I love trees. Their presence spells peace for me. When I walk out from under the scorching sunlight and into their cool shade, it instantly reinforces in my mind how invaluable they are in keeping humankind safe. The birdsong emanating from their branches fills me with delight. And a glimpse of a painstakingly constructed nest among the branches is a glad sight indeed.
Off late, I have taken to walking around with my head tilted upwards almost constantly as I am looking at, admiring, trying to identify and often smiling at the various trees I pass by. Often it is just so I can catch site of the incessantly chirping bird hidden among the leaves. O of the squirrel scurrying up the branches. This often happens when I am driving too….yes yes-hazardous to safety but oh so very very soothing to the soul. And no-it’s not only the green I am talking about here. It’s the eye-catching combinations with green that Mother Nature has wrought so beautifully.
The Yellow Amaltas, sways in the breeze,
Crimson and Green-Gulmohar Trees.
Jacaranda Purple, Magnolia Creamy white.
There can be no prettier sight.
….to name just a few.
I cannot put my finger on perhaps the exact age or date that my interest in these guardians of our oxygen began. Perhaps it was in Adampur- where I met my first mulberry trees. They lined our humongous garden and their sweet dark fruit was always underfoot, no matter how many we collected and ate. “shahtoot”(mulberries) ever since has been a large rambling garden of a corner house in Adampur.
The Silk cotton or “semal” is another such tree which I met along the way of my journeys as a child growing up in The Indian Air Force. Tall and majestic, one of the first things I noticed were the big, red flowers which lined this tree in Spring and fell on the road, rendering it slippery but beautiful nonetheless. This imposing tree metamorphoses from a ruby-red flower encrusted wonder in Spring, to shedding all its leaves and then sporting the most brilliantly green and calming leaves. Each stage is wondrous to view -from the flowering to the seeds ripening and the “semal” or “silk cotton” bursting forth and rolling along in joy across the garden paths and grass. A soft gentle sight of sheer happiness. The innocence of childhood and the playmates of yore.
This past spring, I happened to be in slow-moving traffic which had briefly halted completely. I was on a road where several silk cotton trees were in full flower. As I gazed up from window, I saw a bright green parakeet land near one of the flowers. The brilliance of those two colours against the bright blue sky was astounding and will stay with me as one of the most beautiful sights I have seen.
About the same time as I first met the silk cotton, the other tree I came across was “Harsingar” or “Parijat”. It stood at the entrance to our garden and come (mid) September and the tree would burst into flower.
The walkway would be carpet of white and orange -A sight to gladden the heart and one definite plus in favour of being an early bird! Back then, I used to string them into a garland for my mother’s hair. Now, I float them in bowls of water and place them all around the house to see and enjoy. As a recollection of a barrack style house in Princes’ Park, New Delhi where these delicate flowers fit for queens bloomed in fragrant splendour.
These three form part of my strongest memories from the nomadic existence of the Air Force. Since then, I have seen many many more trees, but none of them held the draw these have had. I meet these trees across different ages and in different places. I met them one at a time and then, perhaps did not even register consciously their presence. Today, when I come across ALL of them in and around where I live, I enjoy them in double measure. As a long ago memory of my years growing up and as part of my little girls moments as she grows up with them.
As I finished writing this down, she came and gave me a “shahtoot” off the tree in her park. Life just completed a beautiful full circle for me.
(This post was published in The April-May 2014 issue of The Salute Magazine)