Month: April 2021

Jatropha Red

Image courtesy Plantsguru

My red flowering plant is infested by woolly white plant bugs, woolly aphids (I learnt after googling). I have been trying everything to get rids of these bugs – neem oil, alcohol spray, soap water. They give in to the treatment only to resurface under some leaf or some hidden branch. I have chopped off a few branches as well to rid my plant of the sticky bugs. My red flowering plant in the meanwhile (Jatropha Red it’s called) is trying to bloom despite the bugs. The flowers, a little droopy maybe, some buds I had to get rid of thanks to Mr Aphids, refuse to give in and burn bright red in indignation, in hope.

I sometimes feel like the Jatropha Red, fighting the worms, trying to save my buds, struggling with the exasperation, the gloom and the despair, feelings that seem to haunt me often nowadays. And sometimes I wish I could be like the bug. No matter how hard I try to put it down up pops its woolly head shamelessly under some leaf or some branch, ready to put up a fight. The brazenness of the woolly aphids has only made me more determined. I keep a close watch and attack them the moment I spot their dull white. I spray insecticide, I chop off the infested branch whenever possible and I am getting better of them for sure. They will be gone in no time, I know for certain, and my Jatropha Red will bloom in all its glory. Meanwhile, the red flowers, although droopy, give me hope. No matter how bugged they are, their red drowns the annoying woolly white.

It maybe apt to stretch the metaphor of the bug-infested Jatropha Red to the dire straits that we are in. Badly bugged by the infamous Corona Virus we are struggling to bloom, to fight, to stand tall. So many people we know and love have succumbed to the virus or are caught up in a tough fight. Oxygen cylinders are scarce, hospitals have run out of beds and crematoriums are running overtime and even setting up funeral pyres in the parking lot. Those who may not have been affected physically are trying to deal with the mental anguish that the virus has caused. As we try to support the ones we love, frustrating efforts of procuring an oxygen cylinder or a hospital bed or shelling out thousands to a black marketeer to procure a vial of remdesivir, we struggle to put up a brave face. 

At times we break, the masks of our gallantry crumble, we feel scared, hopelessly sinking into an endless abyss. Some nights we lie awake trying to make sense of all the uncertainty and the bleakness around us. In the morning we pull ourselves out of the bed, the hollow feeling dragging us along. But then hope buds and we look beyond the darkness and the despair. 

But no matter what, elections should happen and so should IPL.  Our political leaders are busy addressing poll rallies or blaming each other for the mess that we are in and our cricketing gods are happily playing IPL.  Our cine divas are busy vacationing and scorching the beach in skimpy bikinis or posing in designer masks. After all, we need to be entertained you see, even on our death bed.  Thank god for a few exceptions like Sonu Sood!

Eventually we conquer the hollow feeling and like Jatropha Red, we bloom despite all the gloom. We stand by each other and help each other out to sail through these very difficult times, probably one of the worst crises that humanity has encountered. And I am sure like the Red Jatropha we will beat the ugly bug.

Things that keep me going…

The purple bloom of Periwinkles brings a smile to my face. These Sada Bahar flowers that bloom through the year are indeed my Nayantara (star of my eyes). The yellow and orange flowers, wild they may be, add happy colours to my days. As I wake up in the morning these little flowers and the green plants in my balcony garden cheer me up. To see them growing and blooming gives hope in these dreary times.

Some plants droop too, the leaves wilt, they revive again and new shoots come out. A flowering plant was infested with insects sometime back. Checking online for the right medicine (neem oil. I also used sanitiser initially) and keeping a close watch and the relief when the plant became insect free and new leaves started coming out. Google is my gardening teacher. I keep browsing for garden tips online. Whenever there’s some problem with a plant I check online for the possible reason and cure. It works sometimes, sometimes it doesn’t. For instance, the croton that I recently bought is drooping and wilting. I have tried everything but it’s just not responding. I have a feeling that I may be losing it, and that makes me sad.

It all started a few years back when I moved into my own apartment. In rented accommodation, when I needed to shift every other year, the only plant that I had was a Tulsi. My father who had come down to see my new apartment insisted that I should get some plants. So, I got a palm, some other indoor plants and a few succulents. I didn’t know much about gardening then and on the insistence of an overzealous maali, my plants would be fertilized every fortnight. Needless to say, most of them died from over-fertilization and I fired the maali.    

