Living in a Bungalow surrounded by Coffee Plantations seems surreal. If the Bungalow is an old Planters’ Bungalow from the 1800s, it adds to the charm of the entire estate. The Bungalows come in different sizes – large and still larger – for I haven’t seen a small compact Planter’s Bungalow yet.
The spaciousness of these bungalows is however not compensated in style. One of the reasons may be that a planter’s life was much outdoors than indoors. Another reason might be that the homes were made attractive with flowers and flower gardens rather than artistic masonry.
An absorbing narration of a Coorg Bungalow is given by one Robert Eliot in late 1800s. He says – “The front veranda was enclosed with glass, and lined with flowers in pots, and from the centre of this projected a conservatory, at the end of which as the front door…this not only gave a pretty effect, but was practically useful by keeping carriages, with their attendant dust, away.”
He goes on to explain about the large rooms and kitchen which “consisted of a separate room, with a single door, was furnished with a Wilson range, and there was no door between the kitchen and the scullery”.
Eliot visits estates such as Hill Grove near Polibetta, Dubarri Estate, Messrs Matheson and Hope Estates and travels to Mercara (Madikeri) where he goes to a charming home called ‘Retreat’. From here he travels to various other estates until Suntikoppa and then begins his journey to South Coorg.
Throughout his journey he describes the setting of the bungalows as very pretty as the bungalow usually stands at the head of a slope and overlooks the jungle or coffee estates. The experiences are replete with ‘open large veranda’ and with seats set for ‘good views’.
During my Coorg and Chikmanglur holidays, I’ve been lucky to stay in a few such bungalows. What strikes me is that even a century and a half later, I can relate to many things the writer has described – the high front setting, the large rooms and bathrooms, the kitchen with no connecting back door, and of course the flower gardens and the bougainvillea.
Of course, the stables have disappeared or manifested themselves as homes for the house staff. The pretty lawn tennis grounds and the ball room dance parties are now gone but largely the planters’ homes stay the same.
Time stands still indeed in such homes.