Tree houses have long been a feature of popular imagination. They have inspired fairy-tales, formed the basis for parents’ bedtime stories for children, and a few enterprising ones have gone ahead and built one. In recent times, there has been a fair number of tree house accommodations being advertised on platforms such as AirBnB. In fact, many other such interesting places to stay are now coming to light.
Not too far from Siliguri in North Bengal is a village called Chegra. In terms of distance, it is no more than 70 odd kms. However, on account of a potholed national highway leading up to Teesta Bazaar, it takes about three hours to reach this quiet haven.
The positive outcome of lockdowns
In March 2020, when lockdowns were announced, it was met with an initial sense of euphoria. Many were elated at the prospects of being able to binge-watch their favourite web-series or new film releases. Virtual meeting platforms took off, and for a short while, an app called House Party surged in popularity. Virtual party attendees even showed up on a computer screen fully dressed, as if en route to some upscale place.
However, as the days went by, the monotony set in and many were raring to experience normalcy, as they knew it, prior to the pandemic’s onset. In case of the entrepreneurs at Chegra, they chose to tread a slightly different route. Purely by instinct, Ranu and his brother, Paljor, decided the lockdown was an ideal time to plan business expansion. They discussed a few ideas and came to the conclusion that they would start building a tree house.
Now, lockdowns in rural areas were also enforced with equal force. But there was, of course, no limitation to working within your own property. Therefore, a few tutorials on YouTube and other online resources later, the enterprising brothers set out to build the tree house entirely by themselves.
Minimal use of brick and mortar
From the outset, this homestay called Kartiyog Sougar has been built using traditional building materials — spanning bamboos, tree branches, mud and thatch. These have lent the whole place an earthy feel, one that differentiates it from modern structures that use brick and mortar in abundance. In fact, most homestays that have opened in the hills are all miniature versions of hotels and resorts with pretty much the same typical experience.
Ranu and Paljor, however, have been clear in their vision. They want to offer a unique experience in all respects. The only facet they borrowed from regular hotels is the hospitality and levels of service. Once you meet the duo, you will immediately sense how well they have blended the traditional with the modern.
With a clear idea of what they were trying to accomplish, the brothers began with a basic sketch of what the structure would look like. This was followed by making the skeletal structure in wood. For the washroom and entry way, they had no option but to use a reinforced concrete platform. They felt a slight deviation was necessary in the interests of safety. As a result, unlike most tree houses that have precarious ladders leading up to them, this one offers easy access for youngsters and seniors alike.
The reviews have been phenomenal
Barely had they completed construction in September 2020 when queries started pouring in. This is because Kartiyog Sougar maintains an active social media presence. Every so often, they would detail their progress on their Facebook and Instagram pages.
By October 2020, they had received well over 10 bookings. It even caught the attention of nearby village folk. Armed with their cameras, many started coming over just to catch a glimpse of this home atop a tree. Soon enough, the publicity generated led to a booking for a dinner party for government officials from Tukdah.
Ranu and Paljor built Karityog Sougar ‘by hand’ just as Charles Dickens wrote how Pip’s aunt brought him up ‘by hand’. The brothers, quite literally, used material from their property and combined it with artistic skill and sheer determination. The outcome is fabulous to say the least.
If you’ve always fancied a tree house stay or have always wanted to build one, then Chegra is where your can experience it for yourself. You can also do so on a reasonable budget without needing to travel to some faraway location. Ranu and Paljor welcome you to experience a rural getaway but with service levels that rival premium hotels. It is, after all, the human element that elevates any experience.