The Lavish Legacy Of Ooty's The Kelso House

Born out of an urge to carry on the family name and preserve their story, the Sait family guards years of history and heartwarming tales of their beloved The Kelso House
Jan Mohammed Sait and wife Numaira Sait
Jan Mohammed Sait and wife Numaira SaitThe Kelso House

One day, I was standing out in our garden, and the golden rays of the setting sun were on my face. That's when I realised it was time to make my father's dream a reality," says Tazeen Jan Mohammed.

Tazeen is the youngest of the four daughters of Jan Mohammed Sait and Numaira Sait, the owners of Ooty's Kelso House. "My father wanted my mother to be secure. With the uncertainty of life and the urge to keep the family legacy alive, his dream of building a homestay was born," she says.

Since they were four girls, there were various narratives about the fate of their family legacy and how there was nobody to carry it on. "It never affected our relationship with our father, but he wanted to change that narrative. To tell us that it did not matter if he had no son," says Mariam, the third eldest daughter, who lives in Bangalore. Their eldest sister, Rooman, lives in Australia and then comes Shahwar, who lives at the residence with Tazeen and their parents.

he 200-year-old colonial bungalow in the Nilgiris is an ideal escape for city dwellers
he 200-year-old colonial bungalow in the Nilgiris is an ideal escape for city dwellersThe Kelso House

The 200-year-old colonial bungalow in the Nilgiris, encompassing the beauty of the past with lush green lawns and stunning views of the mountains, is an ideal escape for city dwellers. Its beauty is only matched with the warmth of the family that owns it. 

"We always had a cottage attached to our house, which our grandad used to give out to friends and extended family. We have always learnt to share our space with others growing up," says Tazeen. She goes on to tell me how the house has been the epicentre of numerous parties, family functions and festivals during their growing-up years. "Our grandad had a large family, so we almost always had cousins and relatives over, eating together, playing together, and just sharing our home together," says Mariam.

Jan Mohammed Sait and wife Numaira Sait with their four daughters
Jan Mohammed Sait and wife Numaira Sait with their four daughtersThe Kelso House

In 2020, when the pandemic hit and they lost their grandfather, the siblings truly felt the loss echo through the walls of their beautiful home. There were many discussions about starting the homestay through the years, but amidst the chaos of the pandemic and their personal loss, the decision to finally give wings to their father's dream came about. 

"Tazeen was back home then, and one day, she sent a picture of a beautiful sunset as seen from our lawn to us and said, 'Guys, I think it's time.'" says Mariam. 

After many conversations and much convincing, their father gathered all the resources, and they all got to work. Putting together their story was a labour of love.

"The carpets, tapestry, and furnishings all have their own story to tell at Kelso. We have chairs that are centuries old, mirrors which are 150 years old, and we put our heads together to collectively put the story of our family in the details of the interiors in the homestay," says Tazeen. The colour palette of the homestay comes from their love for Ooty, as symbolised by the prevalent eucalyptus tree. The collective aesthetics of the homestay, as well as its branding, is highlighted by the amalgamation of the colours of the eucalyptus, from the fresh to the dry green of the tree. 

One of the rooms in the house
One of the rooms in the houseThe Kelso House

"My mum is a complete people person, so she loves interacting with guests, making her much-loved biryani and meetha occasionally," says Tazeen. "Dad is more reserved and shy," Mariam adds.

The Kelso House has 16 rooms, each with a distinct personality. "Because it's not a hotel, each room is unique, and you will not find the same furnishings in two rooms," says Tazeen. The common dining area is where guests take their meals. There is no room service; all guests have to come down to the dining area and experience what it truly means to share a meal at home with everyone. 

Jan Mohammed Sait with the staff
Jan Mohammed Sait with the staffThe Kelso House

When asked what they would say sets Kelso House apart from its contemporaries, the sisters say it's the high tea. "Growing up, the only time we would all come together was during the evening tea time. Chai-biscuits, pakodasbondas, limitless tea, and so much laughter," says Tazeen. "We wanted to keep this tradition going even with our guests." 

On days when it's just the family without any guests, they all snuggle up on the lawn and share a blanket as they watch the sunset. "Our staff are the backbone of Kelso, and many of them have been there since before we were born," says Mariam. "Having meals in the kitchen and chatting with them is something we always do back home." 

Address: Kelso House, Kelso Road, Kotagiri Rd, near wax world, Kil Kodappamund, Ooty


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