Fragrant connections


One of my dear friends has invited me over to to her house to celebrate Sankranti, the Indian harvest festival. As part of the rituals, my friend dabs a little perfume on the back of my palms. The perfume is of the champak flower. I inhale deeply, the perfume is fresh and fragrant.

The fragrance transports me to my husband’s childhood home, where his parents had planted two champak trees, when they started construction of their home after marriage. The trees are more than fifty years old now, and form a fragrant archway at the entrance to our home. Both trees are still flowering.

When he was still with us, it was my dad-in-law’s job to collect the champak flowers from both trees. Since the trees straddle three floors, one has to go up to the terrace on the third floor to pick the flowers. A specially designed long stick, with a small hook at one end, was the tool of choice to gently nudge the fragrant flowers from their branches. The flowers were collected in an orange bag (a wire bag made at home by my husband’s mom). The beautiful creamy yellow of the champak flowers beautifully contrasted with the orange of the bag. Once he was done, my dad-in-law would leave it in the living room. My mom-in-law would retain a few flowers for herself, to offer at the altar during prayers. The rest were for neighbours, who would drop-in at various times to take the champak flowers. Some would call from the gate, and my mom-in-law would pass it to them after a quick chit chat. Some neighbours would come home and stay for a cup of coffee and exchange local news.

By noon, the orange bag would be empty and go back to its rack in the store room, till the next time. In the evenings, when the sun would go down in the sky, and a gentle, cool breeze would blow, the delightful and invigorating fragrance of the champak flowers would waft in the air. We would usually stand at the entrance and close our eyes in bliss.

All the nostalgic memories come back to me now, as I bid bye to my friend and thank her for her hospitality. Beautiful champak flowers, fragrant memories and deep friendships. I sigh in pure contentment.

Home garden


There is something so beautiful about having plants at home, especially when there is no space for a huge garden.

My husband’s mom talks about how green the area had been, when she and my father in law had moved into their new home after marriage. More than five decades have rolled by, and there are buildings everywhere. My mom-in-law loves and nurtures all her plants.

There are two beautiful Magnolia campaca trees at the entrance of the house. One of them yields fragrant, creamy-yellow flowers. Their trunks have grown with our home – spreading out branches, sprouting leaves, blooming flowers and watching over the goings-on in the neighbourhood.

There are many potted plants, hibiscus, sweet pea, star jasmine, creepers, tulasi, curry leaves, green chilli and coriander. As I walk around the compound, I enjoy the mid-morning breeze, as the clothes on the clotheslines flutter in unison.

The leaves of the hibiscus plant are a deep, shiny green. There is a beautiful bud, waiting for the right time to bloom.

Just above the hibiscus plant is the Ixora coccinea plant, a shrub commonly found in the region. The bright orangeish-red flowers are a treat to the eyes. I call them ‘drops of sunshine’.

One of the branches has two bud clusters that look identical. They look like sisters….sharing some childhood time, laughing merrily, gossiping with each other, and swaying in the breeze, little knowing that they may each bloom differently.

There is a strange peace that comes in watching the champak tree. The clear blue of the sky can be seen through its leaves, as a crow caws lazily in the background.

There is a joy in watering the plants, and watching the soil soak it all in.

There is peace. Everything is just as it should be.