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19.06.2018

We’re taken back to 2009, when Zynga’s Farmville watered down many friendships – sorry we didn’t give your crops extra life. How could we have predicted that this past decade, our social circles would go from finger-tip farming (thanks, Nivedita Menon!) to actually tilling the land for their produce?

Bangalore-based mural artist Nidhi Mariam Jacob isn’t one of those people. In the same year that Zynga was inspiring keyboard kulaks to unite and grow crops, Nidhi’s mother Helen Jacob was buying up a sylvan sprawl in the valley of the Panchapalli Hills of Denkanikottai in Tamil Nadu – just a two-hour drive from Bangalore – for the Jacob children to hang out. Say hello to Graceland Eco-warriors, shining like a National guitar.

“My mother always wanted a place in the forest that many generations of her family could come to and just chill,” says Nidhi over the phone. She’s parked on the side of the highway, where we’ve caught her on her way out, driving down with her two kids to spend the long weekend away from the city. After years of keeping it in the family, “earlier this year, I decided to share the experience with friends. Now, their friends have shown interest in coming over.” Now, the farm-house is going to be “a little bit self-sustaining.”

Baby Let’s Play (Farm) House

“This isn’t one of those luxurious, club-class homestays in the middle of the forest,” she warns. Instead, the idea of Graceland Eco-warriors is that “you get have your own farm-house for a few days, you’re own home away from home without the headache and hassle of upkeep,” she quips.

There are three bedrooms, but “enough bedding that we’ve had seventeen people comfortably stay.” Find here a fully-functional kitchen stocked with spices and seasonal vegetables from the farm. “There’s a caretaker and his wife, who’ll help you with cleaning up, picking the vegetables and fruits, and getting you fresh milk from the cows,” she says, “but they aren’t on-call staff for the guests.” In other words, bring your own snacks.

You’ll be sharing these five acres of forest with forty chickens, two cows and a brace of ducks “besides the elephants, spotted deer, wild boars and more that call these hills their home,” says Nidhi. There are no curated activities, so you get to wander off on the trails and around the lakes on the hills on your own - once you get out of the pool on the property, that is.

Easy Come, Easy Go

If you want Nidhi to love you and say yes to painting a wall in your children’s room, don’t take loudspeakers, keep the plastic to dump back in the city, and respect the wildlife. “If you can adhere to these rules, you’re more than welcome here,” she assures us. Oh, and deactivate Facebook, farm or no farm: “You’ll be off-the-grid the entire time,” she tells us. “How will you manage?” you ask? As Elvis sang, “Ask the Lord, he’s only a prayer away”.

Getting there: Graceland Eco-Warriors, Denkanikottai, Tamil Nadu. A two-hour drive from Bangalore. Rs 1500 per person per night. For booking and enquiries, write to nidhi.diorama@gmail.com.

This story was contributed by Joshua Muyiwa, a Bangalore-based poet and writer.

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