Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wild Shades

White, Rose, Scarlet and a myriad shades in between...How could these flowers not be pretty? How can these flowers not make anyone happy? No one can be resistant to their charm, I am sure. If there is a paradise, these celestial vines and their bunches of prettiness will grace many of its corners, I am sure...
They hold a special place in my heart. No matter how many Roses or Zinnias or Tulips or Crocuses or Orchids tempt me, these little wild beauties will always be my favorite flower.
When I was in school and went into a gardening fit all of a sudden, I would tell my mom that next time I went to my grandmother’s house, I would bring back stems of the plant and try growing it in our garden. Each time I told her this, she would tell me that it was madness to bring all that wilderness into our neat little garden.
They used to bloom in wild profusion in a corner of the grounds at my mother’s ancestral home. For me , the heaven that used to be school summer vacation, a part of which would be spend at that native place, was colored with a bunch of cousins, days and nights of games, fun & frolic , yummy food, mindless freedom, happy sleep and these wildflowers.
The scent of these flowers and that home, both haunt my memory. Most of all, the happiness that house used to exude...None of which is left now. Not even an insignificant bit of what used to be there.
My little cousin brother used to come and call me when those vines where in full bloom. Sometimes, he plucked a bunch and brought it home for me. The memory still brings a smile to my face. In evening solitude, when I sit by my small veranda in this crowded city, looking up at the little piece of sky visible in between building tops, I think of those vibrant, many shaded flowers, their delicate scent that used to float by in the happy evenings, my grandmother, my little cousin , and I feel...
It would be late evening. All of us cousins, after a hectic day of playing, would be loitering in the front yard thinking up a new and less wild game to play at this late hour, so that the grown-ups wouldn't make much of a ruckus about it. Then the call would come. First our grandmother, then our aunties (of whom we had many, since my mom’s five brothers and their families lived nearby), one-by-one, would call out “Children, go wash your hands, legs and face! Light the lamp and read the sandhyanaamam! Go!!”
After all the grownups repeated this at least twice, we would line up at the water tank, use the hose to splatter water and wash up. Then off to the ‘nadu-muri’ or ‘middle room ‘ of the house ,as that room used to be called, one of us would light the ‘nilavilakku’ , the brass lamp, place it on the floor facing east, everyone one would sit down in front of it, grandmother would sit on the cot behind us to supervise and the ‘Sandhyanaamam’ chanting would begin. After most of SriRama’s story was  done, would come ‘Harinaama Keerthanam’. And boy, was it tough to read!!And seemed never- ending at the time. They wouldn’t let us get up until we had finished reading all the books, prayed to all the Gods.
When it was finally done, we would get up, a little calmed down by the disciplined activity of an hour or so , go out to the long veranda and sit down, feeling  the balmy breeze of the late summer evening, each one thinking of all and sundry things.
It was then, that the delicate scent would come floating by. I knew it was the scent of the wildflowers. I would tell my grandmother, that those flowers were blooming.
She knew it. She would tell my cousins, “This girl likes those flowers so much!”  She knew it... She was a kindred spirit...
These flowers, I recently found out, are called Quisqualis Indica or Rangoon creeper. Quis qualis translated from Latin means ‘Who? What?’.Apparently the plant confused the explorers and taxonomists who discovered these plants. They would start as small shrubs, grow into creepers and given favourable condition, even become invasive plants. We used to refer to them as ‘Kaattupoo’ or ‘wild-flower’ .This name also seems apt. It used to grow wild, helter-skelter over the place, the oblong green leaves forming a thick foliage and a fitting backdrop for the beautiful flowers to bloom and nuzzle in. The buds are white with a touch of pink . It blooms late in the evening or night into a white five- petal flower, with a whisper of pink. The night blooming flowers emit a pleasing fragrance. When the young flower sees the first rays of the sun, it stars to turn pink. By evening the flower would have turned wholly pink. Older flowers put on a reddish pink hue. The blooming result of all these shades is a pleasure to behold. And because of the changing colours, a bunch usually has flowers of many shades of white, pink and red.
It’s like these flowers hold a bunch of secret shades that make you wonder, perfume the air around with a scent that pleasures the senses ,making dreamers out of ordinary people, growing wildly, without a care, against all rules , thriving in the world with firm footing on earth,  saying old stories of long lasting childhood memories...

Some Info about the flower:
Common Name: Rangoon Creeper, Chinese Honeysuckle
Telugu Name: Radha Manoharam
Marathi Name: Vilayati chambeli
Hindi: Lal Chameli, Madu Malati
Tamil Name: Irangun malli