The day after we moved in was a Sunday. I had always been an early riser, possibly because of the ruckus that Suggi would make getting ready for basketball practice. I got out of bed at about six and put on my tracks and sweatshirt to go for a walk. It was finally time to meet this old friend. I closed the door quietly behind me and stepped out into the cool morning light. I walked right up to the main gate and then turned around, taking everything in through the light mist of the morning. Once upon a time, there had been guards in the sentry boxes at the gates, I was told, but not for many, many years. Everything had a run-down tint to it. I looked at the mogra shrubs, stopping to pick up the fallen flowers and taking in their heady fragrance.

I knew already that there was an ill-tempered female gardener who hobbled around the estate and hated anyone who was not a Rawat or a Luthra. I stopped to stare into the dark, dark litchi groves, inviting me in. Not a trace of sunlight could enter that thick leaf cover. There must have been thirty, perhaps forty trees in there. Maybe I could steal in when no one was around, see what lay beyond the trees? Once the rains came, the raw green fruit would turn luscious pink. The orchard would be given to a contractor, who would harvest the fruit. Hundreds of houses did that during litchi season and fruit sellers would sit right outside these houses selling their wares in woven baskets. I walked down the driveway, now looking the other way, where the garden stood. There were trees I could name – the Ashoka, mango, massive jackfruit trees, old neem ones. Calendula, roses, gurhal, marigold, and for some reason, a number of Ficus bonsai plants. I couldn’t ever take to the idea of bonsai though. Nature was supposed to run wild, free, abundant. What sense did it make to curtail things?

I spotted a semal tree; some of the fruit had fallen, burst wide open, forming red bloody splotches on the ground. Such a graceful, five-petalled fruit and dignified even at its end. In time, the tree would send off its seeds in cotton balls. There were mulberry bushes, the shahtoot berries a little green still. Bunches and bunches of red ixora and white gardenias hung around the garden. What was that – passionflowers? Tiny pink and red pentas flowers. Chrysanthemums, which Mummy called guldaudi. And of course, the ubiquitous pothos climbed most of the walls around the garden, not needing much. At some point, I would need to climb those walls to see what lay on the other side. For that is who we are at fifteen, ever curious about what lies on the other side of the wall.

This was not the only garden. There seemed to be another, a kitchen garden perhaps, set towards the back of the house, hedged by a tamer-looking fence, sweet peas growing at the edge. I closed my eyes for a second, pretending to be not just a quasi-trespasser out to take a quick look but the rightful owner of the beautiful scene stretching out in front of me. In that deeply meditative moment on my first day at Arbour House, the words I heard myself say – There is nowhere in the world I’d rather be.

I walked down the driveway towards the house, now smiling to myself. I stood under the porch, wedged between two cars, one of them a half-timbered and rather splendid-looking machine that took up most of the space, the other one a Morris Minor, and now I studied the house. The single-storey building was what the locals called a ‘Britisher times ka bangla’, built on a raised level, some steps leading up to it. A very deep veranda wrapped itself around the structure and was speckled with many plantation chairs with long arms that could be put to good use by resting one’s legs on them. Next to them stood a glass-topped coffee table made of cane. Some China palms grew large in terracotta planters. The chiks made of woven bamboo that must be pulled down at noon to protect the veranda from the midday sun had been rolled up and tied for now. The walls of the house were covered with glass-paned windows. There was a door that must lead into the central hall. Then a reddish-brown mass, so far hidden behind the cane chairs, got up and lumbered towards me.

“Oh hello, hello,” I breathed and bent down to scratch his large ears. He looked up at me with his drooping eyes and yawned.

Excerpted with permission from 17, Morris Road, Parul Sharma, Hachette India.