Sunday, July 3

Waves

It's the monsoon and watery green dominates the view from my window. It's a colour I love because I'm mad on plants. My dream house would have a large garden where neem, mango, jackfruit and jamun trees would flourish. Maybe pomegranate, peru and chickoo (sapodilla is such a strange word) too. Of course there would be a kitchen garden for the chillies and lemons, kadipatta and dhania.

Right now, my passion for gardening is quenched by the earth-coloured pots and plants fighting for space in the drawing room window. Some of the leafy warriors are at least 20 years old while others were planted last year. Tulsi of course grows wherever it likes, making its home in multiple pots at once. Yet, every time I look at them, it is with more than a twinge of sadness. Because this is the first time in years they are growing without the gardener.

A slight old man. That's how I remember him. An old man with slouching shoulders, in a shirt no longer white and brown trousers. A tatty Nehru hat perched unsteadily. No one at home can recall ever seeing him bareheaded. Bloodshot, rheumy eyes and a nut-brown face scoured with lines. Flecks of white bristle on his cheeks. Most of his teeth were gone, lost to the ravages of time and chewing tobacco. The rest formed a chaotic Stonehenge, visible when he smiled, which was often. His voice felt like it was coming from underwater. He spoke a peculiar dialect of Marathi and very dodgy Hindi so our conversations were interesting, to say the least. He would show up on Sundays, potter around with the sickle for 15 minutes and leave. In those 15 minutes, he and I would talk about the health of our current crop and whether we ought to plant something else. Every once in a while we'd actually do the latter, which meant me hauling the pot outside the house, arranging for newspaper, ensuring the soil didn't spread all over and listening to his instructions about when to water the latest arrival.

He wasn't the most reliable person. He'd go off on leave for weeks without letting us know. He'd miss at least one Sunday a month. He'd ponderously and indignantly protest any hint of a cut in salary because of his absence and I never had the heart to do it. He also had a mysterious dislike for flowers so we hardly have any at home right now. But, god almighty, the man's thumbs were green. All his other fingers too, come to that.

In an odd way, over the last (as far as I can guess) 14 years, we became friends. I'd tease him, mock-threaten to sack him, plead with him to get more interesting plants and ask his advice on how to protect them from pests. Almost every Sunday, the bell would ring around 11 am and my dad would say "your friend is here". I'd open the door and he'd be there, beaming.    

I saw him for the last time sometime in March. He'd been missing more than his fair share of weekend visits so we thought nothing of it till the end of April. Even in mid-May I supposed that he'd gone to his village and would be back anytime. Except that he never did. On some Sundays, the bell would ring around 11 am and I'd open the door, half-ready to admonish the geezer but it was always someone else.

I think you've gone to the big green garden in the sky. Where, no doubt, you'll be happy growing everything except flowers. An old man in a shirt no longer white and brown trousers. A tatty Nehru hat on your head and a smile on your face. I will always remember you that way. And, you will live on through the plants in my window. Maybe one day, we'll meet under a great, spreading tree in a green field, sun shining golden with that special 4 pm Pune light in a blue sky, amidst a gentle wave of susurration. Until then, thank you.

Song for the moment: Sanpo Suru - Jasmon

3 comments:

Gobri said...

Do not know how I missed this post. I also dream of a house with thriving front and back yards. And I always imagine a slight disorganisation to the entire thing. It should have a look of the 'wild' attached with it. I recently came across this article. You might like it.
http://modernfarmer.com/2016/07/summer-rayne-oakes/

G said...

You & I share very similar ideas about the perfect garden. And the woman in the article is a pro! Know I won't be able to pull that off. Not sure I want to.

Gobri said...

Oh yeah, the woman's house looks awesome for a visit. Doubt I could stay there all the time.