A garden to cool nerves of Samta Nagar police
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Afzal Khatri (63) and Nusrat (60) lived and worked in New York for 13 years before deciding to return home over four years ago.
"One evening in 2008, wife and I went to the police station to seek permission for Navratri celebrations in our society. We noticed some constables shifting pots containing plants that were nearly dead as the station was being painted," recalled Afzal.
"Nusrat couldn't bear the sight and asked the constables why the plants weren't cared for. They replied there was no time. When she offered to replace the plants, they were more than happy. A week later, we went to the police station with 60 pots and fresh plants and started looking after them," he said.
A few weeks later, an inspector told Afzal there was an empty patch at the rear of the station.
"When he took me there, I could visualise what it could turn into with proper care. But when I went there the next morning, I was shocked to see the amount of garbage dumped. But I had made a commitment and had to see it through," he said.
The Khatris approached Thakur College for assistance in clearing the area. The principal lent them 40 students, who worked for three hours a day after class. With the help of the BMC ward officer, they cleared rusted cars, glasses and plastic accumulated over several years.
"After clearing the area, we built compost heaps, which would help generate fresh soil," said Nusrat.
There are over 1,800 species of plants in the garden, 700 of them indigenous.
The garden is also host to a large number of birds, butterflies, frogs and the occasional snake. Three birdhouses, two beehives and a butterfly house have been built.
At the centre of the garden is a clearing with barks of trees serving as seats around a small pond. Senior inspector Nanasaheb Kamble is happy with the effect the garden has on his staff.