Thursday, April 14, 2016

Celebration Lilies

 Easter lilies are so special. They almost always bloom on April 14, which we celebrate as 'Vishu' or New Year's Day. There would be a vase full of them in my mother's 'Vishu Kani'.
My mother remembers that when I was very young, I'd  pluck all the buds which were just about to open. She and my father would be waiting  to see the flowers and all they got was headless stalks.
 I must have been a monster of an infant. Thank God for parents who brought me up anyway - and passed on their love of flowers to all of us.

What joy to go around a new garden, checking what plants there are! And what joy to see Easter lily leaves, to know that there will be flowers in March or April. Those few days when they bloom are enough to keep you going through the year.

Our garden at Moraghat Tea Estate had both red and white lilies. The reds bloomed first and then the whites. Once the flowering was over, we planted the bulbs out in rows - something we carried on doing for the fifteen years we lived there.

The nuns from St.James School and Holy Cross School at Binnaguri would drop in to collect lilies from us to decorate the church on Easter Sunday. We shared our bulbs with them too and in time to come, they had enough lilies in their own gardens. I did miss their annual visits!

                                Moraghat Bungalow                    

                                Bhatkawa Bungalow

Our next bungalow was at Bhatkawa Tea Estate, and my garden there didn't have a single Easter lily! I moaned about it for all the three years that we were there. You don't find Easter lilies in nurseries, you get them from friends. My friend in the neighbouring garden didn't have any in her bungalow either, and between us we knew no one in the district on whom we could descend to beg for bulbs.

There are several Easter lilies in the garden where we now live and I'm grateful to the people who must have planted these. They bring back so many memories.

 A good way to start another New Year, giving thanks for life, for family, for friends old and new.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Reflections of An Evening, written 2007

In Delhi, in the seventies, we used to look out for sunsets in the monsoon and post-monsoon months of August and September without fail. In a big and dry city like Delhi, rain was incredibly energetic. It was always a bonus; it brought high spirits, and it spelt romance. Spells of rain never lasted too long, and when they ended by evening, we got the additional treat of a sunset to enjoy and remember.

Evening curfew for a young girl like me in those days was lighting-up time. As soon as the street lights came on, I had to be home. What lovely late evening twilights we had. The light would fade slowly and grandly out of the sky, lingering until the clouds and trees were dark silhouettes. In my imagination, those banked up clouds on the horizon, black and purple masses, were mountains. The return home at the street light hour was followed by prayers in the back verandah. The puja was in the store room that opened off it. The back verandah would be lit only by the fading daylight and the storeroom was beautiful in the dark. It was comforting and yet exciting, and there were many smells that filled it: the sharp smell of the scrubbed brass villakku or the smoky smell of burnt oil wicks, the scent of goodies stored in big biscuit tins, and agarbatti, which dominated, and then took over my senses with its calming effect so that my troubles -- homework undone or a test the next day-- would be washed away. Only the comfort and the safety of my parents' home would remain.

It was remarkable that one could connect to nature in such a profound way in the heart of Delhi.

That was a long time ago, and the habit of enjoying a few quiet moments gathering one's thoughts at the end of the day remains. On some evenings, the day seems to die, and it has a melancholy feel. On other days, there is only a feeling of peace. Today, I was sitting outside our house and looking at the Bhutan Himalayas, purple and black masses against the Northern sky, and I dreamed they were the clouds of my Delhi childhood. One peak stood out sharply defined, perfectly symmetrical, and in the foreground, a gulmohar leaf swayed in the silent breeze. It could have been a calendar picture of Mt.Fuji with a leaf etching in front.

It rained all afternoon after an incredibly hot and sticky morning. The thunder was deafening and it was a really dramatic, high intensity storm. It cleared the air magically. By four o'clock, the sky was washed blue and the hills stood out in clear relief. I walked down to the National Highway -- a straight road leads to it from my house - at about five o'clock, with my head turned right to see the hills. They were silhouettes; I couldn’t see the trees on them at all, but I could see the ranges layered out distinctly. Where the sky met the hills, it was a lighter blue than anywhere else; almost whitish, and luminous. The silence that settled around this spectacle made me imagine it was a pre-dawn scene, as if something big was about to happen soon.
Back from my walk, I sat outside on a swing, with our patient and undemanding dog Simba at my feet. There was a gentle breeze blowing. Birds had returned to their nests and fallen silent. A truck rumbled past on the highway, but it wasn’t an unwelcome sound.

The sound of children playing somewhere in the distance was missing today. It is a typical evening sound. Once I was among children who played in the evenings out in the open, watching anxiously for the lights on the lampposts. Then, as a young adult, I remember sitting and daydreaming on the front steps in the evening and listening to a sad song about a lonely man watching the children play. I sit alone now and the children who played in this garden when they were little have left home. Home and childhood may seem very far away to them too. The complete tranquility and simplicity of those childhood years is lost for ever, but at moments such as these, one can recapture traces of it. 

Published here in my blog in 2007