The Wildflower Hall, Shimla, is one of the only two hotel properties in India where children under 10 are not permitted or at least, actively discouraged. (Source: Oberoihotels.com)
I have just returned from Wildflower Hall, the stunning Oberoi property right outside Shimla. Situated among deep pine forests, rhododendrons and maple trees, it is something of an oasis after a visit to Himachal’s decrepit capital. Shimla is perpetually choked with traffic and humans, right now it’s also buzzing with construction work. Mashobra, 20 kms away, remains pristine and tranquil. Till recently, you could take in the breathtaking views of snowcapped peaks from Wildflower’s scenic terrace in perfect stillness. It’s one of the only two hotel properties in India where children under 10 are not permitted or at least, actively discouraged (The other is Ananda, owned by a close relative of the Oberoi family).
While it might be too politically incorrect to say so directly, the Oberoi website highlights the steep descents around the hotel and the altitude of 8,350 sq ft and claims it is inappropriate for young children. They have also deliberately not made the hotel child-friendly with no playrooms or toys, as is regular in five-star resorts across India. They don’t provide cots or extra beds. It’s fair to say families aren’t made to feel particularly welcome and the impeccable Oberoi hospitality displays a touch of frosty politeness while dealing with parents of young toddlers.
Alas, a kid free hotel was too good to be true. Last year, some irate guest filed a petition questioning the legality of disallowing children. The matter is in court and in the interim the hotel has no choice but to reluctantly throw open its doors and welcome junior guests. Here’s hoping they win the case. It seems wherever one goes, there’s an overwhelming family scene playing out. Absolutely everything is child-friendly. How about having just a little something that’s for adults only? The fact is that the guests, many of them parents, prefer it too.
Children change the atmosphere of a place. There’s no way you can create a sophisticated vibe with kids around, irrespective of how well behaved they are. It’s especially tragic for those who have made a huge effort to leave their kids behind and go off on their own. After that, to be forced to endure someone else’s kids is unbearable.In India, we’re especially indulgent when it comes to children. In restaurants like La Piazza, Sunday brunch is free for children under 12. Big hotel chains don’t charge more for young kids in the room, unlike most of Europe. It’s possible that most hotels don’t have a no-child policy because it’s bad for business. Why exclude 80 per cent of the population? However, there is a very tiny but growing market for people who want to go on vacation and not hear the incessant noise and babbling inevitable with children. On TripAdvisor, one reviewer urged travellers to choose five-stars since “people with kids can’t afford them”. I suspect it’s parents much more than anybody else who derive the greatest benefit from the peace and alone time.