It happens seldom in life that we meet people, who we feel, we have known forever. You form an instant rapport with them. There’s no pretence and you can be your true clumsy self without the fear of being judged. Sinawati Mungyak is one such beautiful soul. A full time school teacher and part time homestay owner, Sinawati has been a crusader of change for women of her community. She is the proud owner of Hewly Homestay, the first homestay of Namsai. It was in 2014 that Sinawati decided to turn her lovely house into a homestay. She was also the first one to get her homestay registered by the Tourism Department of Arunachal Pradesh government as recently as 2019.
Sinawati was attending a World Tourism Day event at the Arunachal University of Studies when her sister gave her the idea of starting a homestay. She had already been hosting scholars and university professors who would come to Namsai to research on Theravada Buddhism. Since they knew Sinawati and Namsai didn’t offer much options to stay back in the day, they would stay at her home. So, Sinawati loved her sister’s idea and started her homestay. Since then, she has played host to people from all corners of the country. Most guests have been from Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Rajasthan and Kolkata. She has also hosted the likes of popular storyteller Jeeva Raghunath, while renowned scholar Nageshwara Rao is also a regular guest.We arrived at Hewly Homestay after a great day trip to Chongkham and its villages, where we met people from the Khampti and Singpho communities and documented their lifestyles. Conveniently located in the heart of Namsai town, near the Pariyati Sasana Buddhist Vihara or Namsai Monastery, the homestay has become one of the most sought after places to stay in Namsai. A sprawling garden dotted with uncountable number of plants led us inside Sinawati’s lavish home. I was quite impressed with the tastefully done interiors the moment we entered. I and Sandipan took separate rooms and unwound in our own ways. While he got busy taking pictures of the beautiful flowers in the garden outside, I simply sat at the peaceful porch doing absolutely nothing. Just some quality me time, you know.
Night set in soon and we went to our rooms to relax and freshen up. Soon, Sinawati invited us for dinner, which featured a wholesome Khampti meal. The menu included nu mu phon or steamed pork, paasa, pha mon or steamed fish, bamboo rice, smoked fish and smoked meat. It was our third day in Namsai and by now, I had already developed a special liking for the food, especially the delightful paasa, a soup made with fresh herbs and fish. Sinawati had also asked her in-house chef to prepare patta gobhi matar ki sabzi, dal and chapatis, just in case, we wanted a change of taste from the local offerings. We preferred the Khampti delicacies though.
For dessert, Sinawati served the popular Lalu ka Peda. It was from an iconic sweet shop that has been very popular among the people of Namsai ever since the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi paid a visit in the seventies. (Foodies may take note, the shop is located on the way to Sonpura.) I loved the peda and its grainy texture and mild sweetness. The thing with pedas is that they are no good if you make them too sweet.We chugged some freshly brewed apong or rice beer all this while. Sinawati told us that she loves hosting people from different ethnicities and learning about their culture. She asked me travel recommendations for Rajasthan and told me that Udaipur has been on her bucket list for the longest time. Behind the dining table stood a large bookshelf that I had noticed the moment we had entered her place. Post dinner, I went through her collection, which included some really old editions of Readers Digest and a lot of books on Arunachal Pradesh. There were classics too but I was more interested in picking up a book about the Khamptis. Sinawati, in fact, gifted me an encyclopaedia on Tai Khamptis.
Sinawati is a true-blue feminist and believes that every woman should empower herself. She thinks homestays are a great way for women to financially support their families. It was her example that led other women in Namsai to start their own homestays. Today, the quaint little town is home to five registered homestays. These include Samptini Homestay, Greenview Homestay, Guna Homestay and Hantai Homestay, apart from Hewly Homestay.Most homestays in Namsai are run by women and Sinawati feels that guests should behave appropriately when they stay at these homestays. This is something she is very particular about. She simply does not have time to entertain spoilt brats. She says it like it is and that, I think is her best quality.
Mornings at her homestay were typically blissful and zing. I would meditate, go for early morning runs, visit the nearby Namsai Monastery, indulge in some gardening in her garden and read under the bright sun. The word Hewly means a bud and just like a bud, Namsai too is a young destination on the tourist map of Arunachal, trying to carve a space for itself. And homestays like Sinawati’s are surely going to help in developing the town as a popular tourist hub. A stay at Hewly Homestay comes highly recommended when you are visiting Namsai.
Where: Hewly Homestay, Namsai
Tariff: Starting from Rs2500/person/night
Mobile: 9862708997, 9774491448