Away to one side of the driveway, coconut palms grow deep in tall grass. In the middle is a gazebo, even quieter than the path. On the other side, a clutch of potted plants gives way to a little hut and a trailing vine. If it weren’t for the small signs saying “Nursery”, “Crafts” and “Café”, these could have been farm buildings. Further down there are craftworky things and interesting clothes hanging in small doorways, a staircase leading to a pastry shop, the original house and garden. Lake View Farm has found a great way to keep from turning into flats or row houses.
Hidden down yet another pathway is Tranquilitea, a tiny tea shop with big arm chairs on an open patio. They sell a startling range of teas grown in the Nilgiris and make a mean crepe. Sitting there is a delight. You just sit. And sit. Drinking in the green quiet with your tea.
And when you walk about later, spend too much on a pair of earrings bigger than your face and wander round the back, you look over a hedge with surprise into a lovely leafy neighbourhood, probably the very first of Whitefield’s “new” settlements. This is no cookie-cutter gated colony, but individual houses built on separate plots that together had been another farm called Taralaya.
I stood there and thought only that I would like to have a house in this nice place, quite unable to picture the farm of my childhood. As I continued to gaze hungrily over the wall like Rapunzel’s mother, little pieces started to resolve themselves. I noticed a sapota tree, then a few more and then many, everywhere, realizing without conscious thought that our orchard was not all cut down.
A cow lowed somewhere, somebody’s Alsatian barked, and I pictured it suddenly. Far away to my right, a house, in front of it, a rose garden, and behind, a kitchen one where my Dad grew strawberries that my brother and I picked illegally before they were ripe. – my distrust of strawberries probably stems from there. Straight ahead, a haystack we were not supposed to climb but did anyway, and beyond that, cowsheds where I saw a cow giving birth. I was of course not supposed to be there. To the left of those, poultry sheds, the business end of the farm. I don’t remember any lawlessness there, so they probably didn’t interest us much. Hens are dull. Or perhaps they were just well-guarded.
I came slowly by degrees to the place where I stood – I think I was almost exactly at the place where a brave but foolhardy dog named Max was buried after being bitten by a cobra he followed into a hole and killed.
Hard upon it came the thought that the place used to be riddled with snakes, which was why my parents never went in much for picturesque leafy hedges, and I stepped back hastily. It’s still a nice neighbourhood, though, and I would like to live there. With seven snake-spotting dogs.
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