We share our Northwestern boundary with what used to be a promising arabica plantation. Its soil was black and humous-rich. The shade trees were of the forest variety, better than the ubiquitous silver oak in plantations in our coffee zone. The coffee plants were poorly, though, because they'd been with a succession of planters who hadn't fed them well with manure, hadn't pruned them, hadn't kept them free of pests. But the rich resources pointed to a bright future, arriving perhaps through a change of ownership.
Well, ownership changed a few months ago. The plantation, which has had no name for decades, boasts one now—Lost in the Woods—with quality signage that suggests the owners are very rich.
The previous owner, and the owner before him, had allowed a tract alongside ours to grow wild. Peripatetic elephants halted in that pocket of wilderness, resting there during the day, foraging through the night, spending a few days there before moving on.
The new owners have acquired a coffee plantation with black soil rich in humous, out of which they've pulled out whole patches of coffee and tossed them out. The grass that grew and the weeds constantly cut down until now, and used for mulch, have been replaced with Mexican grass. Once covered in coffee plants and shade trees, the rise and fall of land are suddenly revealed. It all looks rather pretty — a lovely garden, with, here and there, good-looking rough-wooden tables where to relax with a coffee.
Villas are coming up that are fitted to the taste and budget of a clientele that wants a second home far from the bustle of Bangalore. They'd be my neighbours on my northeastern boundary, and I must welcome them, for I, too, went to Malnad to be close to nature.
"But why must you be close to nature?" my architect-friend Vasuki had asked me when he was designing our plantation home. "The wild must live undisturbed in the wild, and the human must stay put in the city."
The wild and the human have taken quite the opposite stance. The humans hunt for a place where to be lost in the woods. The beasts are losing their way and coming to town, trampling or goring a human or two on the way.