Hands holding the dried seeds of hope,
Can feel the breeze under the shed of the majestic pine trees.
Body is soil and soil is body,
Both engraved memories of soulful Nature.
In the sticky, sweating and humid July of summers in Kolkatta, as far as I can move my eyes, I see tall buildings and taller piles of smog, enveloping the sunny breeze and growing bigger. That, until it becomes a smog storm and settles on our skin. And the sky looks in pain, pretending that everything is green on the other side. On the sixth floor of our residence, I can see a pair of unknown species of migratory birds, delightfully pouncing from one branch to the other. Every evening I would notice a pandemonium of parrots, flying from the west towards the other side. I wondered where they had found a mangrove in Kolkatta and my mind would reminisce the little things in our terrace garden that has been my Innisfree.
Gardening has been something that has shaped the walls of our home, our very existence and our beliefs seem to reflect on the plants, trees and everything that grows with love in our terrace garden. It’s more the 20 years old. It just feels like yesterday, when I saw my grandmother in the open courtyard, plucking the juicy large bitter gourds that had grown on the little patched mud railing. Mom would be making fried bitter gourds that I would devour the whole day. Who could love bitter gourds? But the larger ones are never bitter at all, they are of just a different breed of vegetables and I have always loved different things.
Today, a sad tone hangs around in the garden. It’s the eve of Eid and I cannot help but remember the loss that has left uprooted branches of my soul, extending a hand out for warmth and love. In this garden on full moon nights, under the shed of columned gauva, mangoes, pomegranates, papaya and lemons, grandmother narrated tales after tales. We played chess and carrom during power cuts, we played cricket and flew kites during afternoons. I danced my heart out and sailed paper boats during monsoons, painted during sunsets and read my favourite novels aloud. Tending to a garden is like tending to one’s life, it’s like going back to the past again and again and heal through the sounds and breeze of patched memories.
We always have been fond of plants and animals, mom even had a farm of 50 chickens in a bamboo shed build especially for them, to have organic eggs, fresh from you know where, and I would run around to catch one on time.
A tank of 100 to 200 fishes, 300 birds which we set free because we couldn’t bear their forlorn chirping, more than 20 rabbits, 50 wild pigeons, ducks and ducklings.
It now seems hilarious to me but I have learned from our animals that life is really simple and based on want of food, shelter, cloth and passing on the DNA of knowledge from one generation to the other. Nothing other than that ever makes sense and we only go looking for that and thus, our dilemma of existence.
The freshly picked beans with tomatoes and homemade mango pickle, spinach with brinjal, green papaya salad with prawns, green chilli pickle with mustard, tulsi leaves in lemon tea, sautéed mustard leaves in paratha, Gondhoraj lemon drinks, red cherry and desi tomatoes in fish, pickled ladies finger, pumpkin salad, and everything that is possible in Kolkata weather, my mother grew and prepared special delicacies. All it needs is the knowledge of soil, homemade composte, seeds, care and love. Whenever your heart longs for nature, you can have it right where you live. Even if you have a limited space, you can always use plastics cups, curd pots, buckets, water tanks, battery box, milk cartons, chemicals container, bath tubs, soft drink bottles and anything that you want to discard. You can recycle them by planting columned trees, shrubs and plants, both indoor and outdoor.
Imagine if these gardens could be made in each concrete buildings, cars, bridges, and smoked corners, with the recycling consciousness, we could make memories for ourselves. We won’t be the indoor generation any longer, we could become that child and that adult who will have stories of nature to share with friends and family. We have the blessings of life and nature; civilization and ignorance has taken it away. It pains me if anyone uproots trees or plants or even grass. Even if it doesn’t yield fruits, flowers or vegetables, it yields a soothing calmness. It is my darkest sorrow. I find solace in my garden, because I have plated saplings with my mother and grandmother and seen them grow into a calming Innisfree. And to this day, this garden has been my companion and the cause of soulful travels.
Even if this garden has seen deaths of my loved ones, it has seen birth of life changing thoughts, it has seen the birth of poetic words.