Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Tree of Life

The Mahua trees in the garden are clothed in vibrant new coppery red young leaves again and their graceful oval crowns are delightful to look at especially in the sunlight.

There were two young saplings growing wild on our plot when we first started gardening here. Insignificant looking but on identifying them I decided to give them room to grow.

They are known in Central India as the tree of life to the tribes of the region and considered to be sacred. It is said that the Mahua tree is a sentinel that guards the Adivasis (forest dwelling tribals) from cradle to the grave and true-blue Adivasi will ever cut down a Mahua tree, which is revered and worshipped.

No Adivasi ritual is complete without the ubiquitous mahua - much like plantain ( Banana) trees elsewhere. They keep a nightly vigil to save the fruit from the animals and collect them at dawn. They eat the dried flowers, make sweets out of it and make potent liquor called Sidhu from it too. My dad who used to go hunting and knew a lot about the ways of the jungle and its people had told me about this when I was a child.

Their scented sweetish fleshy flowers are an irresistible attraction to nectar and fruit eating birds that are reported to get drunk when they peck fermented flowers. Bears and deer also eat the flowers that fall at night and get intoxicated. This tree reminds me of its counterpart the Amrula tree that I came across in the movie Beautiful People where the animals got drunk after eating its flowers.

I love their graceful oval shape and find it looking its cheerful best at this time of the year.

Astrid Rao

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Summer Fruit

Mangoes, cashews, love apples, papayas, lemons, chickoos star fruit, jackfruit, bananas ... my little haphazard orchard filled with the trees of my childhood are all bearing fruit. I planted most of these trees about five years ago. Five years of tending has borne fruit. Walking through this tiny patch filled with little fruit trees ... feelings of achievement, bounty, happiness immense satisfaction and gratefulness to nature fill my heart

Friday, April 11, 2008

The beautiful red lilies and their pink and white relatives have been flowering profusely for the past two weeks. Then last week this beautiful salmon pink lily flowered for the first time and what a beautiful sight it made. On browsing through a book I found that Hippeastrum (Red Lily) is its name of these bulbous plants with narrow strap-shaped leaves and that two other kinds, one having salmon-colored flowers and the other having white petals with pink veins are also commonly grown. All kinds flower at least once a year and even a short period of dry weather seems to stimulate growth. So I guess the acute water shortage we are facing has an upside after-all with all 3 colors represented in the garden.

Astrid Rao

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Bulbul in the central courtyard

Last week i noticed that a pair of Red-vented Bulbuls were frequenting the open to sky central courtyard within Native Place. The Golden Bamboo growing here has been the domain of the sparrows but these cheeky Bulbuls were taking no notice whatsoever of the sparrows reluctance to share the space.

All through the day the pair of Bulbuls would pop in whistling, calling and darting about. Then we spotted the nest and understood the reason for our new guests frequent visits.

Astrid Rao