The contrast between the city of Kolkata with its noise, bustle and frantic energy and Vedic Village Spa Resort could not be greater. Almost like a nature reserve, the property sits by a lake teeming with birdlife, and there are butterflies everywhere. The serenity of the place envelopes me as I walk through the doors into the foyer, which has an ornamental pond decked out with marigold and frangipani petals. I am here to drink tea at Chai, the speciality tea shop, with the resort's CEO, Michael Robertson. It was to have been a fleeting visit en route to the airport for my flight to Bangalore. Then something happened. I love Kolkata but it is one of the most exhausting cities in the world and as I slowly sip my warm ginger and lemon infusion, I am overtaken by a sudden yearning to soak up the karma. I decide to throw my itinerary to the wind and stay.
Vedic Village is closer to the airport (a 20-minute drive) than the city (40 minutes), and is in Rajarhat, Kolkata's new business centre. It is hard to know what to make of it. Several big companies have built their headquarters here and is the most talked about development in eastern India but, for now, it's not much more than a halfway house. The wide streets (traffic-less at the moment) promise modernity of the highest order. But turn off the main road and you'll find yourself in rural India: access to the resort is down a long bumpy track through villages, past huddles of small, untidy mud huts and slow-flowing rivers.
There are several choices of villas, suites, studios and farm house-style rooms. I opt for one of the Earth villas, which stand at the edge of a man-made lake full of water lilies and a central fountain. The bathroom is huge with a clothes wardrobe, indoor and outdoor shower and a marble bath the size of a small plunge pool. The air conditioning in the bedroom makes loud clunking sounds but the bed is comfortable and I soon get used to the noise. The sitting room has a leather electric massage chair, a sofa and table, and a small balcony.
I am here for Diwali, a time of big family celebrations, and so was one of only a handful of guests. Room service is prompt and the staff in the restaurant are warm and attentive. It is Sanjeeva Spa, though, that shines. Many guests on helter-skelter schedules come here for the convenience of the airport, but the core proposition is holistic healing and wellness. The spa, with its highly qualified Ayurvedic doctors and therapists, is at the root of what this place is about, and is why Vedic Village is the first medical spa resort in India, accredited by the National Board of Hospitals and Wellness Centres (under the Quality Council of India). The attention given in this little corner of the resort took my breath away - I feel I am in the hands of people who genuinely care about me.
There are two main restaurants at Vedic Village. Bhoomi offers traditional Bengali food in a mud hut. The hut was an experiment, using traditional building methods used by the villagers and originally intended to be a guest suite; it was later converted to a restaurant. The 14-dish Sunday platters (750 rupees; Dh55) are famous among Kolkata residents who drive down from the city to experience it.
The main restaurant, Yagna, is located beside the pool and has an outdoor eating area. The menu offers Indian, South East Asian and Continental food. The dilemma for me is trying to eat healthily amid such choice. I stick mostly to the spa menu of healthy salads and the doctors recommended meals of dal, vegetable khichri (soft-cooked lentils and rice) and soup. My husband, joins me for lunch one day, declaring the lamb biryani to be the best he had ever tasted. Prices reflect the largely Indian clientele and, at around 500 rupees (Dh36) for a main course, seem ludicrously cheap.
Vedic Village is still relatively unknown both in the context of luxury spas and also of Kolkata. The Qatar and Emirates' consulates send their staff here to unwind, and Indian doctors living in the UK make regular annual trips for the serious medial detox that's at the heart of Ayurveda. There are plans to attract post-operative patients who need somewhere to recuperate, and the resort may also become a centre for cosmetic surgery - you have to take time off for the healing process so why not make it a one-stop shop?
Then there are the tourists, booked in by tour operators and barely aware of where they are, always en route to somewhere else.
The third group comprises businessmen here for a conference, enjoying the facilities between work sessions.
The tranquillity, the wildlife and the spa staff.
Seeing other people order fabulous food while I ate a restricted diet, and not having the time to commit fully to the detox programme (three weeks is recommended).
An ideal hotel to escape the chaos of Kolkata. It also works for couples with differing needs - one can do the full Ayurvedic programme while the other can sit by the pool and eat handsomely.
The bottom line
A double room costs from 7,000 rupees (Dh514) per night, including breakfast. Earth villas cost from 12,667 rupees (Dh935) per night. A 21-day rejuvenation package costs around 188,000 rupees (Dh13,830) per person; the complete detox package costs 300,000 rupees (Dh22,000) per person. Vedic Village Spa Resort, 1/1B Upper Wood Street, Kolkata, India (www.thevedicvillage.com; 00 91 33 6622 9900).