It was midday, the sun at its harshest; Thursday traffic was particularly extra horrible that day. One could literally feel the beat of the agitated nerves and fluctuation of the vitals, the press of the crowd braving the heat and jam on the streets. It was a typical Dhaka scenario. An interview on a rooftop wasn't exactly my cup of tea at that odd hour. I thought of all possible excuses to reschedule but the silent pressure of meeting the deadline dragged me through, and I snaked my way to Maliha Kuddus' little gateway; her lovely rooftop garden. And was I in for a surprise.
As soon as I sipped my cool grapefruit mocktail, I felt a light breeze blowing through my hair and my nerves calming. Midday, and you are on a rooftop; it's a fatal combination, however my charming hostess has somehow managed to actually mix the two together, and I was there to find out the secret ingredient.
“There is no particular recipe for this,” she says looking around her lush green garden at its loveliest. “I have always stayed in big independent houses and had gardens and tended to them ever since my childhood; in fact gardening on the roof is relatively a new experience for me. This much I should mention; roof top gardening is a round-the-clock job, which needs to be nurtured by the hour. It is not like embroidery where you maintain one run and stitch throughout, here you need to change stitches as nature demands.”
I really don't want to mention how a little green can brighten up your space; I mean a lot has been said about that and as a result you would see the mushrooming of nurseries on footpaths and people buying pots by tens and scores.
However it is the maintenance that needs to be hammered in here. The plants are there in painted pots choking to death at big posh living rooms and when they wear out, they are thrown aside and new ones are brought in again. That is definitely not gardening and certainly not loving plants either.
Among the three types of gardening, houseplants need the most care, according to Kuddus. “You need to constantly take them out to sunlight, air them, and allow them the luxury to foliate in the light monsoon drizzle. They should be alternately taken in and out. Otherwise they never thrive in our air-conditioned, zero humidity environment. Outside gardens or lawns are the easiest to maintain and give you the most pleasure; however the weather needs to be minded, as well as pests like snails, rats and caterpillars. Rooftop gardening is particularly challenging not just because of the weather, the sun and storms that need to be heeded, but also the structure of the roof. Heavy weights and too much pressure on the roof may pose a threat of the roof caving in.”
Thus like all hobbies gardening needs to be understood.
“Our soil is extremely fertile. This season I decided to raise my own winter flower saplings. I threw some seed yesterday and look I see the shoots already poking their heads out today. This life that I see growing around me everyday gives me immense pleasure and their life force energises me beyond any imagination. My garden has become an extension of our living room; all my family members are here from four till dinner. I am planning to install a TV here as well”, she explains.
I could see her passion and all the green and budding life around me was taking over. The place was dotted with lush greens like maiden hair ferns, madhobi lata, franky penny; bird of paradise proudly displaying its lovely colours at intervals, alamendas creeping up the shades and their bright yellow bloom brushing the place with added colour.
The place was neatly done, not too crowded, no overlapping of too many ideas. At one corner she had her sitting arrangement under a tin shade, which was fenced with bamboo sticks. Some plants were arranged around the wall, some stacked on racks, some sat plush on terracotta pots. The floor was tiled in red sandstone, the chairs just plain cane. The lush greens standing on a red floor, with the azure sky above, dotted with white fluffy clouds. I literally felt like curling up with a Marques, sipping my green tea and forgetting the chores at hand.
But alas, the constant ringing of my cell brought me back to reality and put me back on track. The race was on again.
By Raffat Binte Rashid
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Special thanks to Mrs. Maliha Kuddus
The touch of green
The recent years have seen Dhakaiites complaining about receding greenery in the vicinity. Surrounded by concrete and debris on all sides, we rush to the nearest green spot whenever time allows, only to have a breath of fresh, crisp air- the fresh air as we knew it in the yesteryears.
In the prevailing scenario, walking into a cosy home at the end of a hectic day to be greeted by the sight of vibrant greenery peeping from various nooks and corners of the ambient room could instantly take away the fatigue and frustration of busy city life. And that is why you might want to go an extra mile to create your own secluded oasis, a reverie enclosed by lush green foliage- a garden of your own.
A small patch of land with ample exposure to sunlight and air is all you need to grow salad vegetables like chillies, lemons, lettuce and coriander. Crops like these are not very labour-intensive and will not take up too much of your time in gardening, but will give you the satisfaction of having some greenery around you all the same. Not to mention, vegetables from your own garden will taste all the more delicious once you grow them yourself, with your own loving care.
If you are not one of those lucky ones with a back yard to spare for a vegetable garden, you don't have to lose heart. You still have your terrace and your balcony! You can create your own garden with potted flower plants in these very areas. Flowers like roses, marigolds, chrysanthemums and the deshi varieties of beli, gondhoraj and hasnahena can be easily grown in terra cotta pots placed in the balcony or terrace, where they will get the sunlight and air they need for their proper growth. Waking up to the sweet fragrance of fresh blossoms wafting through the rooms will be a treat in itself, and can make your days that much more beautiful!
If you don't have the time or the patience to create your own garden, you can simply choose to beautify the interiors of your home with splashes of green here and there. A little bamboo plant on your study table or a money plant by the windowsill can add vibrancy and colour to the room. Hanging potted plants outside your windowsill can be a feast for your tired eyes before you go to sleep and once you wake up. You can even keep a small potted plant in your office room. Every time you set your eyes on the miniature blast of greenery, your fatigue will be sure to vanish a little!
Placing fresh flowers in high traffic areas of the house, like the kitchen or dining area, is also an idea that can do wonders to boost your mood. You don't need a fancy vase; a cute teapot or a pitcher can hold your flowers with as much style and grace as an expensive flower vase. Setting the dinner table with a crystal bowl in the middle, with floating roses or dahlias, can add zing to the dinner table conversation. Even a single long-stemmed rose or chrysanthemum placed in a long vase can dramatically enhance the look of the room!
For a simple look, select a variety of flowers but keep them to one colour. It's a sure-fire bang of modern beauty. For the dining table, keep the stems cut to below eye level and about the same length as each other. You can even make your guests feel a warm welcome by bedecking the entry to your abode with fresh flower arrangements. For a contemporary look, group several vases together holding just one or two stems. If you're using your own container, be creative! Use champagne glasses, china pieces or other items that fit the décor of the room.
Whether it is with your own vegetable patch or maybe just a few cut flowers placed in your office room or coffee table, you cannot go wrong with adding a dash of greenery around you. Bring some vegetation home and let them rejuvenate your senses in a way you never knew possible!
By Wasia Mehnaz Minna