Sitting on the porch of Prabhakar Homestay, it was hard to believe that I was in Guwahati, a city that has been rapidly losing its green cover to urbanization. The carefully tended garden before me teemed with colour. Magenta bougainvillea, red ixora, pink hibiscus, yellow chrysanthemum, and countless varieties of orchids—there were blooms everywhere, with halos of butterflies fluttering around them. My conversation with Sheila Bora, my affable host, was punctuated by birdsong. It made me happy knowing that the largest city of Assam, the state that we both call home, still has corners like this.
Prabhakar Homestay is the home of Sheila, a retired history professor, and Mahesh Bora, formerly a mining engineer. They started their homestay five years ago with the intention of contributing to tourism in the northeast of India, and over the years, have hosted people from across the country and world.
Flowers make their way into the Boras’ home too—on cushion covers, tablecloths, and linens, and in vases on bedside tables. Plenty of sunlight streams in through windows and after dark, elegant lampshades fill corners with warm, yellow light. The Boras live on the ground level while the guest rooms are on the floor above. My room was simple and thoughtfully furnished with a rocking chair by the window—a perfect spot for reading.
Meals were a memorable affair. I began my day with breakfast in the garden, where I watched kingfishers as I sipped coffee. For lunch and dinner—served in the dining room—there was traditional food made by Pankaj, the cook. Don’t miss his Assamese thali, the highlights of which are chicken curry cooked with bamboo shoot, and masor tenga, a sour fish curry relished by locals. His chocolate pudding, though not traditional, is delicious.
The morning I was set to leave, I saw Mr. Bora at work in the small room next to the hall and decided to say hello. He sat surrounded by shelves of notebooks and cartons of brightly coloured lampshades. I learned that they were all products of Elrhino, a company he started that makes things from rhino and elephant dung. Why poo? Mr. Bora got the idea from another company that was making paper from elephant dung and thought it was a great way to highlight the plight of Assam’s wildlife and provide an alternate livelihood to villagers in the area.
I picked up a notebook with a colourful tribal print on the cover, for it reminded me of the Mishing tribe that I visited on the Assamese island of Majuli. I carry it along on my travels now, and every once in a while, I am reminded of the Boras’ hospitality and their lovely Guwahati homestay.
Appeared in the January 2016 issue as “Guwahati Gem”. Updated in January 2018.
Prabhakar Homestay has five rooms; four on the first floor and a smaller one on the ground floor. They are all air-conditioned and tastefully furnished. (prabhakarhomestay.com; doubles from ₹4,800, including breakfast; meals at ₹700 per meal per head).
Located in the Chandmari locality of Guwahati, Prabhakar Homestay is about 27 km/1 hr from Guwahati airport and about 4 km/20 min from the railway station.