Are you battling a mid-life crisis and suddenly feel you aren’t doing enough with your life? Do you want to go out and have a fresh start that will turn your life around, and do you picture yourself smiling forever after that? Well, the grannies of the famed Granny’s Inn in Varanasi might very well be your next big inspiration.
Holidify got in an exclusive interview with the proprietors of Granny’s Inn in Varanasi, and we thought they were amazing! The zeal and enthusiasm that they harbour at this age despite the vagaries of life is simply humbling. With their homestay getting spirited mentions across the travel industry, these feisty grannies are taking hospitality to a whole new level. If you enjoy the kind of accommodation where you can chit-chat with your owners over a cup of hot chai, Granny’s Inn is just the place for you.
Talking about how they came up with the idea of Granny’s Inn, Granny Asha says, “The idea got seeded in 2013. My daughter and son-in-law were running a successful Homestay, Cinnamon Stays in Gurgaon. As I used to visit them often, I experienced and loved the concept. I love meeting people and making new friends…My sister had a house in Banaras and was thinking of doing something there. So, I suggested we start a Homestay in Varanasi. This would help us retain and maintain the house, also give us an opportunity to earn money, make new friends and preserve our heritage. We started working on the renovating the house and on December 25th 2013, we inaugurated Granny’s Inn.”
Grappling with devastating personal loss, Asha Singh decided to turn her life around from that point onwards. Her cousin, Aruna had inherited a sizable house from her father and was planning to do something with it. At this point, they decided to start Granny’s Inn, and what and idea that was! A big house that might have fetched Aruna tons of money, was thought of being used for helping these women do something amazing with their lives. And what can be a more positive approach to life, than touching those of others.
We asked the grannies how they conceptualized their homestay, and proceeded with the idea, considering homestays are a concept which is in a very nascent stage in India.
“It’s a big house, we have converted just 7 rooms as of now. Most of the rooms are located around the Central Courtyard. We stay in one of the rooms and rest are for the guests. Each room is beautifully decorated with local art. Each room is designed and named after a Woman. Manish, my son in law designed the look of the place.
Each room has an en suite modern bathroom. We specially made the bathrooms large and modern as travelers are very particular about bathrooms. I am a cleanliness freak, so that helps us keep the house absolutely spic and span. We have a common open dining area. Besides, we also have Wi-Fi available as today’s travelers want to be connected all the time. We provide fresh home cooked traditional meals. We also encourage Indian ayurvedic cooking and life style.”
Come to think of it, it seems like a Herculean Task to coordinate all of these things and make it into a homestay. How did this journey kick off for them and who helps them run it?
“As I mentioned, my daughter and son in law. They already are running a successful homestay in Gurgaon. They have helped us in setting up, management, making the website and marketing. They also trained the staff to be able to cater to international guests.”
Located in the heart of Varanasi’s spiritually charged Dashashwamedh Ghat, Granny’s Inn is a safe, hospitable environment for travellers who want a homely atmosphere for their stay and are weary of being conned by the world famous Banarasi thugs. The grannies, fierce in their demeanor, happily fix their patrons up with everything ranging from a boat ride on the Ganges to the best place to find the ethereal sarees that Banaras is so famous for!
The grannies have found a way to shower people with their love and hospitality despite being faraway from their children and grandchildren.
“The most satisfying part of this journey is meeting and having fun with so many different people from different countries. To be able to give them nice home like space. Sometimes, our guests cry when its time to go. We develop a special bond and I love pampering my guests. My children are busy, but my guests are my family. I don’t miss my children or my family.”
We were curious to know how Granny’s Inn became so hugely popular with travellers from around the world, having been started so recently. The grannies tell us how they got their incredible idea to be marketed -
“The Homestay was marketed by Cinnamon Stays. We are now part of the parent company. They have their network of guests, friends and have huge following on social media. Initially, word of mouth and social media helped us. Now our reviews on TripAdvisor and guest feedback has helped us get more guests.”
How they do it, you ask? Well, its not easy for two aged ladies to be taking care of the whole setup and managing guests and their individual needs in a focused manner.
“This is very interesting. No two days are similar. But yes, typically a day starts with advance planning of check ins, status of guests residing, planning for the meals for the guests. The most interesting part is the informal chit chat with the guests. We play Indian board games, practice yoga, sometimes they teach us western dance like Zumba…occasionally, we, also accompany them for a boat ride or visit to the ghat or help them with saree shopping. I also am health freak..so I spend some time doing my exercise and yoga every day.”
Even with household help, it sometimes gets difficult to manage guests who expect to be pampered hand and foot, mistaking this one for a hotel.
“Sometimes during peak season, there is lots of work. We have to be up and alert to be able to give quality experience to our guests. Some guests though they have been few ( specially from india ) don’t understand the concept of homestay and expect 24/7 service. It becomes a little challenging to manage them.”
Banaras has the history of being a place where old women and widows would be sent off by their families to live out the remainder of their lives in a state of semi-existence. The iconoclasting of this rigidity, coupled with the idea of the empowerment of the elderly, especially women, is breath-taking. Asha and Aruna are much like your typical grannies – they go all out for the hospitality of their much loved guests, and they do so with much gusto. From the pickle that you miss from your childhood, to saree shopping in the serpentine lanes for Banaras, Grannies will be there for you throughout your stay. You might even gain a kilo or two, thanks to their constant pampering!
The grannies happily share stories of their endeavour – Their love for meeting new people and making new friends is amazing. It strongly reaffirms our theory that if you’re showering love on people, you’ll get a lot of it back.
“There are many stories. A Guest from London taught us Zumba… jig from Zumba was fun. We did Zumba with our cook, auto driver and guide. We are one big family.
We had filmmakers from Mumbai staying with us once. They used to pull our legs that we were giving more attention to the international guests.They gifted us nice stoles and dupattas from Fab India and an umbrella for the homestay guests.
We had a Guest from Brazil – beautiful girl, she learnt to drape saree from us.”
The two grannies are running one of the most warm and successful establishments in Varanasi, which is giving established hotels a run for their money. So, what’s next for the grannies?
“We are happy with the current setup. We would want the place to get more and more popular. For that we are adding few experiences like Ayurvedic cooking, Yoga practice, saree draping etc. When we have money to invest in the business, we would like to convert more rooms as part of Homestay.”
Its refreshing to see these grannies work as hard as any of us would, and settle into the autumn of their lives with such grace and ardour. If a trip to the holy city is what’s on your mind, a tryst with the grannies is definitely something that we would recommend. We promise, it’ll be so much better than your typical hotel stay and you will get the best kheer in Benaras!