My fascination with plants and other related beings started some 10 years back. I do not remember my first pot or plant. If I really try hard, I think I can hazily see a "insisted by mom" kanakambaram sapling standing in a lonely pot at the corner of the balcony in the dim corners of my brain! And if you are wondering what the heck is "kanakambaram", that's the Tamil name for Crossandra undulaefolia. Gee, I guess that's even more of a "what the whatever" ;) Before you pick up the nearest item and aim it at the monitor hoping it will reach me, the common name of the plant/flower is Firecracker. Can you believe that???? Such an exotic name for our kanakambaram? I wouldn't have thought of it in my dreams! This is the same orange flower that North Indians disdainfully say South Indians load their heads with. The same flower that moms and mamis pin on their young daughters' hair so thoughtlessly, never mind that the girls are wearing bright blue dresses! Gosh, those days! Today, I will run a mile if anybody even dares approach me offering "Firecrackers" for my hair. Oh my god, no ways!!!!!!!
I do have the nasty (or maybe delightful if you insist) habit of digressing, don't I? Hmm, where was I? Oh, ya..... I was recollecting my gardening history. So like I was saying, it began some 10 years back. Obviously started with a few cheap plants that I could grow myself without buying seeds from the nursery. Like delicious tomatoes. Over and over again. Tomatoes and more tomatoes. My balcony was full of them. I used to get up each morning and run straight to my crops. Was that a bud? Or was that a new leaf? Oh, will you look at those cutie-pies? Those beautiful, beautiful little yellow flowers! Should I help them breed? Perhaps take some pollen from one flower to another? (Those were the times when we were just starting with Botany lessons). And when my humble crop load gave a few tomatoes, I couldn't wait for them to grow bigger. I will choose one fine auspicious day (all in my small mind no thanks for that almanac), pluck them out gently and run into the kitchen offering it as a grand prize to my mom. Home-grown fresh tomatoes straight from the plant. No ma'm, you don’t have to worry about those pesticides. No need to wash them either. Cut them and put them directly into the sambar. Is it done? Ha! Give me a spoonful, will you? I need to taste my produce. Heavenly. Delicious. Oh, my dear tomato plant..... Thank you, thank you so much. Off I run back to my balcony, intent on sowing a few more tomato seeds! Little did I realize that my produce was one tomato in the lot of six that my mom used for that sambar.
Another favorite was "Table rose". I'm sure you will know this one. No, this is not the "rose" rose. This is table rose! Miniature flowers that come in light pink, dark pink, in-between pink, white, white with pink, etc, etc. The reason this is a favorite is of course because it grows oh easily. Even in a kotankuchi. For those who are Tamil-ignoramus, kotankuchi is the left-over shell after you scrap out every bit of coconut from it. A coconut shell, yes. For a kid, even kotankuchi can become a garden. Wow! That came out nicely! A new phrase I've coined all by myself. Go, figure! Better yet, go start using it giving me due credits.
And then there are various other plants which were little harder to grow with limited resources. But try to grow them I did. I remember the Ladies Finger fondly. The deep Yellow to Purple flower and subsequent tiny winy Ladies Finger :) Then there were the unsuccessful attempts to grow Coriander, Jasmine, and Roses.... ha, how can I forget those kakadas?
There came a stage when I used to beg my pop to give me some money to spend on pots, plants and seeds. The indulgent man that he was for his younger daughter, he used to give me the requested amount after a customary round of no-no and nah-nah. With a handful of money (read coins!), I used to skip to the nursery nearby and spend hours together enquiring about different plants to the old patti there. Sometimes, I even convinced the uninterested sister and friends to tag along. Wonder what they were thinking about me then? Probably a budding botanist (pardon the pun!)
Fast forward to a few more years later. My affair with our stationary friends continued uninterrupted across cities and across other people's garden. But then slowly petered out. When I shifted to a PG, I tried. I tried the kotankuchi method. But due to lack of attention, the table rose died. Poor thing. I do believe firmly that plants flourish only when you give them enough attention. And when I say attention, I do not mean water, air and fertilizers. I mean love. I mean taking time out to sit/stand beside them, caress them lovingly, and enquire about their health. About how their day went. About..... how a plant's life is. I used to do it. Grin, grin. And I used to love doing that.
The present day. Though there is a small garden in front of my house, I don't touch it. The big lady of the house along with her husband dominates it. There are only the usual decoration plants. One or two flowering kinds. Sadly, none of them are my kind (Like tomatoes!). But recently, I picked up some nerve, and decided to change the way things are. What better time than when the MIL goes on a long tour. I laid siege to the empty pot cramped between two huge crotons. Got overenthusiastic and sowed both chilies and guess what else? Tomatoes! :) Nobody noticed. Even after MIL returned back. Whenever I had time, I tiptoed to the garden and peered around the crotons to check whether my saplings have come out. They took some time but finally they did. Both of them. After a few days, the chilies became too much for my poor tomatoes. All the tomatoes died :( Only chilies left!
The envisioned future. A big big garden of my own. I shall be the queen and I shall reign supreme. The mister and mistress of the land. Everyone shall ask me permission before setting foot inside the holy land. Yes, including the dumb dog. Oh ye dog's master, you better ensure your dog poops outside before he ventures inside my land. Lest he soil my soil. In the worst case that that happens, I will make him eat his own stuff which I am sure he wouldn't mind anyway!
A garden. Oh, yes please, a garden of my own. A neat vegetable plot on one side, a few flowers spread here and there. One or two medium-sized trees. Some underplanting. And if the surroundings permit, a Mango tree. And I shall sit and pray each day for the birds and bees to come. And when they do come, I will hope with all my heart for them to return and make my garden their home. My little one shall play in their midst.
A dream. Almost a fairy tale. Perhaps I will secretly wish for the fairy circle too.