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At peace with yourself

NIKHIL RAGHAVAN
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THE NILGIRIS The cosy cottage nestled in a tea estate is quite appropriately named Sans Souci — meaning ‘without a worry'

Sans Souci is a tea estate in the The Nilgiris. Its cottage is simple and rustic — it's essentially a one-room living space divided by furniture into a bedroom, a living-cum-dining room and a kitchenette. Right outside the cottage is the famed Monkey Puzzle Tree, one of the tallest around (in fact, so tall it can be seen from Coonoor, eight km away!). And, in front of that is an old Victorian water tank, into which drops crystal-clear water from rock springs in the property. The water used in Sans Souci is all upplied by mountain springs. So, as you unwind amidst all these, you realise the name is fitting — Sans Souci means ‘without a worry'.

Its soothing charm apart, the property, one of the oldest in the Nilgiris, has its share of history too — it was handed over to William Mullaly by the Right Honourable Secretary for State of India on December 9, 1871. Since then, the place has whittled down from 30 acres to a mere one-and-a-half, and has passed through many hands and has accumulated interesting and intriguing stories along the way. For instance, one of the owners, Thomas Brown is said to have willed the property to a woman called Miss Jackson and her infant daughter “for grievous wrongs done to her”. It was also a convalescent home for British soldiers during World War II.

One of the owners of Sans Souci was Ernst Fritchi, a celebrated Swiss botanist.

He gave the property its name and is credited with turning it into a fabulous botanical garden. Unfortunately, only a few of them remain — including the Monkey Puzzle Tree. The Catholic Bishop of Ootacamund sold the property to V. Srinivasan, the father of the current owner Sunitha Srinivasan.

Much earlier, Nilgiris was part of Tipu Sultan's revenue collection area, and he had the Pakasuramalai Fort within trekking distance of where Sans Souci now stands. This fort served as a lookout point, and a cannon fired from here would warn the sentries of approaching enemies. Legend has it that Tipu Sultan buried the gold reserves of Seringapatam on the property that later became Sans Souci!

NIKHIL RAGHAVAN



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