with nature at Orange County. My wife, loves the hospitality, tranquility, ambiance, food and the driving-down-convenience from Bangalore. When my elder daughter is in India, she too comes along with us to Orange County – making the vacation a nice family affair.
Our younger daughter sometimes brings her friend with us, and they just love the food and choices available. Of course things like hospitality, comfort and sports facilities are high on the list for them.The younger generation of course loves unwinding at the bar with beer and their favorite snacks. What they enjoy most is the private swimming pool attached to our cottage.
Let me also add that my daughter finds the security and safety at Orange County extremely reassuring. (Which I think is an important aspect in these times.)
Love my early morning tea and biscuits - sitting at the verandah facing the pool of our Heritage Pool Cottage.
I must confess here that I am not much of a foodie, but I love the variety of dishes across a wide range of cuisines available at three specialty restaurants at the resort. The restaurant options are either buffet-style or served at your table, and you always have a wonderful person overseeing what people want and making sure the food comes on time and exactly the way we ordered it.
My favourite food session was breakfast at Granary – a continental breakfast is a great way to start the day. Meal times at the Granary, or the fine dining Peppercorn were also special, and moments to savor. What we also looked forward to was their afternoon teas and snacks – especially the samosas, bhajjias, cakes and sandwiches– often served around the pool.
To be honest every meal had something to write home about, in terms of taste and the way it was presented.
At Orange County, where you stay is another story in the lap of luxury. From what I can recall, you can choose from Lily Pool Villas and Kodava-styled Heritage Pool Villas– these are beautifully located within this fully-functioning coffee and spice plantation. Whatever you choose, you’re guaranteed a dream vacation.
To sum up our impressions, we found the interiors excellent, clean and comfortable with all facilities required by us. It’s also convenient that we can make our tea and coffee at the cottages, with snacks and biscuits that are provided. The rooms are also beautifully furnished – the interior décor has a natural appeal to it - not like a typical upmarket hotel room. The cloakrooms are spic and span and meet the same high standards in terms of design and convenience.
During our stay at Orange County, staff members were always polite and friendly – often going out of their way to be helpful. What we most love is the personal touch and warmth with due efficiency. I must mention that my wife was running high fever once and was treated by an Ayurvedic Doctor out there. People at the reception and other hospitality staff also went out of their way to take care and reassure us. This we find is rare – and you don’t really get to hear about things like this.
Our positive impressions here hold good right across the many points of interface with the customer - right from the time of checking in, to leaving the resort. Love the first moment of stepping in, with the music greeting us, the welcome drink and the warm smiles of people at the reception. I love the natural fruit juice and aromatic towel to wipe my face and hands after a long 7-hour drive. We have never experienced anything like this anywhere.
The sprawling expanse of the resort provides ample opportunities for a wide range of activity – adding a whole new dimension to your vacation. Let me list a few that come to mind: early morning bird-watching walks, farmer’s trails, coracle rides, coffee sampling, cooking classes, and cultural events in the evening. There are dedicated people on the team to assist you with your activity plans and help you with information on participation.
At the resort they also have an ayurvedic spa for guests – just the comfort zone for herbal baths, oil massages and wellness therapies. This is something my wife and daughter look forward to every time we come here. In the afternoons, my wife also loves spending hours at the coffee lounge and library, browsing through books – something that has become part of her routine at the resort.
In today’s world it is important for players in the hospitality industry to look at issues across a wider horizon - to ensure long term gains for the generations to follow. At Orange County, we could see a visible concern for protecting the environment - which means no plastics to start with, and the use of natural products for guests, among other measures.
Finally, I must thank the entire team for their excellent service and their efforts to make our stay special and memorable. The family is already making plans to come back for our next vacation, and hopefully the Corona issue will be behind us by then.
(Though the name “Orange County” has been used here as a convenient frame of reference, the official name for the chain of resorts is Evolve Back.)
All images, courtesy of Abhijit Mukherjee. Pictures from one of our vacations at Orange County with the family.
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