Those were the times. The Urban Planning Department and the Municipal Committee of our town (Haripur, Sunder Nagar, Mandi) were not fussy and fastidious about enforcing house construction regulations in their domain. Around that time, I, too, acquired a 240-sq yard plot in an upcoming colony of the town to construct a house.
I had been entertaining a lofty dream of owning a house with a garden. The hard reality of life slowly dawned upon me that a garden house was beyond my humble means. So, I settled for a modest single-storey house. But I did squeeze some space out of this plot for a green patch audaciously to the annoyance of my architect in order to fulfil my dream of a garden. My neighbours, who had already constructed their houses in this colony and had utilised every available inch of their plots, ridiculed my idea; “Arre Sharma Jee, what is this space for? Are you going to breed mosquitoes in the left out patch or planning to have a barn here for the stray cattle of the area? Aren’t arterial roads enough for these nuisances? Take it from us; don’t waste your costly land for such trivial pursuits”. Despite such disheartening salvos, I remained firm on my dream project. But the main hurdle was yet to come and that was the money. I had exhausted all that I had on my house. Per force, my dream project had to wait. The left-out barren patch lay unprotected, unwillingly left to be used by my cynic neighbours in storing building material for their second and third storey constructions because they had no space of their own for such unforeseen needs.
After two years of savings, I finally set out to turn the barren space into a beautiful green patch, a kind of bonsai garden.
First, I constructed the boundary wall. I had carefully prepared a list of flowers, herbs and plants that I wished to raise. I arranged a weekly visit of an experienced gardener, who measured the space for landscaping, announced it was an 80-sq yards in its expanse and deftly planned and prepared beds for flowers and plants. I entreated the mali: “There should be perennial flowers like jasmine, rose and hibiscus on the fringe, like sentinels and next to these, a dozen saplings of my all-time favourite marigold as a seasonal flower.” Next on my list were mint, lemon grass and stevia as herbs to adorn the interiors of the green patch. My wife wanted her share too — the holy basil to be placed in the middle for her daily religious rituals. So, the same was raised in a bowl-shaped elevated concrete podium. Two lemon plants of a good variety, a karhi-patta plant were also in my wish list. Some exotic species of cacti were brought to lend aesthetics to the space. It took several visits to a nearby nursery to collect this assemblage. A small bed was left to raise coriander and green chillies. All done, I started toiling in the summer season, watering the plants to keep these alive and braving the rain in spraying insecticides to save these mute beauties from insects and pests. My pain began to bear fruits. First, the marigolds’ yellow-hued buds appeared. Then basil sprouted with tender, green foliage. The mint, coriander and chillies also showed up gingerly. My joy knew no bounds, when honeybees droned into from nowhere, serenading like lovers, kissing every bud, every flower. Then came the winged visitors, including the bulbuls, mynahs and sparrows, coyly fluttering around, looking for insects for meals. The butterflies completed the carnival to my great amusement. My miniature garden was now coming of age.
I now perform yoga early morning in my mini-garden. I come with my morning cuppa, sitting in the middle on a plastic stool. My wife uses garden-fresh karhi-pattas, mint and coriander leaves in cooking. I graciously share the karhi-patta, mint and coriander leaves with my neighbours, who had disapproved of my idea. I stroll in the evening and feel proud of my green patch. It is indeed my 80 sq-yard paradise.