Growing up in South India, my siblings and I attended an American missionary boarding school in the Western Ghats, a long line of 8000 ft mountains that run along the western side of South India and divide the two Southern states of Tamilnadu and Kerala. These hills were once wild with elephants, tigers, bison, and thousands of species of native trees and plants. Cardamom, the popular spice, originated here as a wild plant.
Humans and Western-style development have been rapidly destroying the environment and ecology of the area. When we were growing up in the 50s and 60s, Kodaikanal was a simple little village with a beautiful lake and quaint stone cottages and a small community of local people who catered to the Westerners and grew crops. Now the growing middle class of South India brings hordes of tourists to the area, with rapid development and encroachment on the natural forests and sholas of the region.
My friend Bob, a long-time ex-pat who lives here half the year, shares an amazing garden outside of the town that was mostly created by his neighbor Pippa, who is a native plant expert and conservation advocate. Their homes are built on the hillside above the garden, we we look down into the tree canopy and watch colorful songbirds flitting about. The garden itself is truly amazing.
I made a little slideshow of the garden when I visited two years ago- some of you may have seen it posted on my earlier blog. Here it is again. May it soothe your soul!