On a Chrysanthemum Carpet


 Update for week ended 14 October 2011

As Kanta stood on the terrace of her house in Dhapewada, her mind wandered. It wandered to thoughts of the college excursion that her friends and she had earlier in the year. Having lived all her life in and around this little village town along the Chandrabhaga River, she longed to see the big cities and towns; and savour the life of the slick city-folk. She had visited nearby Nagpur quite often with her parents and her younger sister, Shanta and had enjoyed the leisurely walk along the dam wall of the Ambajhari Lake. Once she had also visited it when the dam overflowed during the monsoon. She did not venture into the gushing stream from the dam, but stood by the garden opposite the local Science College. But this summer’s college excursion was across the western Maharashtra cities of Mumbai, Nasik and Pune. She savoured the train ride through the multiple tunnels that dotted the Western Ghats along the Igatpuri Ghats as well as the Khandala Ghats. And thoroughly enjoyed the lapping waves of the warm sea at Chowpatty. She tried tasting the saline waters off the Gateway of India while on the joyride on the country boat. And along this trip, she also met someone, Chandrakant, the rich, spoilt brat son of the largest orange farmer in Vidarbha. Chandrakant was loud, while Kanta was demure; Chandrakant believed in living life king-size (he could afford to), while Kanta was practical and frugal to an extent. They were like the proverbial opposite sides of a magnet – immediate attraction!

But today, she looked over the terrace at the steeple flag of the local Vitthal Temple. The local priest was walking down the steps on the banks of the river to offer his mid-day prayer at the shrine on the river bank. Later that evening, he would come over to her house to read from his almanac and officially announce an auspicious wedding date. Kanta would soon be betrothed and married to Suryavanshi, the son of the orange and cotton farmer from nearby Saoner. Before her train excursion, Kanta would have submitted to the family wishes, but something had changed within her after the trip. She could only think of Chandrakant and his boyish pranks. And he was a gentleman, as he did not even suggest an elopement. He was determined to win over her father’s confidence, but how? He had driven his father’s jeep through Kanta’s father’s cotton field, and his friends had also once spent a night drinking country liquor behind the local school on a new moon night, caught by Kanta’s father (Chandrakant was thankful that the absent moon had saved them since they could not be identified in the dark, and they all fled leaving the bottles behind). They had also chased a frightened cow for over a kilometer honking and hooting all along, driving zigzag across fields and almost runnig over cyclists heading to work at the goevrnement run textile mill.  So Chandrakant used this opportunity to spend time with the family in helping them out on local domestic chores. And on a hot second Summer afternoon, he strolled out into the chrysanthemum field, flute in hand and softly blew a soulful tune. It worked like a magnet for Kanta as she ran down the steps from the terrace and towards the fields just beyond the house. She ran along the curved, potholed country road towards the Chandrakant family farm. And just before the orange orchards was the little hill that rose to the right, and on the foothills of it was the chrysanthemum patch – carpeted with the herbaceous fragrant green leafy plant dotted with buds and just flowering yellowish cream chrysanthemum. She stopped as soon as she spotted Chandrakant. He was not facing her but almost magically heard her gentle footsteps as she ran onto the soft chrysanthemum patch. He stopped playing the flute and turned back. They looked at each other, and Chandrakant tucked the flute into the waistcloth that he had loosely tied over his shirt. He raised his arms inviting Kanta to him. She looked back at her house in the distance and then at Chandrakant.

The chrysanthemum scent was heavy in the air as October was heralded in. The D Boyz were in a mood for some romance. And their muse, The SENSEX, was more than eager to play on with them. The romantic scent of the chrysanthemum blooms was overpowering, as the D Boyz dreamily shut their eyes and waltzed with their SENSEX zooming to dizzying heights. But given the narrow bounds of the street and the distractions from foreign suitors for SENSEX and some of her friends, the Boyz had to stop and manage the situation. But finally one of the Boyz took out the flute he lovingly played and let the waltz continue. (Waltzing days saw the SENSEX zoom up 2% each day, and when the Boyz stopped to check the foreign suitors, it fell a little). This romance took the SENSEX up about 880 points (almost like a popular movie that is still running in a Mumbai movie-hall – running in its 880th odd week, continuously)……. To end this week at 17082.

Have you noticed that the chrysanthemum leaves are also as fragrant as the flowers, unlike other pretty fragrant blooms (rose, jasmine). And the combination of these carpet flowers and the white blossoms of the acidic orange trees is quite a fascinating combination. Perhaps the reason why the oranges are interspersed with the annual seasonal chrysanthemum. The flowers also find their way to local agricultural markets. I hear that these flowers are also blended in with other acidic products like tea to get a light by fragrantly heady brew for a hot afternoon. So what do you think Kanta would have done on that balmy afternoon at the chrysanthemum carpet – near the orange orchard. Would Chandrakant have proposed to her? Would Kanta submit to him? Or would she step back owing her allegiance to her family and traditions?

Have a nice weekend… Cheers…… and amuse the romantic in you! And for those planning on celebrating Karwa Chauth – all the best….

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