it the curse of the Green Gods, but the curse is upon me,
big time. Plants don't survive in my house, indoor or outdoors.
at the outset, I am not a nature lover. Sure, I like the
thought of having trees and parks around me, but I am equally
happy in a concrete environment. Here in Dhaka, I like the
view from my windows, swaying trees, flitting birds, et
al, but I would have liked equally well seeing a row of
apartments with their pigeon-holed windows and grilled balconies
full of clothes drying communicating with me. I like to
hear the clutter of vessels from my neighbour's pantry,
or the sounds of the motor of a car refusing to start, or
the piercing noise of an aeroplane that has just taken off.
Every noise tells me a story, every vehicle that passes
from below my windows speaks with me, every sizzling frying
pan shows me vitality. I am a people person; solitude kills
me. I equate people with life, and any signs of human activity
with man's eternal quest to survive against all odds.
this has been an unnecessary digression. I began by saying
that plants don't survive in my house. This, when I have
grown up in a family that prides itself on maintaining one
of the best lawns and gardens in town; when, the family
I am married into spends a better part of the day lovingly
tending to their lawns with utmost affection.
new daughter-in-law in their house, I had made conscious
attempts to try and be moved by the smells of the flowers,
by the twitter of birds in the trees, by the freshness of
the early morning dewy grass, or by the evocative headiness
of the aroma of the freshly mowed lawns. I learnt to give
a name to each flower, which had hitherto been just a bunch
of multi-hued flowers for me. Previously, a red flower had
held the same charm for me as a yellow one and a white one.
But that charm would be a transient fixation of the senses,
and once inside the house, soon forgotten and packed neatly
in some corner of my mind. But now, as a conscious attempt
to integrate myself into this new family, I memorised how
a red poppy looks different from a white hollyhock, and
forced myself to like the pungent smell of fertilizers and
chemical powders. And I also learnt to wield the plants
scissors (pardon me if it is supposed to have a name, which
I am certain it has).
as with most things forced, I realised the futility of my
attempt to appease others with something temperamentally
not suited to me. Soon, I gave up, and little later, the
family too gave up on making me appreciate the diverse ways
of communion with Nature!
most city dwellers, The Hubby and I have always lived in
apartment houses with little or no patch of green below.
Keeping indoor potted plants is a fashionable and most acceptable
substitute. They say green plants bring freshness, positive
energies, even money (!) into your house. I buy only the
oxygen part of it.
seeing healthy potted plants at someone's house does leave
me with a tinge of envy. When I look down from my third
floor balcony, I see two balconies directly below mine,
both full of pots of all shapes and sizes. The one on the
second floor also has several hanging pots, and there are
enough plants on this balcony to open a mini-nursery!
more reflective times, I have wondered about that intangible
factor that's missing from my (often sincere) attempts to
keep indoor plants. The Hubby says it is love and affection
that's singularly lacking. "You don't have to treat
them in the same way you treat me. Thanks to you, I may
be a dispassionate creature with no voice of my own. But
these plants? These plants too are beings with no voice,
but have an unassuming capacity to stir passions. Treat
them with love." Such tangential references never register
with me anyways.
fair to myself, it is not that I haven't tried; but obviously,
I haven't tried enough. Every time I have approached a potted
plant to water it, it has been mostly out of a sense of
unavoidable responsibility rather than the 'love' The Hubby
speaks of. To me, a fern is a fern, a palm leaf is a palm
leaf, and there's no way it can take the place of my 'baby'.
There are certain things I can do for a plant (remember
to water it once in a couple of days, dig the soil in the
pot, remember to add fertilizer with a forgotten urgency,
and have it shown to the sun when the room or passage where
it is placed starts smelling mossy). And then there are
things I cannot do for a plant, like spraying jets of water
once every hour (I wash my own face just once a day), wiping
the dust off every two hours as if all the polluting atoms
in the atmosphere are making a concerted effort to sully
the leaves, talking to them, connecting with them and hearing
them sing and breathe, and so on.
average, two out of ten plants survive in my home. Here
in Dhaka, none of the five I brought home in the first lot
survived. There has not been a second lot since. Historically,
the ones to have survived my non-malicious, inadvertent
indifference have fared well after switching care-giving
hands. For instance, my plants used to look unrecognisably
healthy whenever I would return from any long trips, the
neighbours having taken ample care of them. Following my
return, it would take them just a few days to slip into
their earlier lacklustre mediocrity.
recent trip to Mumbai, I was pleasantly surprised to see
the plants that I'd left in the nurturing care of my cousin
blooming with a radiance unknown in my house, and what's
more important, looking happy and cared for! She dragged
me to them and showed me with the pride of a surrogate mater,
"do you see how I've been loving your plants",
she said with unsuppressed elation. I said, yeah yeah, great!
But I didn't stand there long enough for the plants to start
talking to me. Every moment on my trip was precious, and
getting tingled by a few plants didn't feature on my agenda.
Hubby is right when he says I lack warmth. Maybe, that is
what has made him too so cut-and-dry. Time I stopped equating
him with the ornamental extras in my house.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004