‘Yun hota toh kya hota’: Talk of flowers, talk of life under pandemic
In the annals of Hindi cinema, flowers, bloom, and verdure are associated with youth yet for me it is not so. My earliest memory of flowers is set in childhood, and it remains as fragrant today as a freshly bloomed rose in a garden. Seven-year-old me liked the sight of pencils and scales of different shapes and sizes on my engineer father’s desk. I often asked my father if I could join him on this drawing adventure. I marveled at the neat crisscrossing of lines through hundreds of tiny square boxes on graph paper.
He, in turn, laughed at my naïve requests and drew out some flower sketches. I was told, if I filled it with bright colors, a silver butterfly will befriend me. This thought excited me, and I marched ahead with a box of crayons. The zig-zag and untidy filing of colors were highly praised. To make my tender childhood heart feel more appreciated, these sketches found their way on the steel wardrobe where they were pasted with adhesive tape.
I was still chasing the elusive friendship of silver butterflies on pencil-drawn flowers when I lost my father to cancer. I was 11 that time. There was no one to make flower drawings anymore and the forlorn steel wardrobe stared out with no tokens of appreciation. As I grew up, I held on to those old crumpled flower sketches for a long time. I tried to find unknown answers for my father’s sudden loss.
Seasons changed, more intense attachments lead to worse detachments, the pain felt so close and happiness a distant journey. I held myself back a lot trapped in the mire of “what ifs” and lost in the mazes of “should traps.”
Today, I find myself yet again caught at the crossroads of life when a deadly pandemic has engulfed the world around. Even as it continues to spread its tentacles far, and wide, and takes away young lives every day, I ask myself the same question. What if things were not so bad? Yun hota toh kya hota…
In those moments of chaos, I look for sudden reassurance and some momentary mental relief. Voila! It comes from the same flowers.
Nostalgia tells me that I took to growing flowers way back when I was a teenager. My hands with a garden trowel (rambe in local parlance) acted quite clumsily in the beginning. I struggled hard to plant delicate saplings. “It’s like teaching a toddler to take the first steps,” our gardener said once, in an attempt to be helpful.
In this process, I always enjoyed reading the wealth of background that came laden along with each flower.
The hardy panzeen (pansies), symbolizing free thoughts, became my foul weather friends. They were easier to grow. I saw them bravely withstanding the extreme hardships of Chillaikalan. The edible flowers showed up with a tiny bloom after the snow melted off, whilst giving two hoots about the vagaries of weather.
Sadabahaar (periwinkle) in May was a misnomer. It was not ever-blossoming and wilted within some days. So happened with the ever-lasting relationships. However, the flower came with healing through its enduring medicinal properties. So came the lasting lessons with each detachment.
I woke up to the sight of yellow smiling Gul-e-Aftab (sun-flower) in June and July. Come evening, and the warm smile on the long oval petals turned to a frown with every sunset. This sunny friendship lasted for two months and gave me vitamin-rich seeds as a return gift on their departure. Something to boost my well-being. Every departure was not bad, was it? I asked myself…
Mawalin (globe amaranth), in August-September, was given in the Victorian era as a way to say, “My love will never fade or die!” It attracted both children and butterflies. The fallen blooms in the garden were picked by my kid cousins. They made flower necklaces by stringing them together. I had read somewhere, how fallen broken objects in Japan were often repaired with gold, and the flaw was seen as a unique piece of the object’s history. So was this fallen mawalin bloom a broken piece, and necklaces made out of them our beautiful flaws??
Wozul golaab (Red Roses), however, stuck with me for a long time, and when Faiz’s autumn came in October they too began to lose their charm. The velvety petals began to fall off each day with a gentle plop. I was left sulking. I held onto the pruned blooms for a long time and preserved them in the same way between book pages as I kept my father’s crumpled flower sketches.
The petals resulted in clutter and littered my room. Their grief strangled my heart…. I decided to let go, Perhaps, the God of May, like the poet said, would sanctify the bare plants, and leave my heart with new vigor and hope.
And so the new beginnings come along, as I opened the window to the pearly blossom on almond trees on a sunny spring morning….. Bahar aayi to jaise ek bar, laut aaye hain phir adam se, wo khwaab sare, shabab sare………