In 1978 (Superman 1) Miss Tessmacher asks Lex Luthor, “Why this obsession with real estate, all the time land, land, land.” To which Gene Hackman replies, “When I was 6 years old my father said to me…stocks make rise and fall, utilities and transportation systems may collapse, people are no damn good but they will always need land and they’ll pay through the nose to get it. Remember my father said, ‘Land'”.Today is a very good day. Today my Dear Husband and I finally have our little piece of paradise on earth. A bit of land that is legally all ours. It is our present, our future, our retirement, our security. This is a very grown up moment for us and there is no one else I’d rather be sharing this journey with.
It was never really our intention to plant roots on land. There was never anywhere as beautiful as at sea. But then came an opportunity we couldn’t resist. The one place on earth that we had a real connection to, that is beautiful, idyllic and very personal, is the Nilgiris.
My family has been in the Nilgiris since around 1963. My grand-uncle was Director at the National Centre for Disease Control in Conoor. So my father and his sister would come up for the holidays when they were around 16, visiting their cousins. This is where my aunt, a young fashionable thing around Conoor did her college degree (Providence College for Women), and encountered my uncle, who was a dashing debonair tea estate man. She married young and they’ve been in the Nilgiris ever since. I’ve been going to the Nilgiris since I was about 2 years old.
Interestingly, the DH’s family also has connections in tea as his father’s sister’s husband managed a tea estate here for many years. But the DH hasn’t visited as often as I visited the tea estate my uncle managed. Every summer we escaped from the putrid heat of the Vellore plains to a paradise of old bungalows with stone and wood floors and fireplaces, hot water baths in May, wild boar pickle sandwiches, mutton curry and thair saatham on the lawns in the afternoon under the fig tree, home made Eclaris and puffs (or ‘pups’ as the brilliant cook would call it) for tea and night safaris spotting panthers and bears oh my! We were spoiled rotten.
It all came together when the DH and I lived in the Nilgiris for a year, a few months after we got married. We knew that this was one place we didn’t want to leave. I feel so privileged that in just the 4 years we’ve been married I have been able to share with him a place that holds so many incredibly happy memories for me. Better still, he feels them too and we now have shared memories of the places I grew up. This is also the place where Abroozi grew up – the first bird he ever saw fly up on to a street light. I still remember the look on his face when he marvelled at this winged creature – “Will I be able to do that when I grow up “, I could see the wonder on his face. The bushes where he got stung on the eye by a wasp. Our first place as a family was the Nilgiris.
The day our posting was over, when we took that last bend of the ghats and ahead all that we saw was the straight road of the plains, I physically felt a pain and sadness in my heart. Our one year in the Nilgiris, a place I had called a second home for many many years, was over. So when the opportunity came knocking last year to buy land here, how could we refuse.
People buy land for investment. A good place to plonk your money and let it grow. It may not be the prettiest place but it might be the most lucrative – a place that is cheap today but in ten years will be the bustling heart of a town. Not always do people settle down on the land they buy. But for us this is more than just 29 cents of an investment. This is our dream. This is the most spectacular view I could ever imagine owning. It is quiet, it is green, it is visited by bison and barking deer; sweet water gushes up from the ground. The air is clean and crisp. The clouds roll in and you are swallowed up by nature. To top it off, where else in India could I sit outside in the middle of the afternoon in May and actually enjoy the sun.
It’s been a year in the making – legal documents to be drawn up, agreements and 16 sellers to be reconciled, land to be surveyed. Finally today it is legally ours and we carry on our family connection with the Nilgiris. We have not shared even an iota of this legal sweat and toil as my uncle has navigated the entire process with great finesse, shielding us from the trauma of buying land in this country. He knows this land incredibly well – the trees, the hoof prints of different animals, the bird song, the soil, the weather. These parts have been his home for more than 40 years.
Privately we had christened the land, Fox River. Today Fox River has been entrusted in to our hands, to which in the end we will return. We make this pledge to Fox River:
We pledge to protect the health of this land, its air we breathe, its water we drink, the food it provides.
We pledge to protect the ground below, that we shall not poison it with landfill.
We pledge to build with as many ecologically friendly materials and techniques as possible.
We pledge to live sustainably – generating electricity and cooking gas with as little dependence on the grid or burning of fossil fuels as possible; growing as much food as we can; composting and replenishing the natural environment.
We pledge to fill this land with love, trees, animals and a kindness to nature, knowing all the while that we are caretakers of this land.
With the Blue Mountains in our sights, it can only be good.