My growing-up garden was also a hub of human (and other animal) activity.
Every morning in the holidays, I and my brother would take the phuler saji (flower-basket) and gather flowers for my mother and aunt, who would use them for the daily pujo (worship) of the thakurer-ashon (the seat of the gods).
We were strictly instructed to collect the more plentiful flowers (shiuli, jaba, tagar), and leave the roses and the lilies alone. I remember my mother and Baroma (aunt) diligently emptying the discarded tea-leaves from the tea-strainer at the foot of the rose-bush, trying to coax the sullen plant to bloom more often.
The coconut trees needed no coaxing – every year dozens of heavy green coconuts would grow at the top, and dadu (granddad) would caution us not to play under the coconut trees lest the nuts fall on us and crack our skulls. Every year, dida (grandmother) would call the coconut-tree-climber : the dark, lithe man who would tie a piece of rope around his ankles and skim swiftly up the coconut trees to chop off the nuts with his scythe. Two coconuts were part of his fees for the job, and then my dida would distribute the rest of the hoard among various aunts and uncles and their families. The coconut leaves would be dried on the roof to make brooms for the house (sadly, gifting brooms was not socially acceptable).
In summer, whenever there would be a kalboisakhi (tropical summer storm), we would rush to the garden to collect unripe green mangoes falling from the trees (from our tree and from the neighbour’s tree which peered into our garden), getting wet and then relishing the storm-scarred, sour fruits with salt and red chilli powder.
Not all was rush and bustle, however. I loved to wander about in the garden, watching the slow movement of the snails on the lichen-y brick walls. I also liked to see the earthworms wriggling about, forming curly soil-mounds after the rains.
I remember taking the dry brown betelnuts, scraping off part of the outer covering and drawing faces (the remaining cover looked like a shaggy fringe) on them to make heads for home-made dolls (medicine-bottles made the bodies). Baba (father) showed us how to blow bubbles with papaya-stems and soapy water, and to boil the orange shiuli-stems to make yellow-dye for dolls-clothes.
I had always wanted a swing in the garden (who doesn’t?), but there was no tree suitably-branched or sturdy enough, so my father made one with jute rope on our staircase-landing, perched on which I could glimpse a part of the garden. If I tried hard enough, I could imagine I was in the garden, swinging under the sky.
WHAT DID YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR GROWING-UP GARDEN?