Tired of living in rented houses in Ahmedabad, I decided to build a place of my own in 1987. Sterling City Development Co had acquired a vast tract of land in Bopal, on the western edge of the city to develop a housing complex. The remote sensing satellite data had found underground water in that area. I knew the owner of the company, and I bought a small plot of land there.
I had great fun designing a three-bedroom house thanks to a young architect Kandarp Bhatt. With visions of spending many hours painting, I managed to squeeze in a studio into the design. Building the house was like chasing a dream. Raising the walls brick by brick, adding lintel and roof, finally done, perfectly meeting my modest expectations. Of course, it was far from the city and crowds we detested. Those who saw the house said that we would be lost to the world in this barren patch that we called home.
My wife wanted to convert the little piece of land into a lush green forest: perhaps to remind us of emerald-green Kerala. The division of labour was that I would take care of the lawn, and she would handle the garden part, trees and flowering plants. We planted Korean grass and made a contoured lawn sloping away from the house. With time, trees grew, the barren earth bloomed into a garden, and the speckled sunlight played on the verdant lawn. Flowers nodded to the passing wind, and the house slowly turned into a home.
My wife had clear concepts about her garden. First, the plants would be clustered to give a lush, woods-like effect. Second, her passionate caring of the garden by incessant watering was essential for the dry, hot Ahmedabad weather. This ministration would go on for hours, and I would sit by the garden, reading.
The following is an imagined conversation I overheard:
“She is coming again with the water hose”, the Raat ki Rani whispered to the Hibiscus.
“Oh my God!” the Hibiscus exclaimed. “I am up to my neck with water. She will now push the hose into my roots and start watering. Don’t be surprised if water sprouts through my flowers.”
“This is third degree. What has she got against us poor plants?”. There was a collective murmur.
“Water torture is nothing. Look what she did to me”, the Monstera cried.
“What happened?” All the plants eagerly asked.
“I was growing nicely along the boundary fence. I could look across and see the neighbour’s children playing. I could swing in the wind and play catch with the butterflies. I could…”
“Enough of that!” exclaimed the other plants. “Tell us what she did”
“Oh. She unwrapped me from the fence, twisted me and tied me up on this monster tree. That too with a plastic strip. All that I can do is to look up. My neck is paining, and my itching has not stopped”, the Monstera whimpered.
“She is a control freak. That is what she is” the normally calm Din ka Raja said. “I have these long stems which tend to grow wild. But not in this garden. She makes sure that the stems are twisted together. Sometimes the twisting hurts”
What you get is nothing compared to what I suffer every time I sit here grooming my baby,”. said the monkey who was sitting on the branch of the tree. “She creeps behind me and lights a cracker. The noise is so frightening that I fell off the tree once”.
“Stop talking and drink up this water”, I heard my wife shouting in the garden.