‘They might be royals, but here I call the shots’: The health retreat Charles and Camilla can’t keep away from
It is a place where the Queen Consort has brought a number of friends and relatives – returning a total of seven times.
Eschewing her hectic day-to-day schedule, it is at the Soukya health retreat in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru that Camilla is said to be a devotee of yoga, embracing the ritual and championing the food.
“She does not miss even a session of morning yoga, and diligently attends all the treatments that we write down for her,” according to Dr Issac Mathai, chairperson and founder of the retreat.
Referencing Camillia and King Charles III – who was brought to visit the retreat by the Queen Consort as part of celebrations for his 71st birthday in 2019 – Dr Mathai says: “They love the food to the extent that they are ready to bring down their royal chefs to India and train them – and have often expressed their wish to do so.”
“One time, she wanted us to pack the soup we make here and take it with her on her private jet, we of course agreed!”, he adds during an interview at the lush, 30-acre institution, suggesting that she loves the leek soup made at the premises.
Dr Mathai has also extended an open invitation for the royal couple to visit in the wake of a packed coronation week, allowing for the pair to disconnect from the trials and tribulations of leading a life in public.
“Of course, we are very excited to see them again at Soukya. They are our least demanding guests and soak in every bit of our retreat... Be it the morning yoga, the sattvic food – which is strictly vegetarian – [or] the ayurveda treatments,” says Dr Mathai.
Dr Mathai has known the royals for a number of years, but once they enter this southern Indian retreat, all frills are set aside – barring security protocols.
“I do not allow much fanfare and leniency here at Soukya. Once someone sets their foot inside, I call the shots and they have to adhere to being my patients, including the royal family,” Dr Mathai says.
This also applies to a long roll call of A-list attendees, including actor Emma Thompson, South African bishop Desmond Tutu and the royal family of Saudi Arabia. Some of India’s biggest politicians and stars like the film director Rajinikanth and actor Deepika Padukone have also visited.
However, the facility, which follows traditional Indian methods found in ancient texts thousands of years old, shuts down completely when the royals enter and no outsider is permitted.
Dr Mathai says he doesn’t skirt protocol by asking for a photograph, but was taken by suprise when the King, towards the end his visit to Soukya, turned to him and asked for a picture by some Indian lamps lit to celebrate Diwali.
The retreat has in-house organic farms and medicinal gardens containing centuries-old herbs. Dr Mathai has also brought a touch of his childhood from Wayanad in Kerala – with earthen lamps across the facility and vegetarian food from Kerala and other south Indian states. Guests like the royals are not served mineral water but a specially brewed red-coloured herbal water not found outside of Soukya.
“[King] Charles and I have a common belief when it comes to combining different streams of treatment, especially alternate medicines. He and I believe that India can help the world, leading it to finding more routes to healing of health problems like hypertension, osteoporosis and diabetes,” Dr Mathai claims.
Visits from distinguished guests were interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, but Camilla returned to the retreat in the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth II last year – setting set aside 10 days before returning to her palace duties beside her husband.
But when the King and the Queen Consort met with Dr Mathai last month in London, he says that both expressed their wish to visit again.
“Charles told me, ‘I am very keen to come, I wish I could come now’ and wants to make a trip at the earliest,” Dr Mathai says. “But you know now his duties have his calendars blocked for months.”