The first week we are back in Madurai, one evening Viral and I climb into a jeep with Dr Natchiar and head over to Aurofarm. We turn into the driveway. The front yard has been planted with champa trees –20 different colors, they are baby trees now but in a matter of months there will be a profusion of vivid branches. To the far right is the aroma garden, roses and jsmine mixed in with a variety of other scented blooms.
There are silk cotton trees and a thoongamunji maram that’s already gone to sleep. Travellers palm, exora, nandya vattam, canna lilies, coxcomb, hibiscus, bottlebrush trees, water lilies, bougainvillea, impatiens and periwinkle. The lake is full of water, stone benches scattered around its perimeter, a little natural amphitheater, stone statues of traditional forms, paths lined with graceful feathery casuarinas trees. There are goats and cows and dogs and ducks on the premises.“I love this place because it was designed and executed by amateurs – more than 100 people worked over 6 months to create this,” she says.
She stops at the banyan tree that Dr V planted. “He used to come and monitor its progress each evening. He asked me, ‘Why did you pick a banyan tree for me?’ and I told him, because even after you and I are gone, the other trees that spring from us must still be standing strong.”
This is where the Dr Venkataswamy memorial building will stand. It will have a hall and a library and a retreat facility for people who want to spend time in spiritual or value based study.
We look across wide fields of paddy ready to be harvested. The workers are coming tomorrow to do that she tells us. She is so excited. India’s first woman neuro-ophthalmologist. A woman who has dedicated her life to growing things. Her surgical skills, hospitals, people — and now this transformed land. The green gold rice stalks are heavy with grain, their heads bend under the weight. “The poets always compare wise men to rice ready for harvest, she tells us. Like them, they carry so much with so much humility.”