What gardens will tell you
Two-thirds of my garden is an Oleander tree
that has leaned across the boundary wall
and collected on an old Premier Padmini
in a quilt of pink flowers
the thing I keep learning about my garden is
it can never belong to me.
2: Ohar’ and the chikoo tree
There’s a chikoo tree downstairs, planted by someone called K.K. Manohar. When it is in season, children rip through muddy chikoo skin, eyes like shiny seeds, eager to sink their teeth into the grainy sweetness within. No one thinks of this K.K. Manohar, not the parakeets who visit and leave behind half-pecked chikoos for willing worms and ants. Not even the lady from the third floor who makes milkshakes every Sunday keeping the biggest, ripest chikoo for herself.
In fact the only evidence of K.K. Manohar is a fading plaque now obscured by a long acacia leaf, so all that remains of him is an ‘ohar’.
That, and the sweetness of chikoos.
3: The garden says you were here…
in three plucked flowers
and a half-eaten guava in the mud
with the impression of your teeth,
like a signature.
The now retired Col. Jayakumar named his daughters like a gaudy bouquet. Unsurprisingly, Chameli and Roja proved to be overwhelming when together, but quite lovely on their own.
Before the husband she has now, Shilpa didi says she was once married to a peepal tree in the building garden. She still visits this peepal tree husband, to lean on it, on tired days. A better husband, she says, than the one she has could ever be.
6: A slightly far-fetched theory where romance is a survival story
My mother had a friend called Neema Aunty, whose entire library was stuffed into one plywood shelf in the drawing room. A shelf where slender romances from the ’70s jostled for space between cookbooks and Reader’s Digests’ ‘Most Gripping Survival Stories.’ It appeared that Neema Aunty was practical, but she was also a romantic.
And if her bookshelf was a clue, her garden was a confirmation of this fact.
For months, she tried to coax a dying rose bush back to life. But all that flourished in her garden were tomatoes. Desperate, she carved those tomatoes into roses and garnished our salads with her tomato-roses.
Everyone knows roses are romantic. So, is my theory far-fetched?
Meanwhile, I know our cook’s garden
from the berries and flowers that grow
on her neat little bun in a tight circle
7: There’s a code in the touch-me-nots
I knew you were wrong for an
introvert like me
when you prodded
the touch-me-nots over and over
watching them curl into themselves
trying to learn their secrets
my garden had told you everything
you just weren’t listening.