We have 3000 square feet of land in the Anandam Retirement Community.
The one bedroom cottage built on it is 1000 sq feet. The garden running around it is lush and green with trees , shrubs and flowers that cover the once visible white cottage with a sloping roof . It is not a manicured garden by any means, but it is cool, green and shady , The windows of the cottage have reflectant sunfilm that helps reduce the room temperature by at least 2-3 degrees .
We started planting 2 years ago when we moved into the cottage we call our Doll House. I asked Ramésh Harve a neighbour and a world renowned expert on Eco systems and Bio-Gardens, for some advice, because his late wife Sheila used to have the best garden in Anandam. She was in the garden all the time and did all the work alongside the Gardeners, in rain or shine. Ramésh told me to make it an organic garden like Sheila’s garden by using only organic fertilizers and to install a drip irrigation.
We looked for a drip irrigation company on the internet and found the nearest one in Theni. An appointment was set up and a suited, booted, coated gentleman with a pair of branded Keds arrived in a SUV from Theni. He took pictures on his Smartphone and quoted Rs. 75, 000 as capital expenditure. He suggested constructing a water tank and rounded it all up with a recurring monthly expense of 1500 rupees, of which 1000 rupees was for his consultancy for when he traveled from Theni to Anandam.
We thanked him profusely and waved him a brisk goodbye promising to let him know. We then decided to get a local chap from Batlagundu . In our penny wise and pound foolish wisdom, we forgot another one of my husband Sam’s favourite quotes, “ if you throw peanuts, you get monkeys , “
The local chap arrived on a motorbike with his assistant riding pillion. He walked around the garden in his lungi and did not take any pictures on a smartphone he did not have. He quoted a figure far removed from the previous Theni figure which pleased us immensely. He was given an advance to buy the materials and he went singing all the way to the bank. Unfortunately Ramesh was away overseas on some global consultation when all this was happening and returned only the night before the work was starting.
Ramesh though extremely jet lagged , very kindly came to see the materials in his simple white shirt , white trousers , slippers and years of unparalled wisdom and experience. He took one look at the material and went ballistic and let off several expletives at the local chap in Tamil, in a thick kanaadiga accent.
He told us and the local chap who was going to install the drip irrigation system the next morning, in no uncertain terms, that the 170 A garden project was doomed to fail, even before it started, because the material was of inferior quality.
He said that only the Jain fittings would work. Everything else was a fore runner for disaster. He asked the chap why he had not bought “JAIN “ fittings. The chap scratched his head and muttered that he had never heard of “JAIL” fittings. We suppressed the bubbling laughter that was threatening to explode, not knowing whether to laugh or to cry.
Ramesh told us to get rid of the man and his fittings immediately. No question about it. Get rid of them . We were gobsmacked. How could we do that ? The man had bought everything from an unauthorized roadside merchant with no receipt. Sam and I watched our money go down an imaginary drain, because there was no way that the material could be returned and we felt desperately sorry for the local chap, who by then was on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
Against our better judgement, we discounted Ramesh ‘s expert advice and we explained that we did not want the poor fellow to end up in an ICU and maybe it was best that we go with the local chap and his Pottikadai fittings at this stage. Ramesh looked at us as if we were cretins , shook his head in disbelief and walked away shaking his head.
The irrigation system was installed the next morning, more money passed hands and we thought we were out of the woods. The drip irrigation system had a lack lustre start and died a natural death. The irrigation drip system the local chap had installed failed miserably. It got blocked with mud and acquired a character of its own, When the water was supposed to flow right in measured drops, it rebelled and flowed left . Sometimes it flowed in both directions, with total abandon
As predicted by Ramesh, it was an utter and unmitigated failure. We have had it replaced 3 times subsequently and the money spent on each Rip-n- Repair-the-Drip is an obscene figure. When we get rich and famous , Sam and I will replace the whole thing with JAIN fittings when Ramesh Is around.
There are many morals to this anecdote.
If you have a resident in a particular field as a neighbour, ask him nicely for advice .
If he is like Ramesh, he will oblige Pro Bono.
When they give you advice, listen to the retired experts . They are supremely experienced and they know best.
Head must always rule over Heart . At least in Organic gardening.
All’s well that ends well. My younger grandson Rohan when he came to visit asked me “Grandma, your leaves are so green, Grandma. Do you paint the leaves in the night when everyone is asleep ? “