What made you buy into the Nilgiris? A relative of ours had bought it here about three or four years before us, and he recommended it. He lives in Jaipur and intends to retire here at some point. He loves it. He was recommending it and kept sending us photographs of properties and so on. I think I came here around early March 2018, and I spent a fortnight here between Kotagiri and Coonoor. I did not doubt that this is where I would like to retire. It was very much like what he had described. Climatically and just in terms of natural beauty, it appealed to my idea of a place to retire. That part of the decision was pretty much taken, I had come alone on the trip, and my wife was not with me. I had considered Goa for a bit but was not very keen on it. Once I was clear that it was the Nilgiris, I started looking for properties. Towards the end of my stay, I came and saw this place and started a conversation with Kailash. He was very accommodating in allowing time to procure funds. We had to dispose two flats in Pune. He made it so easy for me to make the transition. It was seamless for me the whole process. We moved here on the first of July. We drove down from Gurgaon, and we've been here since.
You were saying you had looked at properties in Kotagiri and Coonoor. What made you choose Coonoor over Kotagiri? I like Kotagiri as well. It's a transition. We'd been moving around a fair amount because of my work, and as I said, we had been living in Gurgaon for the past 3 and a half years. Now moving from a city and coming to Coonoor is a transition. I had to look at it not only from my eyes but from the eyes of my wife as well. And you have to look at practicality. I think Coonoor offers you everything you could get in a city, and yet you have the beauty of nature undisturbed. No noise, no pollution, peace and quiet, beautiful long walks in the tea estate. But at the same time, we get our amazon delivery here, and you can get a pizza delivered here. We had no problem at all getting domestic help. Any aspect of the practicalities of life - banks or whatever it may be, its been absolutely hassle-free. I did not feel that Kotagiri was quite there just yet. Maybe it will be in years to come. I personally think, although there's no point in predicting the future, that it will be very difficult for Kotagiri ever to be able to match Coonoor in terms of certain facilities. Also, I think our town planning in the older days was a lot more systematic than what is being planned now, and that is where Kotagiri will have a challenge. Even now, for Coonoor to grow the way it's growing is a challenge. In all Indian cities, it is a challenge. But you've got a certain infrastructure that may be insufficient in years to come. As of today, it's alright. But at least today, you've got it. When you visit Kotagiri, you can see the difference. Now, if you want rural living, Kotagiri has some lovely places. So I'm talking of the practicalities; that is what weighed for us at that point in time.
What made you pick the Nilgiris over other hill stations? And which ones were you considering? For one thing, I must admit that I never really thought that I wanted to retire in a hill station; that was not a pre-decided factor. The hill stations that I am familiar with are in North India because that is where I went as a kid. Those were the hill stations that we visited during my summer vacations. There's not a single one of them that I would consider really as a retirement place today. I can't think of one. Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm not aware of one. To be honest, I did not go very deep into comparisons. It's just that this place fitted the bill for me when I thought of it, and I had researched it before I came here. These websites give you an ease of living index and things like that. Security, water and pollution. That sort of thing. And proximity to an airport is essential; that is what I had a look at. In North India, you have certain hill stations that are relatively close to Chandighar, like the one near Sanawar, where the Lawrence School Sanawar is. That's where the closest one is. (Cut this out, Maybe ?)
How is living in a gated community like ours different from the ones you've seen elsewhere - in cities and in other places? One fundamental difference, it's a little different now because due to COVID, many people have chosen to come and stay here. But for the first two years that we were here, we were one of three residents in this entire gated community. Just three families here. The others would come and go. During this time of the year, in the summer, of course, many people come. That was one significant difference, and you had the place to yourself. But obviously, one knew that that was not going to be forever, but we enjoyed it while that was like that. Coming to the kind of people in this community, we could not ask for more. You could not ask for better neighbours. You could not ask for a better type of people. It's a very relaxed atmosphere. There is no discrimination or social pecking order. Everyone is like family. We've got security, we've got maintenance staff, and it's hassle-free. I would not be able to compare it a lot to other gated communities because I've not lived in a gated community myself before this. You really can't fault it in terms of facilities you require from a gated community.
