It’s raining here in Kerala, my favourite time of the year. Yesterday, as I was waiting outside my apartment building, I spotted a flower on the wet ground. It had fallen from the Chembaka tree that stands guard outside our building. On a whim I picked up the flower and felt the waxy petals, soft and curling around the edges. I realized that I hadn’t touched a flower in a very long time. The tiny screen of my phone offers a plethora of images of glossy exotic flowers when required, but the actual sensation of running my fingers over a flower had eluded me. The joy of inhaling the scent of summer afternoons and wet rainy days that flowers hold within them had been missing from my life.
I love plants and flowers. Unfortunately I’m a very unsuccessful gardener, what with my brown thumbs and propensity for killing houseplants. So I’ve been staying away from flora of any kind, satisfying my inner gardener by draping myself over the balcony railing and gazing down soulfully at my neighbor’s amazing garden. Recently I couldn’t control myself and brought home two hapless plants. I stay as far away from them as possible but still the leaves tremble when I pass by. The thought does pop up in my mind whether the reason is the playful wind or brown-thumbed me.
While my love-story with plants proceeds on its rocky path, my relationship with flowers has been more cordial. It might also be due to the memories associated with the fragrances of different flowers. As I caressed the petals of my fallen flower yesterday, I was overwhelmed by a mélange of precious memories which tumbled out from my room of memories and settled all around me. At that moment I couldn’t savour them as I had to leave. But I gathered them up and shook them out that night while I curled up in bed with the soothing murmur of raindrops keeping me company.
There’s a wealth of possibility in a flower. It’s capable of arousing the most varied emotions in a person, just by being. The scent of tuberoses takes me back to my wedding. I can’t help smiling when I think of my grandmother’s strict instructions not to be too talkative during the ceremony to the bridegroom who had been my best friend for the past two years. Or the part where my father, who was supposed to place my hand in Mr A’s hand, happily took the latter’s hand and placed it in mine. The memories give me a chance to see my father’s hearty smile and feel his presence once again.
The flowers also transport me back to my mother’s puja room where the slightly floral scent of incense together with the dim glow of the oil lamp combined to give an otherworldly feeling. It was the place where my mother communed with Gods who had benevolent eyes and Mona Lisa smiles. No matter the turmoil in my mind, this memory centers me and gives me peace.
Jasmine flowers are largely associated with love and longing, but to me they are symbols of the simplicity of my childhood. We had a jasmine plant at home that was diligently nurtured by our household help, a wonderful lady with the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, even though the plant grew lush and healthy, it did not yield many flowers. But every evening, she would collect a couple of those flowers, which made up for their sparse numbers by their intoxicating scent, place them in a small dish and keep it on our dining table. If the number of flowers increased even marginally, they would be placed in the puja room. Nostalgic memories of a seemingly uncomplicated life.
A fallen flower can also take me to my college days when windy rainy afternoons and overcast skies brought with it a feeling of anticipation and romance. Gusts of wind carrying the fragrance of life and the freshness of rain would sweep flowers off their perches on trees, some to be trampled, others to be blown away and some special ones to be given to dear ones.
These and many more thoughts associated with flowers flit through my mind like a silent film which only I can watch. As I lie in bed cozily wrapped in those warm memories I am lulled into sleep clutching that fallen chembaka flower in my hand.