What gardens will tell you

3 min readMar 6



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

(your camellias)

and a half-eaten guava in the mud

with the impression of your teeth,

like a signature.

4: Overkill.

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

every Monday.

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

about me,

you just weren’t listening.