My new routine is to now eat my breakfast standing by the kitchen sink. Yes, it’s because I get really late for work and this saves time. But then, this has a beautiful reason too. The window beside the sink opens up to an exceptionally striking sight - a Gulmohar tree in full bloom. The vivid orange red flowers against the bright green foliage are something which not just makes the present pleasant but in fact brings back wonderful memories of the past.
My first memories of the tree are in Mysore during the 80's. A small kid then, I was delighted to walk on the floral carpet made of these very flowers on freshly washed roads (courtesy the rain). Moving on to Bangalore, Gulmohar was very much a part of my growing years. Our English textbook was called Gulmohar and had the picture of the same on the cover page. Now, did the Gulmohar connection pull me to the book and the English language, is something that I don’t really know.
Blooming in May, the sight of these flowers was obviously associated with summer vacations and cousins. My cousins and I played with every part of the flower. The flowers were used for decorating our wooden toys, and steel glasses were converted to vases so as to exhibit them. The sepals of the buds were separated and stuck on to our fingers to make bloody looking claws. We then made scary looking faces and enacted like tigers and ghosts with those 'claws'. The koli jagala ('chicken fight'- I dont really know why it was called so!) was played with the filaments containing the anther within the buds. Who ever nicked the 'head' (anther) off the filament was the winner, and the game continued until you finished all the filaments in the flower bud. Childhood games back then were really natural, simple and easily accessible. Most importantly they were never a burden on the household expenses unlike the present day.
The tree in bloom 'announced' festivities too. The wedding ‘chapras’ (the traditional coconut leaf shelter outside the house signifying a marriage) were familiarly decorated with them, what with the month chaitra heralding the wedding season. And when all the fun, festivities and vacations were over, Gulmohar still lifted our spirits. While walking back from school, the sheer fun of running to find the flower buds and jumping on them broke the sadness of school reopening after a long summer break.
Hmmm.. From Mysore to Bangalore to Chennai, things have changed, people have changed, time has changed, but the memories of the tree and the tree itself has not changed. Nature in all her manifestations stands as a testimony to our growing up from playing juvenile games with her to now standing and admiring her in full splendor.