Papa messaged last night. He is in Daltenganj- mesmerised by the yet untouched jungles and mountains of Jharkhand. Broad, rough leaves and bright orange flowers of Palash- I remember him mentioning a decade ago on our way to Ranchi. The highway was all broken those days, and the sidelines were home to Palash trees- the state flower of Jharkhand. I was happy for the existence of horticulture department that day. I came to Bangalore that year. The connection with wilderness that was ignited in Jharkhand would continue in the happy green campus of HAL. The next year after moving to the new city was the year I planted plants in pots for the first time. They would not last as long. I got dengue and had to be in hospital for some days with no one to water them. There was also a habit of taking leaves and going home or travel in southern India’s monsoon ghats. Since then, I have tried to plant greens in cloistered balconies, as sheltered enclaves in the city life, with long breaks in between. They do not have the freedom of the wild berries of countryside in Jharkhand, but at least they are a symbol of our roots and longing.
What is it that makes gardening an activity of joy and calm? Firstly, gardening is a lesson in patience, It’s a slow moving activity. Changes take time and you await the plant to respond. A day of sunshine, a different timing of watering, an evening of thunderstorm- all pass and are forgotten. Second is the joy of watching things grow. You see a life bloom, with some of your effort helping it prosper. Certainly, there are elemental factors just as important as your intervention, and yet, there is some condolence in helping that germ come to life. Lastly, I think I also enjoy the mechanics of it. The fact that each species has different needs and wants, that they can do good given their basic needs are met is reminder of our struggles in uncertain, unknown places.
I made a sketch of the “Spirit of India” plant yesterday. I have four of them, in rather small pots- the ones they handed us in the nursery. They are around 3 feet in height- quite an achievement for the size of pots, and I am quite proud of them.