I’ll let her rest today, my weary soul, I’ll let her rest.
She has been wandering for long, looking for solace in rented corners and trying to hang pictures, grow creepers and generally make a house her home, between borrowed, mostly bare, white walls. Forever she wanted a few earthen pots of jasmine to add fragrance to the scorching summer in Lutyen’s and a big pot of dark purple bougenvilla to add colour to her lonely afternoons. She even had plans for the little corner of their barsaati, she had wanted ferns, wind chimes and a bird-feeder. And in all her immature, twenty something excitement, she did gather a few plants for her not so permanent address.
I remember, she had bought herself a big pot of plump, white Gandharaj, with glossy, lush leaves, in the hope that if it ever happened to rain upon the National Capital Region, the heavy citrus scent of the Gandharaj will lend itself to the warm, wet, earthy scent swirling up from the parched, hot rain soaked streets of Dilli. I also remember that it had died a painful death. The scorching, unforgiving summer sun that year did not let it rain much over the Rajdhani. And she had to be away from her barsaati for a few days. The Gandharaaj had died of grief in her absence and the summer sun of ’99 had just added to its grief.
She tried again. This time things were even more difficult, because she wanted a green corner in the heart of a desert city, within the air-conditioned comfort of an enormous apartment, in which, she could hear her heart beat if it happened to beat faster for any reason. ‘I love plants, but how can you grow plants in this heat?’ had shared her friendly neighbour, who loved to bake in her free time, which was ample in the desert city, ‘So I make do with these artificial plants.’ I remember, she had secretly winced, my soul, at the mention of the lifeless, plastic ‘plants’ of all shapes and sizes. Other portly ladies of the desert ciy of Happily Ever After had agreed. Only the Bangladeshi chap who ran her neighbourhood air conditioned nursery believed that it was possible to grow real plants. And she was ready to believe Hamid Bhai, the man who walked with a limp and had green fingers. His shop boasted of the best varieties of ivy, palm, ferns, monstera, spathiliums and some of them found corners within her quiet, placid walls and their air conditioned comfort. But my soul yearned for more greens in the dry, barren land. She was forever greedy to fill up empty pots and glasses with a branch of this and a stem of that. She would fill up the glasses with pebbles and water for the water-loving Devil’s Ivy stems, so that she could easily uproot them when it was time.
And soon it was time. This time I had merrily uprooted my soul from the unforgiving, barren desert land to borrow a few walls in Maximum City, a city that was green, because the sun was gentle and it poured when it rained. The clouds here flirted and played with me : a sudden streak of lightning, a clap of thunder, a shower here and a drizzle there. Here the soul found the old, forgotten, moist earthy smell swirling up to her lofty window when it rained, she found new shoots bursting through dusty, brown barks with the touch of spring.
And this morning, I found my soul, in the new, permanent balcony, among my new plants, among my mogra, chameli and aparajita, lost in a reverie. She had gone back to a time that can now be as old as history, on a terrace in a forgotten alley, in the heart of Calcutta. There, in one corner of the terrace lined with pots of manicured foliage sat her grandfather, in his pristine white ‘photua‘ (bush shirt), bent over a pot of jasmine, pulling out weeds, pruning the twigs and turning up the top soil. It was home, among those pots, among those peeling walls, under that roof and today she was home again, on her own balcony, among plants that will continue to flower for a long time to come, in her permanent address. Would she still wander, in search of that little patch of green where I will spread my roots deeper than ever before, without the fear of uprooting myself anymore, who knows?