Amaryllis & The Deys
The sun set amidst the mist clouding the ghats and I sat down with Victor, by the pool, for a second round of his custom-made but really potent cocktail. His grand-daughter, a regular back-packer from her boarding school on long weekends, climbed up and down her favorite tree house. Her Golden-Retriever cum Labrador cross-breed had just given birth and her joy knew no bounds. Victor, still struggling with the functionalities of his new Android touch- phone, some how managed to replay for me, with so much elan, his grand-daughter’s version of his favorite jazz song. On the perch overlooking the pool sat Victor’s wife, Ranjini and their friends playing poker. I didn’t want to rush and took more than a moment to take in this “unadulterated faith in goodness and love” back home.
“I am sure you have been asked this before. Why Amaryllis? ”. Victor jumped on his feet, quickly made a trip to his library and took out a note on the legend of Amaryllis that he had printed and tucked in his diary. As per a Greek legend, Amaryllis was a beautiful maiden in love with Alteo, a shepherd gifted with the strength of Hercules and beauty of Apollo. He had a passion for flowers and had promised to dedicate his life long love to the woman who could get him a flower he had never seen before. So, Amaryllis sought counsel from the Oracle of Delphis, walked to Alteo’s threshold everyday and pierced her heart with a golden arrow till drops of blood were strewn all across the path. On the thirtieth day, crimson flowers, almost sublime, bloomed from the blood. The heart of Amaryllis was healed and once again a woman’s faith and sacrifice sealed two fates in love. Victor agrees. He couldn’t have imagined his home, “Amaryllis”, or in fact his wonderful life without his woman, Ranjini.
Ranjini is always calm. Victor is such a charmer but so fiesty. I can’t imagine what a riot he must have been in those days. He was only 20 when he dropped out of school to lead the life of a planter. His first salary slip, dated January 1968 and for an amount of one hundred thirteen rupees and twenty seven paisa, is laminated and hangs as the center-piece on the wall of his private bar. The love for jazz and motorbikes brought both of them together and they got married at a very young age. Needless to say, his most favorite collectible in his bar is the vintage Paul Masson California Champagne bottle, opened on the evening of his wedding. Those years of starting afresh in inhospitable conditions at colonial plantations in the South and turning them, literally with blood, sweat and tears, into luxurious resorts have made them a veritable power-couple in Kerala. It was in 2008 that they purchased an abandoned coffee and rubber farm overlooking the Karapuzha reservoir in Ambalavayal, Wayanad and turned it into the abode they call “Amaryllis”.
A lot of the wood work done in the house has been sourced from the same farm. Their favorite spot is the porch overlooking the reservoir, with a bed where Victor rests and an aisle where Ranjini paints. From classical records to black and white portraits, from Formula 1 badges to cheeky bottle openers (one of them in fact reads, “For a man who cannot put it in”), from nature trail in the plantation to a tree house where you would want to author your first book — each corner in this place has so much of them, yet speaks to the unknown in you.
After a very long time, on an unexpected business trip, did I feel so connected and moved by the power of family and community. As I bid farewell, Victor said, “Sam. I am sure we go way back in the past. Never change. Write soon, for the world to see. Come back, with family !”
I will soon go back. To Victor and Ranjini. Whenever my faith in love wavers.
(If you happen to be as interesting as the couple in question and have stories to share over great cuisine, plan your next stay at Amaryllis in Wayanad, Kerala. For more details, visit http://amarylliskerala.com/)