Month: May 2021

Nature, Nurture, Plant Mommy

As I walk in

Plant mommy! Yeah, that’s me. Every morning the lure of these little greens drag me out of the bed. My plants need to be watered before the summer sun scorches them, so even if my bed pulls me back, my feet feel heavy as lead, I get up and pick up the water can. The moment I step out on the balcony and look at the greens, lethargy is forgotten, I feel rejuvenated.

Leaving the bed has been a challenge in the past few months, the second wave of the pandemic has been draining. Constantly struggling with lethargy and lack of inspiration, my plant babies have certainly helped with that. While COVID has struck us hard, nature has been bountiful. My plants look lush green, the colourful blooms of nine o’ clocks and periwinkle (or Nayantara in Bangla sounds more poetic) give me hope amidst all the negativity around. These plants don’t ask for much besides little water and sunlight, and fertilizers occasionally. They propagate easily making me feel like a proud mom who happily watches over her babies growing.

Also, I am lucky to have friends who are plant lovers and happily share their green bounties with me. Whenever I feel low, I visit my friend and neighbour Titas’s garden to pick up a few saplings and cuttings. Jade, periwinkles, different kinds of succulents, I have picked up so many plants from her garden. Sanjay, Sanchita and little Prapti always visit me with a plant – different varieties of money plants, crotons, oregano and what not.

I find the lure of the green irresistible. I have picked quite a few plants from the nursery next to my society as well. Each time I go there to pick up pots or moss sticks, the fellow easily sells a few plants to me. “Yeh dekhiye madam kitna sundar paudha hai. Aap ko theek rate laga denge,” he says with a smile. Unlike many nursery owners, he knows his plants well. This is an indoor plant, this needs sunlight to flower, water this one only once a week, his tips certainly help. Palms, ferns, snake plants, peace lilies, I have picked up many plants from him and most of them worked out well.

My green balcony

These days I am at my happiest when I see these plants grow, flowers bloom. The ample rain that showered over NCR owing to cyclone Tauktae certainly helped. I had just got a few plants from Titas’s garden then and the rain helped them thrive. And what more, my plants have started propagating well. I have started multiplying my ferns and snake plants and sharing these oxygen bombs or happiness bombs with my friends and neighbours.

My City Lost

My quiet neighbourhood is drowned in the sound of vehicles, honking as they pass by
My beautiful lake, around which we built our small houses, is now hidden behind the tall ugly buildings that are cropping up
The stars that smiled at me once on balmy nights glitter faintly, dimmed by the million lights
The tall coconut tree, the green guava tree and so many beetle nuts trees that would surround my childhood home have been chopped for modern concrete buildings
My once huge courtyard with so many flowering plants, my lazy green city scattered with little ponds and water bodies, is now a concrete jungle
I do hear the cuckoo sing at the break of dawn, but as the sun goes up her voice is lost in the hustle bustle of progress

I can still find the small unhappening city of my childhood, my hometown, in the silence of the early mornings, when the night meets the day
In the glistening water of the lake as she peeps out of the tall buildings
In the pristine greenery that still surrounds the outskirts of my hometown
As I look at that them in delight, breathe in the cool freshness, a sudden sadness grips me, a fear lurks behind the peace and the tranquil
Little remains of my childhood home, will they be swept away by the march of progress?
Will my beautiful city live only in my memories, the glittering stars, the quiet lake, the serene green scapes, the price that we pay for development?

Hair Saga, Khopa, Khopar Kata

Gift of the lockdown, pandemic, less frequent visits to salon whatever it maybe, I got my tresses back. My hair just grew and grew well. Soon I started trying different styles of khopa or juda at home. I became obsessed with khopa or bun. I was delighted when I could make a haath khopa. If you are a Bengali, you know what a haath khopa is. Every morning my Mom would wrap her long black hair around her palm and make a simple bun. The bun would come off often and her black tresses tumble down to be made into a bun again.  Much that I admired the process and her long black hair, I didn’t really fancy a khopa, let alone a haath khopa then. I thought it was too commonplace, there was nothing fashionable about it!

But I loved long hair, maybe my mom’s and masi’s thick black hair inspired me to grow my hair. When I was in class 7, I refused to cut my hair. Though my dad thought I was wasting too much time on my hair when I should be studying, I was strongly supported by my dadi and nani.  And soon I had luscious black hair tumbling down my waist and falling on my hips. My crown of hair was my pride for years. When in school I would tie them neatly into two braids. In college and later when I started working, I would tie them into a single plait or sometimes leave them open. I was noticed for my hair, received so many compliments. Whenever I walked into a room someone or the other would comment on my hair. I loved my long black hair, but then it got boring.

