The Shrubs in the rain soaked lane


Update for week ended 20 August 2010

The rain soaked earth had stopped scenting the air with that heady fresh monsoon scent. It was the third monsoon month and the squishy earth was wet yet firm, after the top soil had been eroded and the gritty laterite foundation was visible. The little lane was at a lower level than the houses flanking the lane. This is typical of Kerala settlements and towns, given the heavy rains that pound them for practically every month of the year; and this arrangement helps the houses stay away from stray floods or water overflows that occur. Most of the hedges along this lane have little shrubs. And at this time just before the annual festival of Onam, the hedges were lush with glistening green leaves. The hibiscuses had grown to over 10 feet in height, while the henna shrub interspersed itself and the thick foliage had replaced the bare boughs (refer to Crush of the Henna Leaves). The tightly packed ixora shrub could not be missed either. This is also the season for the shrubs to flower. The henna flowers were pale green – almost yellowish but the fragrance was heady. The old “muttachhis” (grand old ladies of the house) would warn people to be careful while negotiating these shrubs, as serpents were believed to be attracted to the scent of the henna flower. So stepping out in the dark was a strict no-no, unless one carried a staff in hand and tapped the ground loudly before taking steps forward. A torchlight was a weak replacement for the staff, but a muttacchi could be cajoled to permit it. The occasional night queen shrub would also blend its fragrance with the henna and the air would smell like the store of the Muslim Perfumier in Calicut – heady and overpowering at times. And the “chembarathi”, hibiscus would also be in bloom this month with its trademark flame red flowers that every child who went to school and studied science, and remembered some of its primary sessions, would immediately recognize. The flower that is sometimes referred to as shoeflower, is the “classic” flower with its sepals, 5 petals, the stamen, with the stigma and anthers and pollen clearly visible. This flower however has no smell, and thankfully so, else the already heady scents in the air would have got a bit nauseous fro passersby. The other abundant blossoms in the rains was the “thecchi” (common ixora), the flower that looks like a bulbous red fruit from a distance, only because the flower always blooms in a bunches of over 50 flowers in a stalk and are so neatly arranged in a bouquet resembling a spherical ball. Despite the riotous flowering, the lush foliage still makes this lane green, and is perhaps why some people get spiritual and use slogans like “God’s Own Country” to describe the place.

The D Street Boyz walked down their green lane – D Street. The rains were bountiful, and the earth was not soggy, as it was a tarred road. And thankfully for them, the local municipal authorities had not dug up any of these calm roads and lanes, so no fresh earth around. The rains were also not so heavy for water to accumulate after last night’s floods (quite unlike what their friends in Delhi have to endure). The lush greens of the flanking trees were enough to keep the boys happy and prompt them to prop up their SENSEX – 200 points for 2 consecutive days… and make them feel like on top of the world – or at least what they perceive as the top in the last 30 months… A few red flowers, here and there did distract them and they finally ended this week at 18401. I am not sure if the D Boyz have a nose for the scented flowers or an eye for their catchy colours. The only way to figure that out is how they will celebrate their Onam.

The Muttacchis will guide the youngsters in their “tharavaads”, households on which flowers to pick. The thecchi for sure, as also the chembarathi, but the pride of place will be given to the yellow “Kolambi” – the yellow bell flower or allamanda. This is the flower that will adorn the centre of the Pookallam – flower rangoli that will adorn every Keralite’s home – irrespective of religion, or place of residence.

Wishing all of you a very happy Onam and happy weekend……..

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