An authority on island living, India Hicks is a celebrated designer, model, author and lifestyle expert. India lives in the Bahamas with her partner David Flint Wood and their five children. With an aesthetic that combines traditional European design with Asian, African, and Caribbean influences, she and David have impeccably restored four island homes. India has published two books which showcase the authentic beauty of the islands. Parts of the proceeds from these books have helped to fund a non-profit community school in the Bahamas. Her website indiahicks.com offers fine jewelry of her own design alongside carefully selected items from her trips around the world.
India’s grandfather was the last Viceroy of India and gave the country its independence in 1947, hence her name. Her father was famed interior decorator David Hicks, and her mother is Pamela Hicks, daughter to the Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma. She’s the second cousin and god-daughter of Prince Charles and was a bridesmaid in his wedding to Princess Diana.
Describe an event that’s quintessentially Nassau.
Junkanoo. This word must be said in a hushed holy-grail kind of way. It defines the culture of the Bahamas and commands the attention and attendance of most Bahamians.
It can best be described as the Bahamas version of the Rio carnival. It’s one gigantic parade that cannot be missed - it begins on the main street in Nassau at midnight on Boxing Day and runs throughout the night. Everyone is on the street, everyone is taken up, the magistrate dances with the miscreant, the millionaire with the minstrel.
The costume competition at Junkanoo is fierce – thousands of dollars in prize money are at stake. Goat skin drums, costumed dancers, trumpeters, conch-shell blowers, whistlers and cow bell shakers are an intrinsic part of Junkanoo. Our Bahamian national treasure, Kalik Beer, derives its name from the noise of the cow bell, K-k-kalik, k-k-kalik, k-k-kaliking.
What’s the best local dish?
Found in any number of the local shacks under the Paradise Island bridge is conch salad – one of the best things to eat on the island. The conch is taken from the freshly caught conch shell, cleaned in salt water to remove the slop and slime (it gets better, don’t give up reading yet), and then rinsed in fresh water, sliced up with onions, tomatoes, sweet pepper, a big dash of salt, hot pepper, locally grown sweet oranges and fresh lime. They say it’s an aphrodisiac – which might explain my five children. One admittedly is a foster child, but it could certainly explain the other four.
What are your beach essentials?
Firstly, a lead to keep one of my three dogs under control. I have a”‘potcake” which is the local term for mongrel. I found him abandoned on a neighboring island. As a result he is the most protective dog I’ve ever known … and unpredictable.
Sunscreen because you must never underestimate how strong that Bahamian sun can be; I’m still reminded of this some days, even after all these years of living here.
A camera - no filters needed. The water really is that blue and the sand really is that golden.
What is your preferred workout activity in The Bahamas?
A crack of dawn run – there is no better way to see the island slowly waking up.
Is there a day trip that you recommend?
A day trip to Harbour Island. Take the Fast Ferry, one of the few reliable modes of transport in the country. Hire a golf cart and pootle around to see the Pink Sand beach, to shop in The Sugar Mill – a treasure trove of goodies where you can find almost anything for anyone and walk in the historic little town.
Do you have a favorite shopping experience?
John Fondas’s home store at the Old Fort Shopping center. The only place to find a decent lamp shade, cotton napkins, oversized shells or unusual gifts such as the ebony walking stick I bought for my mother.
Describe your favorite cultural experience.
The Retreat. Established by the Bahamian National Trust in 1977 this isolated 11 acres of garden is a host for all sorts of wonderful rare and exotic plants, situated surprisingly in the heart of residential Nassau.
Name one of Nassau’s hidden treasures?
Not so hidden, but certainly under-visited, the Public Library is the largest in the country and was once the colonial jail dating back to 1797. Converted into a library in 1873 the small prison cells now house colonial documents, newspapers and charts. This charming building is painted in what we call “Nassau Pink,” the color of all government buildings in The Bahamas.
What is your favorite restaurant?
Café Matisse sits quietly behind Parliament Square and offers homemade pasta, seafood and lovely old fashioned service. You can spot members of the government in shady corners.
What’s your most romantic island moment?
Kissing David, the father of my children, under a full moon, on the steps of Government House, where I was staying with my mother. I was 17 years old at the time. We did not see each other for another 10 years.
Which water sport do you most enjoy?
Everything possible. Monoskiing, scubadiving, tubing, scurfing ( you surf the wake behind a boat – not sure self-respecting middle-aged mums should really be attempting it – but my children insist.)
Describe your idea of Bahamian bliss.
Meeting my mother off the British Airways flight from London. It heralds the start of the Christmas holidays for me.
What is your biggest indulgence on vacation?
Getting away from the computer and the daily barrage of business emails. Unfortunately it’s all just lying there in wait for your return.