Tourists, particularly honeymooners, come to Coonoor from all parts of the country. The Sims Garden is laid out in such a way that it has all the appearances of miniaturization. There are landscaped lawns, many botanical wonders, shrubs and flowering trees and plants. There is a green house, and also a small pond for boating, as well as a children’s park with swings. The general sense of complacence the town has is partly because Ooty has absorbed the administrative buildings and the bulk of tourists. Coonoor, Keti, Kotagiri, Udhagamandalam (Ooty) and Gudalur have to be understood as a constellation of small towns. The tea estates predominate here, and local communities are also absorbed as labor into the cordite factory in Coonoor and the needle factory in Keti. Coonoor is an army cantonment, and the British in these hill side towns so well known to the gentrified classes, left behind a legacy of cottages, with gardens. Even today, the gardens support the same array of hydrangeas, magnolias, roses, pine, and interspersed are the exquisitely coloured hibiscus which bloom around the year, in company with the rhododendrons, miniaturized for bushes. The wealthy also come from various parts of the world to stay in hotels, and many of these are prototype British lodges, with typical bungalow architecture of the 19th century. In the digital age, house owners, who cannot stay in Coonoor year around, advertise and rent their homes in “homestay arrangements”. For the residential elite, there is the Gymkhana, which provides an aura of seclusion, sports and good food. The town itself has temples from the 11th century onwards. It also has several churches, while supporting a Muslim population too and the Badagas, Todas, Kotas, Irulas and Kurumbas visit from nearby villages, for market purposes.
Ranjit Varghese makes home made chocolates on personal request. He says that the big companies like Campco and Cadburys provide blocks for about 350 rupees each, and the home manufacturers buy these, from the local grocers, (such as the shop of Kuriappan and Sons,which has been in existence in Coonoor market, since 1910). The blocks which come from Poona and Mumbai, are then melted down, adding almonds, figs, dates, raisins and honey according to specific proportions, which is each family’s secret. Ranjit and his wife melt the chocolate at night, which can take three to four hours, before it is cooled in large metal tins they have brought from Kerala. They have to be very careful as so much is invested in the production of home made chocolate. In the month of March, every home made chocolate manufacturer can sell upto 600 kilogrammes, and the annual production of chocolate in Coonoor is one tonne.
The biggest problem that the Nilgiris faces is shortage of water and the problem of waste disposal. The dam which was built for a population of ten thousand now serves ten lakh. No collection of waste happens, and the monkeys, crows, pigs, cats and dogs have taken over the town, as the waste accumulates. Vijayan, a banker, says that the town has one water drain into which all the garbage is just flung in. The heavy rainfall in mid September 2017, came after twenty five years! The frightening aspect is that Reilly Dam has anachronistic pipes which cannot provide water to the city. Repair of the pipes is now postponed, because the dam is now filled with water. Worse, contractors are robbing the water from leaking points at the dam, and selling it in trucks. Manoj, a tea shop owner, says that when there is no rain they get municipal water once every ten days. If separate tankers were filled, for each locality, there would be queues and water wastage, and the poor would lose out. The domestic taps run only at night, so the storage and clothes washing all have to be done between 9 p.m and seven a.m., which is very hard on the women at home doing daily chores. He says that Coonoor residents have become so used to water shortage, that they are now all for water saving devices, and even say that water provided to them every two weeks is alright, as they have managed to learn how to store water in syntax tanks, permitting them to self -ration water for domestic purposes. However, for the tea shop that he runs, he buys water. With the longstanding drought, according to Coonoor residents, Nitin and Nancy, forest animals had started to come into the town. A honeymooning couple in Sims Garden got killed in the summer, while taking a selfie with wild bison ( kattu erima) and there are reports of bears taking over tea plantations, and as for wild pigs they dig up the gardens of local people every night, leaving hoof prints before they disappear.