I never realised I enjoy gardens and green spaces until I had a home of my own. Quite a pity when you consider the kind of un-used opportunities that my past is littered with. Years ago, we lived in a tiny government house in Pandara road - A-39. The front looked out onto a green strip between two rows of houses, but the back of the house was really cool. Each house had a small garden - maybe 8 feet by 20 feet - okay, not so small if you look at an average Indian city now. And two rows of backgardens were adjacent, with a narrow ditch for drainage in between the two gardens. The gardens weren't very sophisticated, since most people who lived there were strictly middle class, with little money to spare for a gardener. There was a grass patch in the center, maybe some canna lily bushes on one side and jasmines/ mogra on another. The gardens made a long alley, through the row of 20 houses on each street. What made this green alley exciting was the trees which grew thickly overhead, and created a green canopy, blocking out most of the sunlight at the back of the house. It was an incredibly exciting feeling to walk in the ditch, through this cool, dim, mysterious alley, and I used to imagine myself as an explorer in the amazon or some such exotic place.

Later we moved to a house which had a kitchen garden and a front garden with cherry trees, guava trees and lots of flowering plants. Again, no gardener, though the CPWD man used to come and mow the lawn once a month. The garden looks incredibly lush in our old photographs, but I was too busy with college and running around with my friends to ever pay much attention. One of the fun things I remember about this garden, was that a kitten was born on our windowsill during the monsoon one year. The mother went away soon after and though the kitten (named Sphinx for his habit of curling up in that kind of a pose on the back of our sofa) never became domesticated, he used to hang around our house. He had a weekly appointment with his mother. Every saturday morning, without fail, the mother would show up, and Sphinx who would have been on the watch for her, used to run into the garden to meet her. The two of them used to gambol and frolic all over the lawns, jumping up at butterflies, playing tag with each other. A truly wonderful sight.

Later, after I began working, we moved to a bungalow on a half acre plot of land, with a hundred trees (mostly Ashoka) around the perimeter. We had a jacaranda tree, frequented by parrots, a mango tree which used to yield 200 mangoes in alternate years, a neem tree and a big lawn in front, a vegetable patch at the back and a party area on the side. Sadly, I was too preoccupied with work and romance etc. to spend much time in the garden. I used to love the view from my bedroom, though, right into the green, thick foliage of the neem tree.

Years later, after marriage, we moved into a first and second floor duplex house, and that's when I realised that I had no garden. I couldn't bear the thought so I have turned our terrace into a rooftop garden. In a way it gives me the same feeling as the book The Secret Garden, because it really is a hidden away place. Ours and the kids' bedrooms open onto it. Though it is a purely container garden, over the last five years, the plants have really come into their own. There are lots of evergreens, and I even have some trees growing there - 2 frangipanis, a pomegranate and a silver oak. There are roses, a lotus pond, almundas, areca palms and monsteras,quisqualis indica, mandarin orange, night-sorrow jasmine ( harshringar), bougainvilleas, some succulents and cacti and a few dracaenas. In the winter, I plant seasonal blooms - carnations, sweet peas (they have never done well), dahlias, chrysanthemums, sweet williams, phlox, larkspur, poppies, cineraria, ice flowers, kalanchoe and others - to liven up the place.

It's a favourite hangout throughout the year. In winter, it feels heavenly to enjoy a wind-sheltered spot for quiet reading and endless cups of tea. Summer morning tea is there too, and during the rains, my son and I love to sit there, periodically running out to get drenched in the shower and then retreating to the covered area to watch the water pouring down. The kids have their splashpool up there in the summer too. We use the space for entertaining as well, for our Id party when our overflow of 100 guests or so move up to a garden lit up with fairy lights and candles or on our children's birthdays which are family-only parties.
The fragrance of the flowers steals in at night to perfume the air while birds nest in one of the many plants in the summer. It is one of the things that not only makes our home unique but gives our bedrooms a feeling of being cut off from the world, in a lovely, peaceful way. Now my dream is to live in a home with a real garden, and to have the time to plan it, and truly enjoy it!


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