“Gulmohur gar tumhara naam hota”( had Gulmohar been your name) Kishore Kumar is serenading on the radio, as I sit on the balcony, cursor blinking on a blank document. I am nursing a cup of tea and watching the raindrops drip down after a particularly fierce shower has come and gone. This thirty–year old Lata-Kishore duet, composed by Gulzar, still has the ability to twist my heart with the wistful nostalgia of first love. It is poignant that the ‘flame’ of this tree is often the simile used by poets to describe strong emotion.
Among the earliest admirers of these blooms was Sarojini Naidu, who composed a poem praising its blooms. The final lines of her composition likens the color of the flowers to
“The flame of hope or the flame of hate,
Quick flame of my heart’s desire?
Or the rapturous light that leaps to heaven
From a true wife’s funeral pyre?”
As I write this, I reflect that I am merely another person, whose inspiration is the Gulmohar.
“MY” GULMOHAR TREE
Drops of rain are weighing down the leaves cleansed of their year-long battle with the city’s dust and grime, revealing their astonishing palette of greens. The only casualty of these showers seems to be the Gulmohar tree outside my balcony. All summer long, it has cheered me, its scarlet blooms having lifted my sagging spirits at the end of a long day, whenever I happened to glance at it.
But today, like the medley runner who gives up his baton to the next runner and collapses next to the track, ‘my’ Gulmohar has relinquished the task of cheering us and is denuded of flowers save the lone bloom or two, that still gives it a saucy look.
THE GULMOHAR FLOWER
Indeed, as I take a walk later in the evening, the earth is carpeted with the red petals. I manage to find a largely intact flower from the soggy ground to admire the four red petals and the lone variegated one at a slight angle to the rest. This gives the tree its name Delonix Regia (delos-conspicuous, onyx- claw and Regis- royal). I know that it will be perhaps another eight months before the Gulmohar tree will bloom again and I will be holding another flower similar to this one, its’ short flowering season being from the months of April to June.
GULMOHAR IN MUMBAI
Of the rapidly disappearing trees in this metropolis of Mumbai, that I call home, the Gulmohar is the only consistently and reliably flowering one. If one takes a long drive during summer, along roads lucky to be still blessed with a tree cover or along the highway, then the monotony of the heat is broken by the sight of these vividly flowering trees, that form a shadow- giving canopy over the road they flank. I have often wondered, about the Municipal or Tree Authority official responsible for this botanical forethought. If I knew who it was, he would certainly have my heart-felt gratitude.
ADMIRERS OF GULMOHAR
Flamboyant they are called and aptly so, I have always thought.
The Oxford dictionary defines flamboyant as brightly colored and noticeable. But I rather like the other definition; persons who are or behavior which is different, confident and exciting in a way that attracts attention. When I look at a Gulmohar tree in full bloom, its’ branches seem to bow down to the earth, its angle and attitude invite attention, appearing to say, “Hey! Look at me”; should an inattentive stroller miss the obvious!
I appear to be one of a very large number of admirers of this tree. The blogosphere and online publications are awash with admirers of this flamboyance.
I discover another gem of a couplet.
Jiyen to apne bageeche main Gulmohar ke Taley
Marein to ghair ki galiyon main Gulmohar ke liye.
(If I have to live, may it be under the Gulmohar of my garden,
When I have to die, then may it for the sake of another’s Gulmohar.)
This was written by Dushyant Kumar, a Hindi-Urdu poet.
At the height of summer, I remember feeling exhausted by the summer heat during a walk in the afternoon. Looking up at the shade that suddenly gave me succor in the middle of this stroll, I was pleased to see two Gulmohars in full bloom almost touching each other, creating a tunnel of variegated color on the top and patterned shade below.
But come monsoon, it is not uncommon for the wild gusts of wind to uproot one of them in all its’ entirety, due to its shallow root system.
For now, I have to be satisfied with the thought that the consistency of Nature will lead to another beautiful flowering next summer, giving me the joy of admiring the Gulmohar blooms, once more.
Published on Talkingcranes.