Tired of living in rented houses in Ahmedabad, I decided to build my own home in 1987. My preference was for an independent house with a little bit of earth for making a garden. My vision for the house, shared in many reveries, was a house which stood alone in a vista of trees. Far from the madding crowds. as it were.
Plots for independent houses in the Ahmedabad city was too expensive. I decided to look around the developing city, in the suburbs. The western edge of the city, called Bopal was developing very fast, My friends in the Space Application Centre had acquired a an area to be divided amongst themselves. They had access to the remote sensing satellite data which had found underground water in that area. The developer was Sterling City Development Co, which had acquired a vast tract of land in Bopal, on the city’s western edge, to develop a housing complex. I knew the developer, and I bought a small plot of land there.
I got a two storied, three bed room house designed by a young architect, Kandarp Bhatt. With visions of spending many hours painting, I managed to squeeze 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. It was far from the bustling 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 her of the 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. I had a security guard those days, who came from a peasant family and was familiar with how to plant a lawn. I commissioned him to develop the lawn for me. 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, perhaps learned in her childhood, from her parents, who were avid gardeners. First, there will be many trees in the land. The plants would be in clusters to give a lush, woods-like effect. 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. Fortunately, Bopal had lots of water to be splashed away in abandon.
The following is an imagined conversation I overheard while sitting under the cool shade of the Cassia tree:
“Don’t look!, 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 neighbor’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 yellow plastic strip. All that I can do now is to look up. My neck is paining, and my itching where she tied me with the plastic has not stopped”, the Monstera whimpered.
“She is a control freak. That is what she is,” the ordinarily 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 sitting on the branch of the Cassia tree. ”She creeps behind me and lights a cracker. The noise is so frightening that I fell off the tree once”.
“Whatever you guys say, she loves us and is really proud of us” the Geranium plant gushed.
“That is nonsense! How do you know?” asked Chameli, who is always contradicting others.
“I heard her speak to her cousin the other day. She said the plants were like her children and that we were the bestest plants in the whole of Ahmedabad” The Geranium said.
“ Then why does she try to drown us?. This is a strange kind of love” murmured the Lantana.
“Yes yes, she seems to be loving us to death”, many plants spoke at he same time.
“Stop talking and drink up this water”, I heard my wife shout in the garden.