What ticked the boxes for you in a house like Jannat? Was it the location, the view or just the town? Several things, location definitely was one of the things. To be honest, my retirement concept was to retire on 2-3 acres of land and have a larger estate. Dogs are an essential part of our life. Presently we've got just one. I could not find something in the Nilgiris that was ready and met my requirements if that was my requirement. And I wanted something ready because I did not want to rent. We've been moving so much over the last three to four years that we wanted to be located in one place for many years to come. Also, proximity to town was more of an issue for me then than it is for me today. Coming to a new place, everything is strange, and you don't know a lot. Today having been here, there are many things that one has found out. I would be a lot more adventurous today than three years ago. I'd be quite happy to be another 20-25 minutes away. At that point, this felt just right, and you're not in town yet. You are less than 15 minutes from Bedford (Upper Coonoor's commercial hub). All the facilities that I mentioned in terms of all your conveniences, home deliveries and amazon deliveries came into play. So locationally, at that point in time, it was just right. We wanted three bedrooms in terms of the house, and it has got three bedrooms. More or less it met our requirements. Being from the plains, I did not want something very steep. Whatever amount of land one had around the house, I did want to be able to use it. To walk on your land rather than be climbing around steps. And the way they've done this, you've got different levels, but they're all relatively flat. You can use all of it. I'm at one part of the garden during sunset, and at another in the morning, I can wander around here. That was a significant factor for me. We went and met other people in the community before I committed myself, and I asked them what their feedback was. It was positive feedback from everyone. There were a few people who found connections when I asked around, and I went and met them. Nobody had a bad word to say.
- Is there anything you wished you knew about before you moved here? Anything you wish someone had told you about?* You mean have I got any unpleasant surprises after coming here? I can't think of one, to be honest, but maybe the fog. Coonoor gets rain from the South-West monsoon and the North-East monsoon. It can get very foggy sometimes. I got a lot of pleasant surprises. More than anything else, the type of people in the Nilgiris surprised me. It's been like a breath of fresh air, whether our domestic help or our neighbours. Even as I go for walks here, I've become friends with the supervisors of the tea estate and some of the pluckers. It's just pleasant. The people are just so pleasant, and I don't know why. But it's so stark when you come from a place like Gurgaon, for instance, where there is a lot of aggression and stress, that's totally missing here.
Are there any tips you've got for people moving here? Obviously, do your research. I did that in detail, including visiting Nankem hospital and KMF in Kotagiri. I've got elderly parents in Gurgaon, so I've got to think of many things. I researched a lot of things in detail. In fact, my relative that was taking me around here was a little surprised at the degree of detail that I was getting into. He asked me why I wanted to go to the hospital, I did not have a medical problem, but I did it all.
- What was your experience working with us at Vitrag like ?* Very seamless, with no hassles at all. My first point of interaction at Vitrag was with Sachin. I found him very professional, and I was researching. The first part of my research was about Nilgiris - What's Nilgiris like as a place? The second part was real estate - What are the options available? I was doing it all over the internet sitting in Gurgaon. Sachin was the most professional person that I encountered in the Nilgiris. He was very much on my list of people to meet when I came here, and he stayed in touch. It was several months between the time I contacted him, and I actually came. We stayed in touch, and he was very professional. After showing me the property, he then handed me over to Kailash. With Kailash, it was more of discussing commercials and negotiations. Like I said earlier, he was very accommodating, and I just found him a very easy person to deal with. It was stress-free, and what else can you ask for. I have no complaints at all.
Would you recommend working with us and moving to the Nilgiris with us to any of your friends and family? Certainly, I have already done so. Generally, people who visit us here have thought of having a second home here occur to them. Having dealt with them myself and having had such a good experience with them, I have obviously recommended them to everyone who has asked for recommendations. And I will continue to do so.