Steps it is

In my late 20s, I got tired of my hair, of wearing the same look for years, of not being able to do much with my hair save tie them into a braid or leave them open. I would tie my hair into a bun or haath khopa at home but that I didn’t fancy. Short hair would be so much smarter I thought. I went to a parlour to get a haircut only to be turned back. People long for such long black hair I was told. Forgotten pride for my tresses raised its head and I came back feeling elated for the moment at least. But that lasted only for days. I went to a different parlour this time dragging my sister-in-law along for support. I sat on the chair and asked them to cut my hair before they could say anything. I still remember my sister in law shutting her eyes when they chopped off my tresses and took them back inside. ‘Which style do you fancy?’ the stylist then asked me.

I wanted steps and I wore my hair in steps, sometimes a little longer, sometimes a little shorter, for years. Then came COVID and we were locked in. Visit to parlours was not advisable so my hair kept growing, soon they were falling on my back. I realized I had missed my longer hair, though I lost bit of thickness they still look good. Finally, when I could go to the parlour, I asked them to just trim my hair and remove the steps.

Then I started experimenting with khopa, something that I have never done before. It could be because I love wearing saris and khopa looks so classy with a sari. I could see the simplicity and the elegance in mom’s haath khopa. I ordered khopar kata and nets online. Khopar kata, was once a very popular hair accessory that dominated fashion. Brides were given khopar kata in gold and silver when they got married. I urged my mom to check if she had any such traditional kata, but unfortunately, she had none. Her dadi had one I was told, but she doesn’t know where it is anymore.

Fortunately, I could find traditional khopar kata online, though the ones what our dadi and nani had would be far better, I am sure. Finally, I could make a haath khopa that a kata would hold well. It looked good, it was quick and easy.

So, in the lockdown, I rediscovered my love for long hair and found my khopa and khopar kata. Some may find it old fashioned but that’s what I have become over the years – a sari, a bindi and a khopa and I am done, for tradition never goes out of fashion!

When common cold lost its banality and sneeze lost its blessings

Sneeze Bless You Clip Art

I used to come down with a cold often as a child, sometimes even fits of sneezing. I would look at the mom with heavy pleading eyes in the morning hoping that she would look at my plight and allow me to skip school. Unless the cold was accompanied by fever I would be dragged out of bed and packed off to school. “It’s just a common cold,” she would tell me. “Don’t have ice cream and cold water and you will be fine.” So, no ice cream and cold drinks for a week at least, school every day and homework, and gargling at night and taking steam to make things worse.

“Common cold,” I found the term so unfair. It would leave me feeling drowsy and drained and no one would care. I could stay home only if I had a fever. Even mild temperature wasn’t taken too seriously, though I would be kept at home and monitored. In fact, fever or seasonal flu had its own charm. I would enjoy those lethargic, lazy, no school days and all attention that the fever brought along. Till about a year back, taking a break from work to recover from a mild fever or flu was kind of relaxing.

Common cold’s cousin sneeze, sometimes caused by cold, sometimes by dust or allergy, was never feared, always blessed. “Bless you” we would say when someone sneezed. There are various sayings behind why a sneeze drew blessings. Apparently, a sneeze is the closest thing to death. It is said that our heart stops for a fraction of a second when we sneeze, don’t know if this is actually the case. It is also believed that Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great) suggested saying “God bless you” after a person sneezed as one of the symptoms of the plague was coughing and sneezing. In hopes that this prayer would protect them from otherwise certain death the custom saying “God bless you” or “bless you” came into being. That sneezing causes someone to expel their soul out of their body is another belief, hence “God bless you” to ward off the devil snatching our soul.

Despite these sayings we never associated sneezing with death or evil, it was rather innocuous save for minor irritations. “Bless you” was just a polite thing to say if we heard someone sneeze.

Enter COVID-19 and sneeze turns deadly, for one sneeze could carry the lethal virus that could infect many. Cold and mild temperature are the most feared symptoms, I wonder whether cold will be considered common ever. Gone are days when you could enjoy the lethargy of mild fever. The moment someone sneezes or coughs they are isolated lest they infect the others. Once low-rung ailments, cold and sneeze have really gone up the ladder. Not sure if they are enjoying the rise or cursing the pandemic like all of us.