Thursday, April 21, 2016

My real mother.

My mother's most cherished photograph of herself is the one where she is wearing a tightly cinched National Cadet Corps uniform. In the post WWII years, the NCC was serious stuff. She relished climbing telephone poles to 'tap' the messages shuttling back and forth, she learnt to shoot, she showed off during drill. Her adventures had begun well before college and the NCC. In school, she was the tomboy of the class- preferring to exit school from a tunnel under the boundary wall rather than through the gate.

Later, she worked in the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research as a 'scanner girl' looking for electrons. In those days, that was the most technical job a woman could have. She talks with joy of those days, of smuggling her friends into the scientists' lift, of talking to Homi Bhabha, of the foreign scientists who would visit.

She also had a non-traditional sense of style. With her first salary, this girl from Mangalore walked into a fancy jewellers and bought a stunning single strand of pearls- like the Hollywood actresses. She would wear none but printed silk sarees and sleeveless blouses. I remember a nightie of hers that I would play with as a child; she probably decided she didn't want to wear it after Baba died. It was nylon, I think, with a front made entirely of lace. It was a very 'mumma' thing to me then, now it strikes me that I only own one thing that even comes close to the risque-level set by my mothers nightie.

She was a part of the audience during a strip show. It was out of the ordinary, but not too much so for this fun-loving girl. When single, she would always be surrounded by a court of devoted and gallant admirers. When she got engaged, my dad and his friends simply joined the club of those who admired Saroja.

Much much later, she found herself a widow with two children and a hospital. That girl stayed alive though. She shone through in impromptu holidays, in movie marathons, in riverside picnics, in a love for rum-and-coke combos.

I need to remember this woman I know, my mother.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The apple of my eye

Well, no. But you didn't expect me to refrain me from making that pun while talking of my beloved iris, did you?
Nothing's quite as magical as a bed of iris backlit by the morning sun.

And this is the most spectacular one I've seen:
 But there is lots else happening this spring.
The Amaryllis:
 The Azalea:
And everywhere, the promise of more sweetness to come. Here is the honeysuckle over our window, waiting to flower till Mian is back home.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The little stone house

I suppose I always knew it existed. It alone knows what  it was in the beginning. Before Mian and I moved here, G briefly used it as a place to store fruit. But it was already rundown and he quickly gave up the attempt. And for 4 years it stood there on the edge of the orchard and on the edge  of my consciousness.
Till a couple of  weeks ago when I walked past it  with eyes newly opened by David Culp's stunning book  about his garden. When I came across the little house, it was early morning and the sun caused the house to glow like honey. The ferns were cool, the air was scented with apple blossom.
The stone house. Perfect just as it is

Charmed, I visited the house several times. I saw the lovely exposed rock face with ferns growing down it and reflected that Gertrude Jekyll would envy me for that 'ready-made' feature. I looked at the rose growing in the corner and thought of how it would scent the area with a little encouragement. I carefully noted the moisture and sun available in different areas and fantasized about planting arrangements.
And then I spoke about this to G. He was deeply suspicious of my plans.'Saheb' he said, meaning A whose orchard it is, 'wants to use it for something.'  I showed the stone house to Mian. He was ecstatic, but not quite in the way I was. 'What a lovely guest house this would make! Just need a roof. and a floor. and a little straightening.' humph.
I would do it, I decided. I would make me a walled garden, alone if need be.

And today when I was pulling up the weeds, G came by. He stood warily while I explained that I would plant things so that the structural integrity of the place was not compromised. And then I spoke of the rose.
'I am planning to string wires between the walls,' I said. 'and train the rose along it, so that in a few years we will have..'
'A white roof!' breathed an awestruck G
Together we stood and smiled at the nodding clusters of roses we could see so clearly.
I think I might have an ally.
A fireplace. Revealed after an hour of pulling weeds