Cover photo: The Yellow House (Gadget Photo)
I no longer know how it started. Perhaps with a newspaper article or a photo accidently seen on the internet’s largest hotel booking portal. Or it could even lie with my grandparents and the fact that in my childhood there was a tapestry hanging in their dining room with Maharajahs travelling by elephant, while their bookcase boasted not only Baktay books next to travel writing by Aurél Stein and Tagore’s poems but also Ganesha statues carved from sandalwood, and my grandfather was constantly making coffee scented with cardamom and sending for black tea from Darjeeling. Perhaps with the stories of my parents, who careered around the subcontinent during the seventies. Or with my own trip, when I visited the places in India where my grandparents had lived. One thing’s certain though: it continued with me travelling to the Káli Basin…
View from the house (photo: Gadget Photo)
If it’s not already clear, I’m a dedicated fan of India. I’m interested in everything about the country; it doesn’t matter at all whether it concerns Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Buddhist India, North or South, Goa, Delhi or Bombay, something stirs inside me when it comes to India. In light of this, when spending a few days in the Kál Basin, there was no question about it, our itinerary absolutely had to include the Sárga Ház (Yellow House), established by a Hungarian-Indian couple, Gábor and Rohini. When we arrived at the hill jointly owned by Káptalantóti and Mindszentkálla, the world’s happiest Labrador came to greet us first of all, although Gábor also soon appeared and invited us into the kitchen. All his words and his every move exuded thoughtfulness and calm, so I was not at all surprised when it came out that he was planting trees in his spare time, and this was perhaps his biggest passion. To his greatest regret, his love for evergreens was not shared by the deer in the area and they were destroying the saplings he planted in any way possible. Otherwise, they welcomed Gábor, as they also came up to the terrace every morning, peered into the house through the glass door and then moved on. If you look at this idyll from the outside, the old press houses, the vineyards flanking them, the ages-old ‘witness mountains’ in the distance, you only see the familiar picture of the Balaton Highlands. Once inside the house though, the aroma changes everything. A mixture of oriental spices and orange blossom, not intrusive but clearly there. As Gábor seated us, his wife, the ever-smiling Rohini, also appeared. I immediately felt as if I had arrived home.
The perfect place to read a book (photo: Gadget Photo)
Gábor’s connection to the place is not something new, as his father has owned a hobby estate on the hillside for the last 27 years. As he tells it, the whole story began when he and Rohini had come to get away from the world for a while and they felt so good that they decided to stay. However, it seems that men and women remember things differently and find different things important when telling a story. According to Rohini, they had already been planning their life together near the sea (which included running a bed and breakfast), when Gábor was involved in an accident and thus they had to stay in Hungary for a few months. It had never even occurred to them before to settle down here, but those few months changed everything. Firstly, Rohini, who had previously lived in New York and worked in the fashion industry, fell in love with the Kál Basin, and secondly, they discovered the press house, in total ruins at that time, which later became known as the Sárga Ház. But that alone wouldn’t have been enough for them to give up their dreams of living by the sea; it inevitably needed them not to find a suitable house there and meanwhile to pull out of buying the flat that they had found in Budapest and for their phone to ring at that moment with the news that the yellow house on the hill was now for sale and if they were interested they could have the keys for a month, think it over and try it out. Meanwhile, Gábor interrupts and points out that this wasn’t quite the case, as the neighbour who had actually been asked to look after the house had called them. Everyone smiled at this, because although there are two sides to the story, both are true and simply tell us exactly what had happened to them.
The atmosphere in the garden (photo: Gadget Photo)
“I think the house chose us, rather than the other way around”
So, then they were standing on the hill, with the keys to a ruined press house in their hands and perhaps they themselves didn’t even realise that they had begun to plan.
“The house needed a lot of care and love, and that’s what we go the most out of at the time,” said Rohini.
Thus, they embarked on an adventure that has already lasted ten years; they renovated the press house and then another too, they repaired the cellars and then revived the old Olaszrizling vineyard, and, with the help of Gábor’s father, also planted 300 vines of Cserszegi, Zengő and Zenit, strictly for their own use and for their guests, who seem to like the Sárga Ház wine, as there is very little left unsold in the cellar. The story also includes Rohini cooking and baking for the guests, usually Indian dishes, but since there is no official, written menu, nor even the usual breakfast, what awaits you on the table is generally a total surprise.
The reading corner in the garden (photo: Gadget Photo)
Though one thing that is certain is that the Káptalantóti Olasrizling is the perfect match for the spicy, yet not hot, Indian food that Rohini makes for the guests at the Sárga Ház; they regularly ask for the recipes so they can cook the dishes at home too. Luckily for them, Rohini doesn’t believe in keeping her ingredients secret; she feels that the essence of cooking is in the experience and sharing that with others. One thing really needs to be added to this train of thought too - there is no TV in the house, nor much mobile signal, yet there is now wifi.
“And, do you know who is the happiest about this? The wives! It’s interesting to observe how the husbands and fathers change when they accept that there is no TV or mobile signal. They start playing with the kids again and talking to their wives, that is, playing the most important role in the family,” says Rohini, smiling, as she pours tea into our cups.
From then on, our conversation changes into something like those north Indian dances where each movement flows into the next like the waves of the sea.
Rohini and Gábor (photo: Gadget Photo)
We talked about Rohini’s grandparents, who were Hindu-born in today’s Pakistan and had to leave their homeland, but also about how she had met Gábor in a Cuban street, how they had rendezvoused with each other at various places all over the world for years and how this quiet Hungarian guy and the chattering Indian girl had found happiness together and now welcome their guests at the entrance to the Kál Basin.