The face of Kochi city is fast changing, with the once quiet and green lanes and old ancestral houses giving way to busy streets, office complexes, huge shopping malls and more. Amidst all the chaos stands nestled a small patch of greenery, serene and calm, sandwiched between Chittoor Road and MG Road. Welcome to the home of Ranjit Thampy and wife Suma George.
Though situated near one of the busiest streets in the city, you wake up to the chirping of birds and fresh air in this nearly sixty-year-old house. The small property around is filled with greenery, from shrubs to two huge mango trees, two rambutans, guava etc. “Probably this is the only rambutan tree in the midst of the city. We get 20 to 30 kg of fruit per year,” says Ranjit. The couple lets the birds eat their fill of the mangoes and gives away the rest to their family abroad and friends.
Among the trees and plants sits a bird bath, in which they change the water every morning. The mornings are filled with the peeping of a wide variety of seasonal birds who come in to have a bath and drink water. “Butterflies flutter around the garden during the day and in the nights you can find fireflies and crickets, rarely found in the city limits,” says Ranjit.
And that’s not all. Ranjit spreads a green message to the world by organising a ‘Green Award’ in his father’s name, who was a journalist and a lover of nature. “Every year, we present the award to someone who contributes to preserving nature.”
The highlight of the house, though is the terrace, which has been converted into an art gallery by Suma. The gallery is open on all sides with just a tin roof and so one can actually enjoy nature as well the art works by Suma. Acrylic, glass and oil paintings decorate the walls of the gallery which also has a collection of antiques.
The first thing that catches your eye is an old typewriter, which belonged to Ranjit’s father. “It is more than 60 years old,” says a proud Ranjit. Other interesting exhibits include an ammikallu, an attukallu (grinding stones) and antique furniture. The plants kept in bharanis add to the charm of the gallery.
Suma, an English teacher in a reputed school in Kochi, had been interested in art during her childhood in Coimbatore, but later lost touch with her passion owing to studies and other commitments. “After getting married to Ranjit, I brushed up my skills, with his support and encouragement. Ranjit was in advertising, a creative field, and his inspiration as well as the creativity of my little students motivated me to take up my passion once again,” says Suma.
Suma’s colleagues and students not only appreciate her work but have displayed some of her paintings in the school reception and class room, she adds.
To complete the picture, the ‘green couple’ are also pet lovers and had 20 cats at their home, which has now come down to eight. On a side table sits a framed photo of their cat Brownie, who was with them for 13 years.
One would think how it is possible to maintain such a house in the heart of the city, but Ranjit and Suma say that all it needs is passion and determination to preserve nature. “Every day people give us offers to buy this property but we are determined not to sell it. This place is full of fond memories of my parents and childhood,” signs off Ranjit.