The Power of Story

The Secret Garden

Have you ever created a place and imagined this location for so long that it grew more real by the day? So much so that you wished it really and truly existed? Did you then visit that location time and again in your memory of dreams and find spruces of details here and there that you hadn’t noticed before?

Close your eyes.

Smell the fragrances?

Visualize the colors? Now stamp this secret garden in your time and memory.

I’ve imagined the Dhanraj Japanese garden now for 19 years. Ever since the Winds of Fire series landed in my lap, Sheetal Prasad, the leading character who is forced to marry Rakesh Dhanraj in Duty and Desire finds respite from the Dhanraj mansion and all its complexities in a Japanese garden that lies just behind the mammoth marble palace. I’ve seen the Koi fish swim to the surface and break the watery glass. I’ve seen pond lights come up at night and drench the Japanese garden in color and splendor. I’ve sat on a bench, watched Sheetal as a servant wheeled in a tea trolley and fine porcelain clinked against one another. I’ve inhaled the aroma of damp earth, flowers dripping with sweet nectar and fresh-cut grass as I walked around the gorgeous pond.

For many months, I asked myself why Sheetal couldn’t find respite in one of the 25 bedrooms or her art studio or the infinity pool? The truth is Sheetal needed a turf of color and tranquility beyond the boundaries of the cold mansion and away from the harsh realities of Raigun. Sheetal needed an interim where she could just be and breathe. This zone had to be a place where she could think with her own mind and not other people’s minds, an open arena where she could vent her fury at the end.

Sheetal can’t claim rights to any material wealth in the Dhanraj or Prasad mansions. Nothing belongs to Sheetal because she earned nothing. It doesn’t matter that the coffee table is rumored to be worth a fortune, or the bathroom fixtures are made of gold because she can’t connect with her surroundings the way everyone else can.

However, flowers in red, yellow and purple, the lush green bonsai trees that twist and turn to crooked beauty and the willows with green dreadlocks that sweep the water’s surface are God’s gifts. They are elements of natural beauty that can’t be bought or sold. Nature is as much Sheetal’s as it is yours or mine.

For 19 years I saw the Dhanraj’s Japanese garden in my dreams.

Always in my imagination.

So imagine my surprise two weeks ago when we went on a family trip and I walked into the Japanese garden I’d been dreaming about!

I couldn’t believe it!

The garden held the precise layout I’d been imagining for years…from the crooked bonsai trees and sculptured pagodas, to bridges, waterfalls and tiny streams that interlocked one emerald-green pond to another. OK, so the fish weren’t Kois… but hey, nothing is perfect.

In that moment my fiction became real.

Just click through the pictures below and see for yourself.

I sat on a bench where Sheetal would have had tea. No coffee. Sheetal prefers coffee. I looked at the pond of fish darting in and out the slippery waters. I saw where Sheetal might have paced up and down to think about this and that, to take a rest and determine the course of her life’s actions or take respite under the shade of a sweeping willow. I wandered the open premise of a garden that would have fit beautifully behind the 70,000 square-foot Dhanraj mansion and when I looked out, I saw a barren area where Maali Kaka might burn wood.

And much much more.

Sometimes the line between fact and fiction is blurred and one entwines with the other. No matter how different the two may be fiction doesn’t always mirror fact.

Fact mirrors fiction.

And when that happens everything you’ve ever dreamed about colors to life!

When did you last dream about something that blossomed alive and how did that make you feel?


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