A Walk Through Trees - April 2018
Delhi trees lately have been the source of joy as they surprise you in different season in parks like Lodhi Garden, Nehru Park, Mahavir Vanasthali and Buddha Jayanti Park. But it is the modern and independent India’s necropolis that provides the ultimate surprise. The trees stand guard over leaders who have been cremated here over the years. Now that you wonder, it does seem that the trees provide shade and succour to the souls resting here who have mostly suffered violent deaths.
On a perfect early summer morning, you are back at Shanti Van, the final resting place of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. The walk will start from the parking lot. Just like last year when you chanced upon the blooming fairyland of Barna trees, the feeling is quite good that it will be another rewarding morning.
Earlier, waking up early in the morning you check the weather app. It says Hazy. They probably forgot to add the word Purple. Up ahead, a tall tree is enveloped in a purple haze. One side of the pathway leading into Shanti Van is lined with tall Wild Almond and Buddha Coconut trees. On the other side, behind the palms, is a whole grove of purple haze. Last year you had been delighted by trees on Maharshi Raman Road in the Lodhi Estate Area. Moulmein Rosewoods are probably the prettiest flowering trees in Delhi. The purple pearl like tiny flowers seem to be cascading down the trees. With every gentle gust of breeze, the flowers drizzle down in a dream like sequence.
|The Purple Drizzle of Moulmein Rosewoods (Milletitia peguensis). The lady was nice enough to pose in her matching attire|
|Look at the purple paved ground - Wonderful Trees of Delhi|
The feeling when you witness such sights is difficult to describe. It is of utmost disbelief and of wonder and of gratitude and of delirious swoon. You are not sure if you should just look or try to capture in the camera. The sprinklers are on and you have to time your photography before the swishing revolving jet of water drenches you and the equipment in actual drizzle! It is always difficult to tear yourselves from such sights. But there is lot more ground to cover and more surprises await.
|A lucky sighting - will try to catch it early next year - Quickstick Tree (Gliricidia sepium)|
|Luminescent green leaves of Kapok (Ceiba pentandra) or White Silk Cotton and its fruit bursting into white floss!|
Among the Moulmeins, stand a totally bare tree with last few lilac blooms and pod like fruits hanging by the sides. This is a first time seen Mexican Lilac also called Quickstick. The Kapok tree is awash in fresh green leaves with few fruits beginning to explode in snowlike fluff. The samadhi area on this northern side is lined with Earpod Wattle and Kadamb. The wet grass shimmers under the gentle sun. The breeze is cool. An extended family is wrapping up their mats after a yoga session. It is nice to see kids this early in parks. Just beyond, a neat looking tree stands that you have still not been able to identify.
You cut across the dry bed of the artificial lake behind Shanti Van to head towards the wonderland you experienced last year as the largest group of Barna trees bloomed in all their magnificent glory. Today, the trees are bare and buds about to break open. A solitary flower rising towards the sun sparkles under the blue skies, a harbinger of wonder this plot of land will soon turn into.
|A Subabool (Leucaena leucocephala) blooming and that is a cluster of about 150 flowers!|
|United Colours of Pilkhan - just get awed!|
You are making your way towards Shakti Sthal when you encounter the Ronjh lookalike flowers of Subabool. Taking the stone path you arrive at a grove of these magnificent Pilkhans. You seem to be here on the perfect day. The five pilkhans are all draped in unique colours as if in a time lapse shot. The tree on the right is delicious green. The next is bronze. The middle tree is has turned dark green. The next to it is still trying to decide if it wants to be bronze or green and in the ensuing dilly-dallying has turned yellowish. The last one is a brilliant copper, the colour that looks best on pilkhan and is so ephemeral that you can actually sense the colour changing with the ticking minutes. Under the brilliant canopy you rest for few minutes as if to delay the pleasure you are just about to experience.
|Look Mom I have turned into a Palash|
On the other side of the pilkhans, is the first of the many Palash trees that will delight you today. Palash trees seemingly have different ways to surprise the viewer. Today the flowers you love keep dropping forming an orange carpet below the tree. A parrot hops on the flowers. You collect some flowers to caress the petals. You are in no mood to leave this spot.
The Quintessential Travel Dilemma
A Kanak Champa tree blooms. The big unruly leaves always caked with some seemingly oxide dust try to hide those beautiful white flowers with leathery petals. The ground is covered with the brown leaves crunching under your feet. You pick a few flowers from the ground. They smell like a dream. A few days later they are still spreading fragrance in the car and at home.
