Gripping Dilema

Popularly referred to as the poor man's Ooty, Sakleshpur, earlier known as Sakala-Aishwarya-pura( the land of every known wealth) is a picturesque little hill station in Karnataka, nestling on a hillock above the banks of the Hemavathy river that meanders around three of its sides while on its journey to join the Kaveri. Across the river is the low hill-line which marks the edge of the Deccan plateau-- the male-nadu, heralding the Western Ghats where the Bengaluru-Mangalure High starts descending, the wind its way down Shiradi to finally reach the golden beaches of the port town of Mangalore. On the outskirts of Sakleshpur at donikal, just where the decent actually commences, in Tippu's Manzarabad fort, a top the highest peak that commands a vantage view of the respective route of the highway as it ascends up the mountains, the turrets of which had sported the cannons that had once successively resisted the progress of the British armies on their March into the Sultan's domain on the Deccan plateau.

To this little coffee and cardamom town I am drawn now and again, to visit Hemavathy Farm, retained for sentimental reasons as a symbol of our cherished association with this town for the past 40 years. That's how long it is since father left his vocation as an educationist, to step into greener pastures of coffee growing.

Father is no more and with him went the estates that he had built with the sweat of his brow. He disposed them off one by one, thoroughly disappointed in his progeny, who by then had chosen different corners of the world with no time or shown interest to build on parental endeavour. Only hemavathy has remained.

When I arrive in Sakleshpur, I choose for my stay the Traveller's Bungalow on the mound above the Town Hall. The reason, as you drive up to the TB you come upon the Education Officer's complex within which is a tiny building with a legend inscribed above its front door, declaring it to be the L.B. Pereira wing of the Bharat Scouts and Guides Unit, constructed in father's memory for services rendered to the community. I remember going all the way from Sikkim, to be present at the ceremony when its foundation stone was laid by no less an illustrious soldier than the late Field Marshal Carriappa. On most previous visits when my children accompanied me on these trips, they posed before this structure while I clicked away to add to the family's sentimental collection.

But as years roll on, the visits to the farm have become far and few between. The frustration, the helplessness and the mental agony over problems resulting from absentee land-lordism, are adding up to multiply manyfold the already separating chasm of over 2000 kilometers distance between Delhi and Sakleshpur.

On each occasion, I set foot determined to part with this property to any of those numerous bidders that have evinced keen interest in acquiring it, -- who would, I'm sure, have more time and proximate energy to do justice to its up keep.

And then I arrive at the farm, take in its serene surroundings, which galvanise and catapult me in to a human dynamo. I girdle up my loins and tackle one by one the problems that plaque the place. In the evening I sit out with my glass in the yard to breathe in the cool country air, sweetened fragrance of acacia and eucalyptus, and the swaying coconut palms - to feel refreshed, intoxicated and envigorated. The memories come flooding in-- of those trees seen as saplings once placed in the freshly dug earth with my own hands, of plans my father discussed, sharing with me his ideas to make the place a garden beyond compare. I see a pink little plastic back in time to see my Indira and Prashanth taking turns to be in the riding seat and the pillion. I present the tricycle to the care-taker's little ones and enjoy an inward thrill seeing a sparkle of joy light up their eyes.

I leave the place, the decision to part with the property put off to a future date, yet once again.

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