When you hear that someone has left their thriving city life, given up everything to shift to the mountains, and start a living from the very scratch, you can’t help but get inspired. And, that’s exactly what Afrah Futun is — inspiring, loving, motivating, and the correct amount of badass. By Japleen Kaur

September 2016 is when Afrah left Mumbai to move to Manali. She had gone there for a week-long trip but ended up finding her forever home there. From working as a media professional, PR executive, theater artist to starting her own homestay that doubles up as an art residency, she took the leap that many could only dream of.

 

 

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This 30-something lady worked all her life to build a social circle in the best metropolitan space. And today, she is happy in the company of her pets, and the snow-capped mountains. However, Bombay still remains close to her heart. Well, can you blame her?

When I asked her, what made her finally take the bold step to do what she’s doing now, she said, “One September afternoon I finished reading, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. I cried, shivered, and was silent for a good five hours. All I wanted to do was apologise to everything around me but most importantly to myself. How could I have been negligent to the beauty of life around me? From that afternoon, I became calm. I was no longer that  PR woman who was seen at each and every party in the town. It was a realisation of a stagnant life; of excuses that I have been giving myself. Constantly blinding myself. I picked up a brush and started to paint, which gave birth to further urges to leave the city life. At least for sometime… I remember, it was Vandana, my dear friend, who finally pushed me to make this move. She knew I won’t be at peace until I do it. Once, I decided to leave the city. Everything fell into place. And, here I am swooning, and dancing to music while I cook for my house guests”

 

 

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Her home stay of five rooms, Dostat Daaram that means ‘I Love You’ in Farsi, quite indicatively a Rumi fan, is a place where creativity is allowed to take any shape. Located in the village of Narsogi in Manali, it is the last house on the mountain, and yes, you have to hike for about 10 minutes to reach it, but once you do, nothing else would matter.

 

 

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An artist herself, Afrah’s place shows her personality at every step. Colourful tables, quirky decor items, wooden railings dressed with vibrant planted pots, seating areas perfect to curl up with a book, and the outside breakfast area that has to be my favourite spot of the house!

No, I spoke to soon — the two gorgeous attic rooms top my list of favourite things at Dostat. Can you imagine waking up to a view of the mountains, all cosy in your warm bed with bedside coffee to keep you company?

 

 

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“When I first moved, I was the co-owner of a cafe called Drifters in Old Manali, and I somehow let go off my vision to open a space where art could be shared, and created. I got consumed in it, trusted the wrong people, and lost my vision for myself. Last year, I found that back with the help of a friend and brother, Abhinav who got me back on track. Dostat was born, and I was surprised looking at the number of people who wanted to be here, who wanted to live here.”

Taking a step ahead to make the place a Mecca of creativity, she has started a programme called, ‘For Each Other’, where two people get a free stay at the residency. All they have to do is write to her, and tell her why they need to be in the mountains, and what they can do to contribute to the space.

 

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Dostat is the perfect getaway for solo woman travellers, and Afrah is the ideal host. But, all doesn’t come easy, and challenges need to be faced at a regular basis. She’s up at the crack of the dawn taking care of either the guests or of her family of pets — Naaz, the dog and three cats — Ella, Simba and Nawaab.

Finding a balance is the key to survive, and make a living at a place where it’s easy to lose a grip on your path, according to Afrah. Initially, her family opposed her decision, still aren’t happy with it but she decided to make peace with it instead of arguing, day in and out. It was extremely difficult to go on without them but she did, and that only shows us not to give up even when it feels impossible to lift another foot.

 

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She loves observing people, lives in a mess to prep for days when the house would be full, has a major sweet tooth — gaajar ka halwa is her guilty pleasure.

If you have a passion for the arts, need a break to get back in the zone or are just looking to relax for a bit, you now know where to head at, and who to meet!

Related: 11 Homestays In The World That Offer The Detox You Need