Sunday, May 4, 2008

SOWING, REAPING, REMEMBERING...

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?

11 comments:

Steve Ballmer said...

I have a garden too, we have more in comon than you think

Keshi said...

I dun hv a garden tho :( Sis does.

But I love trees, plants, flowers and nature. THE BEST.

Keshi.

Jaquanda Rae said...

Lovely visuals. I could imagine it happening while reading. Well, at my second home I resided there for only two years, when I was 9 til 11. A short stay but a lovely experience: A lot of land and greenery. We had a garden going right around the house - big ackee tree that bore fruit regularly so on a regular basis, we had my favourite breakfast of ackee and saltfish and breadfruit ( we also had a breadfruit tree.) To the back of the house, we had tamarind and also guava...even olives. I used to climb the guava tree and eat plump yellow guavas, unwashed but cleansed by using a small piece of the flesh and wiping it all over the guava. Next door, we also had a garden with pineapples, otaheite apples, mangoes and other fruits that I can't remember now. We also had cherries so we made delicious cherry juice and we had bananas and plantains as well. Man! Now I miss that home...we're currently facing a food price crisis out here...I could do with some home grown produce.

Jaquanda Rae said...

Btw...the poem/story of footprints is spot on. I remembered it immediately when I looked at my watch.

Saptarshi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mm said...

I have some memories of our garden where I spent most of my growing up years.
We did have a few rose plants - some unusual colors like black as well. The first time there was a black rose - the whole family was pretty excited. Then there was a very common pink rose plant which flowered profusely but they were small flowers and the petals would fall off very easily.
The other plants I can recollect are hibiscus and canna.
We had some vegetables in our garden too - I remember the potatoes, the cauliflower and the drumstick. There might have been others but I cannot recollect. We had a gardener who would come on certain days of the week to take care of our garden.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Hi everybody,

Thanks for the gardening tips. Gardens are lovely places, aren't they, full of growing things - plants, animals, children...
I am lucky to stay in a place in Mumbai where there are large common/shared gardens between the highrises. So my daughters are also growing up amidst nature.

Aleta said...

You write so eloquently! I feel as if you wisked me back to your secret garden!

I have a garden right now, two actually. One of them I'm growing morning glories from seeds and oh the vine is growing lovely. I have to update my blog with pictures of the flowers.

My grandmother's home is lined with roses. She loves roses and she has the green thumb to grow them. She tends to her garden every day and the flowers rejoice!

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Hi Aleta,

Thanks and I am waiting to check out the pictures of (or poems about) your morning glory and your grandmother's roses.

Paul Bernard said...

I don't have a garden now. I live in a flat. Out of my window, though, I can see the river in the distance and, on a clear day, I can see the Welsh mountains...
My growing up garden was quite small and I enjoyed playing football and cricket in it (though the balls would usually end up going over the fence!
We also had a large and mystical conifer tree in one corner of the garden. (I'd forget this stuff it wasn't for your wonderful blog). I would like to reach in, like that scene from Flash Gordon, and feel around the brnches, or perhaps put my head in and feel how cool and dark it was. And the smell, like being in a pine forest. Sometimes blackbirds might nest in there too.
If I had kids I would tell them to come and read these tales and memories. Teachers could use them too, to contextualise Eastern cultures.
Methinks a book beckons...

tina said...

the garden i grew up with was a garden of clay and plastic pots lined up in rows along the cemented paths linking the garage to the back yard. our back yard was cemented over when i was very little; aside from two square holes in the cement for our fruit trees (one santol and one apple-mango), there was no soil to be seen that wasn't in a pot. we had a variety of short bushes, tiny flowering plants and disheveled spider plants hanging from the branches of the fruit trees; my mother kept buying orchids and dried-out driftwood to hang the orchids on, but they never lasted long. i loved picking flowers and leaves and tearing them apart along the veins and sinews; i was allowed to pick anything i wanted except the orchids. my favorite was the pink-petalled, virtually scentless kalachuchi; i knew exactly where the soft, almost invisible fuzz began along the insides of the flower's tubular body, and i relished the silken feel of torn petals sliding past my fingers as i peeled the flower down to its clump of vermicelli-like stamens.