My green corner. The wilting croton missing from the pictute

I started gardening on my own then. I planted easy to grow non-fussy greens like jade, money plant, aloe-vera, periwinkle and palms. I got cuttings from my friends and neighbours, I picked up a few from the nursery. I fared much better this time. My plants seemed to be doing well. Though the crotons that I bought because they reminded me of Agartala didn’t survive the Delhi heat. I got a small 9 o’clock plant from the neighbour that multiplied and bloomed through the summer last year. A friend of mine once said looking at the jades and nine o’clock “Oh, these are besharam plants. They will growing keep growing and multiplying.” And I love them for their shameless arrogance. When we went into a lockdown last year the bright blooms of the nine o’clock kept my spirits up. 

Working from home gave me more time to attend to my greens. I added many more plants in the last one year – peace lily, snake plants, ferns and so many beautiful plants whose name I know not. I spend an hour in the morning with my them and that feels like time well spent. With so much negativity around the soothing green keeps me positive, helps me deal with the moments when I feel low.

I match the décor of my house with my plants – a new rug, cushions that brighten the room add a spark to my day. I was recently asked why I am so particular about the way I keep my house in these semi-lockdown days when hardly anyone’s visiting. I do it because it makes me happy, helps me keep my sanity. For we need to keep our spirits up to beat all the darkness around.

I Want Real

Back to back video calls, webinars, phone ringing constantly, e-mails pouring in. Regular calls with the team to discuss and plan the day for don’t see each other anymore. Scrambling to meet deadlines, virtual office seeping into our evenings and nights…

Calls with friends and family, sometimes on video, for we don’t know when we will meet them for real… COVID-19 pushes us into the bounds of our virtual worlds.

After all the calls and video conferences and deadlines, if we are left with some time, we browse the OTT channels to watch a movie or a series. Or we surf the social media platforms and talk about our life virtual. We can visit the Louvre or Niagara Falls virtually if we like or take a Jungle Safari.

The masked Normal

Yes, virtual, that’s what our life has become. For real is so rare, real needs to be handled with so much care. We don’t need to struggle to hide our feelings anymore for our faces are masked for real. We can’t hug, we can’t kiss, we need to maintain a 6 feet distance or our lives are at risk. Going out for a coffee or drink, taking an impulsive weekend trip are things of the past. The ‘New Normal’ that we once talked about is the ‘NORMAL’ now. Who knows whether the ‘Old Normal’ will ever return?

Yet our optimism or rather our foolhardiness knows no bound. The moment the virus shows some abating we throw all caution to air. Go out unmasked to weddings and parties, election rallies and marches, play Holi and take a dip at the holy Kumbh. Scientific arguments can’t win over idiocy and COVID-19 returns in full glory or rather in fury.

We have lost 2020 to the pandemic and now we seem to be losing 2021 to our callous attitude. Yes, we have all been locked in for too long, these restrictions have frustrated us, the virtual world is getting on our nerves, but if you want Real, get Real! Let’s not nurse any false sense of hope and optimism, only with utmost caution and care can we bring our Real world back, or at least some semblance of Real!

A piece from my childhood – gifted to Katha by Titas Mazumdar

I have very fond memories of my maternal Grandparent’s home in Krishnanagar… our summer destination every year during my school days…

The Greens

My grandparents had a big house by the Jalongi river with a lot of greenery all around… coconut, mango, guava, jackfruit, black plum, betelnuts trees to name a few… My major attraction was to climb the guava tree to get hold of the fruits, picking raw mangoes from the ground after an evening of thunderstorm and once in a while taking a dip in Jalongi along with my Dida… I often narrate these stories to my daughter who is growing in the concrete jungle of Gurgaon… these stories are like fairy tales from the land of fantasy for her…

Most of the modern housing now-a-days in new India is high risers in gated community where there is always scarcity of space… rarely we get to see individual houses surrounded by so many fruit trees in urban dwellings.

