Golden Enclave Apartments
Old Airport Road
Bangalore – 560017
The first address I learned the pin code for. Where I made my first best friend, studied for my board exams, learned to swim, ride a bike and spend my pocket money. The building felt like a complete world in itself. It had my family, my friends, a boy I liked, a grocery store and a community that would readily come together over festivals, birthdays, funerals, and gossip.
And tucked away in a hidden corner of the building was Tiger Garden.
If you walk past the swimming pool, avoid eye contact with the aunties doing yoga in the clubhouse, and pretend to head down to the squash court but make your way to the narrow strip of grass on the middle level instead, you’ll find an old metal ladder to scurry down.
And there it was. The soft mud peppered with crunchy leaves, shoe prints, cigarette butts, old potted plants that looked too old live but somehow never died, and home to all the mosquitoes in Bangalore.
Sam and I were 8 years old when we stumbled upon it for the first time. An old garden nestled away in the back – quiet, eerie, unmanicured and unwelcoming.
We decided to abort our adventure and went back to recount the story to her mother.
“Oh my! You girls are very lucky.” Savita aunty said gravely. “There are tigers in that garden, and I’ve heard they’re always hungry for little children. Don’t go there again”.
And that’s how Tiger Garden got its name. On a random, lazy Saturday afternoon, as Savita aunty absentmindedly folded laundry – not once realising that the name would be passed on from older siblings to younger ones and generations of children in Golden Enclave would continue to call it that.
Sam and I didn’t go back there for 5 years.
The dilapidated place faded from our memories, staying quiet and hidden until it revealed itself again when we were 13. This time, we ventured in without a second thought.
And for the next 6 years, it was our haven.
While the rest of Golden Enclave echoed with a symphony of phone calls, bhajans, children, doorbells and more, Tiger Garden was a quiet place to remain hidden from the world and marinate in our adolescence.
A quiet place to complain about our parents, read books we were too young for, have intimate conversations, kiss, roll a fatty, chug old monk, fall in love and be broken up with – all in whispers – before climbing up the metal ladder back into the real world.
We lived in constant fear of being discovered, by a watchman, parent, or snake. And the slightest sound of leaves rustling would send us scampering up the ladder. Only to be back there at 6pm the next evening.
Looking back, it almost feels like a rite of passage – to find a place that happily ushered in our youth for us, one evening at a time, in a world that was wired to shun it away.
It’s been 7 years since I moved out of home. I hear there’s a new generation of kids that spend their evenings in the shadows of the invisible garden now.
When I’m visiting home, I often walk past Tiger Garden as a courtesy to my past.
And every time, my heart sinks at how a place that was once so sacred to me suddenly felt so quiet, eerie, unmanicured and unwelcoming now.
I simply walk past it, allowing the dilapidated place to fade from my memory.
Knowing that Tiger Garden only reveals itself to those who need it most. And simply intimidates the ones that don’t.