Get a guided-tour of Ajay Piramal's Mahabaleshwar residence
Inside Ajay and Swati Piramal's sprawling villa in Mahabaleshwar near Mumbai, which exudes heritage grandeur and scenic charm.
The flowers are in bloom, just in time for the Mahabaleshwar festival, an initiative by the hill station's famous residents. A list that, apart from the Piramals, includes names such as Cyril Shroff, Baba Kalyani, Jaysingh Mariwala, Zinia Lawyer and others.
Over the last weekend of 2014, Piramal gave ETPanache a sneak peek into her house, a century-old heritage structure that she has restored since the purchase in 2006 and a "$100" guided tour of her gardens. "My husband's (Ajay Piramal's) would be the $10 one. He'd just take people around and ask them to look," she joked, as we set off.
Top seeds among the flowers
The two-day Mahabaleshwar festival was a glitzy affair with many high-profi le guests taking strolls through the gardens at Greenwoods. Among them were Nitin Nohria (right), Dean of Harvard Business School, and Pramit Jhaveri (left), CEO, Citi India.
"At our homes, we may have a stem or two of orchids. Rarely can you see them in such abundance," said Nohria, who couldn't restrain himself from snapping a few pictures of the orchids with his iPhone.
Greenwoods was purchased by the Piramals in 2006 from Vijay Singh Madhavrao Patwardhan, the Maharaja of Sangli. The house, built in the Maratha-Victorian style, was constructed around 1862 by Patwardhan's ancestors. After the Piramals bought the property, the Plaster of Pariscovered floors were scraped off to restore the antique tiling underneath. The paint on the doors was also removed to reveal the rich brown of teak that was underneath.
The main block houses the diwankhana, originally used for song and dance performances and which now serves as a living room. On either side are the bedrooms.
Swati Piramal reveals that her son, Anand, is also involved in her gardens. In time, these floral varieties will make their way into Piramal Realty projects, a group company that he heads. When quizzed about her favourite flower, she says, "Orchid is king." But there is a first among equals — the pastel one (inset) is favoured for its colour and pattern.
Another block contains the guest rooms, as well as what used to be the barn. In the past, it was used to keep the royal family's horses. Today it's more like a den, with a television set and a dining table on the ground level and a mini-library on the upper level.
The flower show includes one theme that is specific to the year's events. At last year's flower show, there was the 'Madiba Garden', in honour of Nelson Mandela, who had died in December 2013. This time, there was 'Brazil — the landscape' to mark the FIFA World Cup that took place in the country in 2014.
Guests at the Piramal floral weekend were served hot beverages to warm themselves through the wintry Mahabaleshwar evenings, be it mulled wine, spiced hot chocolate or the traditional kahwah. But with the warm was also the cold gelato, made by Piramal's mother, Arunika Shah, a Cordon Bleutrained chef.
At the wishing well garden, visitors get to indulge in a bit of a sport, popping coins into the well from a distance. Only a lucky few manage. We heard that Ajay Piramal managed to get a coin in during this stay. Wonder what he wished for...