Fortunately, my husband’s ancestral home still holds the old flavour of individual housing surrounded by ample trees, though the count has drastically reduced over the years due to ever-expanding human needs. They still have preserved a lot many which was good enough for my daughter to experience a piece from my childhood…

Every year we visit this small suburb of Kolkata called Nimta for just a couple of hours to meet our extended family and due to a shortage of time never got a chance to explore the surroundings. This year we planned for a 2-days stay and guess what? It was an enriching experience for Katha my daughter which she will cherish in her later years. The entire day she was with her cousins playing around the neighbourhood like a vagabond but that was not the main attraction. My husband and his cousin planned to go fishing with Katha and it turned out to be the major attraction of the trip. They went to the nearby pond and spent hours there and finally got a huge Tilapia fish. The excitement and sparkle in her eyes were priceless. The same fish was cleaned, cut and cooked in mustard paste and served for lunch…Katha couldn’t believe she was actually eating and enjoying her own catch. Being a Bong she is also a big-time fish lover.

The next adventure was with the tress in the backyard which was full of ripen stone apple and raw mangoes. The kids were excited, and the men got up on the terrace to get the ripe fruits hanging there. The satisfaction of having a spoonful of soft yet fibrous pulp of stone apple which you just plucked after some hard work is immense. My daughter didn’t miss out on plucking the raw mangoes along with her uncle which was later grated with salt, sugar and chillies to go with the evening barbeque…

The entire experience was exhilarating, and I was happy and satisfied to give Katha her a tiny piece from my childhood… it’s all about creating memories and storing them safely to cherish later!

To all ye fools

Fooled ya

Remember how 1st April used to be such an important day when we were growing up. Not because it was the beginning of a new financial year, because it was April Fool – All Fools Day. The day we would play innocent pranks on each other – there’s a spider on your back, an insect on your head or the teacher just asked for you or you got a call from home. We were forever plotting and planning to make a fool of our friends and classmates while we were on our guard to avoid being fooled. Such careless childhood days when we could laugh at pranks, at silly jokes, more importantly, laugh at our foolish selves. I still hear the chorus ‘April Fool,’ when someone succumbed to the prank.

April Fool or the custom of setting aside a day to make a fool of others by playing harmless pranks is celebrated across the world for centuries. In Ukrainian city, Odessa April 1st is an official city holiday. Though we don’t know for sure how this custom came to being.T here’s a disputed association between April 1st and Geoffrey Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales (1392), a collection of 24 stories written in Middle English. In the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale”, a vain fellow Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox on Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two, that readers understood as “32 March”, that is April 1. Though modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon, 32 days after March, 2 May or the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, that happened 1381.

In 1508, French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally “April’s fish”), possibly the first reference in France. Some writers suggest that April Fool dates back to the Middle Ages when New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25 in most European towns, with a holiday that in some areas of France, ended on April 1. Those who celebrated New Year’s Eve on January 1 made fun of those who celebrated on other dates and came up with April Fools’ Day. January 1 as the beginning of a New Year’s became common in France only in the mid-16th century and was adopted officially only 1564, by the Edict of Roussillon.

In 1561, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1. In 1686, John Aubrey, an English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer, referred to the celebration as “Fooles holy day”, the first British reference. On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”. Some even say that April Fool’s Day may go back to the Biblical times, the Genesis flood narrative – the mistake of Noah in sending the dove out of the ark before the water had abated on the first day of April.

Whatever the origin may be, we once played silly pranks and laughed at each other on April 1st. That was before we grew up to be a generation so thin-skinned and hypersensitive that any innocent comment or prank would offend us. We somehow lost our sense of humour and seemed to forget that we only make fools of our own selves. Whether we are trying to outsmart our parents by reading Robin Cook instead of practising Math for boards or hoping against hope that the cute boy will fall in love with us when he’s only interested in our notes. Years later, looking back at our exam scores, we realize what fools we have been. But we continue to fool ourselves, continue to hold on to silly dreams, we make stupid mistakes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Life is all about looking back, laughing at our follies and being better for it all. The only fools are ones’ who are so pompous that they don’t even see their follies!

So, all ye fools, let’s be trivial, let’s laugh at each other and more importantly let’s laugh at our own stupid selves for that’s what makes life worth living.