I am an astronaut. Not really, but I feel like one as I look into the circular mirror inside my little pod-room in Mumbai’s Urbanpod. I left my shoes in the shoe locker as soon as I entered the hotel and now I’m crawling into my bed inside a capsule-like pod. I sit there taking in my cosy surroundings. There is a lot of white, from the sheets and the pillow to the interiors of the pod. The lights are a bluish-white, unlike the amber ones usually found in hotel rooms. It gives an illusion of more space and makes the pod look a little clinical. I touch the tiny icon on the console-like set-up to my left and the ceiling light flickers on. This console is right below my mirror that looks like the peaceful cousin of HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey’s electronic antagonist. There are two USB ports, a socket for plugging in my devices, another for the headphones that are hanging on the far left corner near my head, a digital clock, and touch-operated controls for all the lights. Tucked right under this edgy techie display is a small Godrej locker.
The inner astronaut in me sighs wearily as I settle back on the pillow and pick up my laptop. Little blue LEDs along the panel indicate the brightness of the lights around the mirror and on the ceiling. I fiddle with it to let my pod be bathed in a mellow bluish-white glow.
The little world created inside is in sharp contrast with the one outside the hotel. Urbanpod’s location—the busy area of SEEPZ Andheri, right beside a bus depot—is as nondescript as can be. Offices and shops line the bustling road in front of the building where the hotel is housed. Only after stepping off the elevator on the first floor and entering through the double glass doors does the sense of being in a hotel kick in. And one floor of a building is all that it occupies. The pods are located in clusters of 12 to 18, most of them in a large room with one main door and some along the hallway. Travellers flitting in and out of the city for work would probably find a comfortable space here.
At around 7 p.m., I am asked to give my preference for dinner. The café outside serves packed meals that come from a kitchen located a few kilometres away. Simple Indian, Asian, and European meals with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options make up the menu. I am informed that my dinner will arrive in the next hour and a half or so and I decide to make my way to the shower. The bathrooms, separated from the pods, are located in one section at the end of a long corridor. Since I am put in a ladies-special pod—one in a cluster of 18—my bathroom is within the same room as my pod.
While I have a lot of privacy, because the ladies pod is relatively empty, a shared space like the Urbanpod may not be the best fit for every traveller. However, if you are a backpacker and would return to your room only to find some peace and shut-eye, then the pod may be a good idea. It also helps that this little cocoon looks snazzy. Mulling over my next backpacking trip, I head out to the café for dinner. My Asian meal of rice and chicken comes in a take-away box, along with cutlery in a transparent pouch. If I was airborne, this would feel like a lavish meal on a flight.
As I crawl into my pod at the end of the day, I think about whether I’d like to return to Urbanpod. I live in Mumbai and often feel like getting away from the din. Most times there is an urge to be closer to nature and get a room with a view that soothes the eyes, but once in a while I wouldn’t mind being left on my own.
However, this might not be an experience suitable for everyone. If you are expecting 24-hour room service, or are over about 6’3”, then you might want to reconsider staying here. One of my main concerns when checking into Urbanpod was claustrophobia but I didn’t need to worry as I have almost a foot of headspace and a lot more leg-space inside. In the beginning I did consider checking into a private pod, which is located away from the cluster—a solitary pod in one room that also has some space outside its sliding door. I was also given the option of a suite, with a queen-size bed and a large window. It, however, seemed only fitting that I give the pod a shot. Turning in for the night, I find myself planning a getaway, or “podation” as I call it. I think about an upgraded business-class flight experience. It looks a lot like my pod.
The suite at Urbanpod, Mumbai.
Urbanpod is located in SEEPZ in Andheri, Mumbai. The international airport is about 15 min/5 km south of the hotel. The closest railway stations are Bandra railway station (30 min/35 km south) and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (1.5 hr/35 km south).
Urbanpod has 140 pods and rooms. The Classic Pod is a single-occupancy pod located within a room with 12-18 other pods. Showers are separate. There are 124 Classic Pods. Of these, 18 are only for women and housed in one room. The bathrooms are also accommodated within the same space. The second kind, the Private Pod, is not located in a shared space and has some extra space outside. There are six of these in all. The 10 suites are regular rooms with a queen-size bed, television and locker. Meals are served at the café and guests are advised not to eat inside the pods. (www.theurbanpod.com; pods from Rs 1,800; suite doubles Rs 3,200.)
Rumela Basu is former Assistant Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. Her favourite kind of travel involves food, literature, dance and forests. She travels not just to discover new destinations but also aspects of herself.