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In the garden of Eapen

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LUSH SURROUNDINGS At Beulah Farm
LUSH SURROUNDINGS At Beulah Farm

Tucked away in a picturesque pocket of the Nilgiris, Beulah Farm provides the chance visitor a rare treat

A tiny cottage, a higgledy-piggledy pathway, a small creaky gate, a picket fence and any minute now, you think, Hansel and Gretel will step out. Beulah Farm looks like something out of a Hans Christian Anderson storybook. It actually is the beloved farm of Eapen Jacob. And he is as interesting as any character from a fairy tale you could ever meet. Located in Coonoor, surrounded by hills, amid a verdant landscape typical of the Nilgiris, the farm does not fall within the usual tourist circuit. If you are lucky, you may stumble upon it in the course of meandering walks one usually takes in the hills. Otherwise, it is near a village called Bandumi, a little short of the Ralliah Dam, on the Wellington-Kotagiri Road. Before you can enter his farm, 80-year-old Eapen insists you tell him what the big round stone outside his gate reminds you of. As you rack your unimaginative brain, he impatiently exclaims, "It is Moby Dick!" The stone was right there when he first came to Beulah Farm and he christened it and let it lie there. Take a few steps down the garden path and you are stopped again (Eapen is thorough if nothing else). Now it is a climber that he draws your attention to. It is called Jacob's Ladder and it leads you all the way to heaven. Beulah is Hebrew for "Blessed by God" and Eapen attributes all the beauty of life around him to the grace of god. Suddenly there is billing and cooing and Eapen's flock of dancing pigeons flutter around your head. They are obviously the joy of his life, as he bills and coos right back at them!

Lovingly nurtured garden

Around the cottage you go and you find yourself in what looks like a wild tangle of a garden. But that is only your untrained eye speaking to you. Each shrub, each plant and bush is there for a reason and it has been lovingly nurtured and tended to by Eapen. (He even plays music everyday to his plants). You find yourself in herb heaven. There are herbs and plants there that you have only read about in fancy cookbooks. A fistful of leaves and herbs are thrust into your hands and you are urged to take in the lovely smells. Eapen will willingly give you cuttings of any plant or herb if you have a green thumb. You are loath to move away from the three different kinds of basil and four different kinds of mint, the rosemary, thyme, sage and a bouquet of other aromatic herbs but a splash of colour beckons and you are face to face with flowers in pink, peach, magenta, yellow all dressed up in various shades of green. Then you are introduced to a mean and thorny looking plant and Eapen tells you, poker faced, that it is the "mother-in-law's tongue" or if you will, "daughter-in-law's tongue"! Passion fruit, Malta oranges, big fat lemons all jostle for space in the fruit orchard, but best of all is the strawberry patch. Large, squishy, luscious strawberries that you can't pick and eat fast enough. "Won't you come into my parlour," asks Eapen and you find yourself ceremoniously seated in his living room and out come the wines, liqueurs and preserves all made by him out of produce from his farm. Rose wine (he grows 23 different varieties of roses, including a green and a black rose), guava squash, mint liqueur and an evil smelling horse radish wine that Eapen assures you a lot of people love. As you sample one wine after another you are informed that not a grain of yeast or any chemical has gone into the brewing of the wines. He even makes his own fertilizers and a gaggle of geese act as his pest control measure. He calls his wines "Nector" and tells you why but by then you are so far gone you don't really care. A yellowed, carefully preserved letter is produced with pride to show you how a conclave of cardio vascular thoracic surgeons had ordered six crates of rose `nector' from him all those years ago. Just when you think your cup brimmeth over, little cups with spoons appear and you are served with the most delicious strawberry preserves, wickedly tart marmalades and divine rhubarb jam. You can buy whatever it is that takes your fancy and as you weave your way out humming the song "Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme... " you wonder if Simon and Garfunkel had come by this way sometime... For details contact, 0423-2234212.PANKAJA SRINIVASAN

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