Harvesting in Shanti Van
Amma is not cooperating. She is not answering my questions. She first wants to know what her fayada is if I want to click her. She won't tell me what she is going to use these goolar figs for even as her partner is going through the motions of cleaning them. She even won't part with a single fig so you could see if it is carrying a fig wasp. Nearby Putronjiya fruits dry in the sun. Again no cooperation.
Few minutes ago the CISF constable from Bhuj talked about people coming in the morning and collecting the berries of the big Kamini trees we stand under talking. He says the berries are used for herbal shampoo. Earlier in the season people carried sackfuls of Semals to probably make colour. Two women come and pick the Palash flowers you had minutes ago put in a pile.
Later the man cleaning the lake by Shanti Van helps you locate the mahua grove. He says the mahua leaves are a remedy when afflicted by jaundice. You don't want to hear about something you haven't caught so far with your luck.
For the first time you are learning about the different uses of these trees here in Delhi!
Mom later mentions how figs were eaten as sweet fruits during her early days. Take that Amma. The harvested goolar fruits are sold to the pansaris who in turn sell it to customers who want to make ayurvedic medicines at home.
On the boundary of Shakti Sthal, an entire grove of Palash trees greet you resplendent in their fiery orange. This is the first cluster of Palash you are seeing this season. There is something about Palash that draws you to the blossoms. The tree, the trunk, the branches, the leaves; everything is crooked and unruly about it. But once the orange blooms appear, the tree is the most beautiful and desirable sight. And it is just not us humans. Birds and bees and squirrels too get sucked into absolute delirium. Sunbirds and mynahs and crows join in in the bedlam. But you have eyes only for these beautiful flowers. On the ground, fallen, they look like a congregation of monks kneeling in prayers.
|The Ultimate Summer Afternoon Nap Spot|
This is perhaps the most picturesque setting in this necropolis. An artificial lake has been created that gathers the rain runoff. Aquatic birds of different varieties swim, paddle and float. There are a few people out here today, some lovers and some just sit watching the glimmering water. Quacks ring out giving company to the general kooing and chirping in the air. A man naps under the shade of a pilkhan. The ducks or the geese do their duck walk around the napping figure. To the prone man, the discordant quacks seem like lullaby.
You go around the lake skirting Shakti Sthal to land at the northern bank. Under swaying bottle brush trees, you settle down for some soothing views giving company to two dogs. You try to befriend the dogs by offering them your biscuits that keep you going on these sojourns. They would have nothing of it. One dog lumbers away and the other settles down for a lap totally disinterested. Pigeons circle over the lake. In the distance, the orange palash and purple moulmeins present unseen before scenes. It is time to move. A crow takes off with the biscuit.
You will circle the lake. Here there are scores of Moulmeins cascading with these purple jewels. Walking through them is like walking in a drizzle without getting wet. You are wondering why you did not discover the joys of walking around this lake before.
There are more Palash blooms on the eastern side, this time juxtaposed with yellow blooms of Caribbean Trumpet trees. On the eastern side, the park grows progressively wilder. Maybe one day soon you will walk on the wild side.
The surprises are not over yet. Away from the path that circumambulates the lake, just next to the copper pilkhan, a siris tree is in full bloom. These past years you have grown to love siris. This year you are discovering that siris blooms twice. First during the summers and then in the rains. The delicate fragrance has turned the surroundings into a pleasure garden. The puff like flowers with white and green stamens glow in the sun. This is a nature’s miracle. Only a few days back the Siris trees were bare with these golden pods hanging from the branches. In a matter of few days, the tree has been transformed into a lively green wonder with this heavenly scent.
You walk under the palash trees once more taking in eyefuls of the voluptuous sight. This is Ephemeral Delhi. These are the last few days before the flowers depart. The multi-hued pilkhans wave back at you; they seem to have changed colours in the last few hours. Jawaharlal Nehru’s samadhi, nestled in undulating green lawns with trees standing sentinels all around, reposes; perfectly still in the peaceful surroundings. You pay a silent homage. Reading his epic ‘Discovery of India’ has helped you discover what a remarkable man he was. The moulmeins continue to drizzle covering the ground with the purple dust. The walkers and yoga practitioners have left. It is warm now. The parking lot is empty. The birds’ chirping is muffled. A perfectly green pilkhan glows in the sun. A lone bright yellow Caribbean Trumpet blooms. Summer is here. Another season has arrived. Something goes empty inside. These are Summer Blues. Life goes on. It is time to head back home.
Last dance with Mary Jane, one more time to kill the pain
I feel summer creepin' in and I'm tired of this town again
I feel summer creepin' in and I'm tired of this town again
I'm tired of screwin' up, tired of going down
Tired of myself, tired of this town
Tired of myself, tired of this town
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
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