Wednesday 25 May 2011

From buds to blooms

Here goes Part VII of my Nature series.
In middle school, everyone had to study science and history, mathematics and the languages. We had to write, draw, calculate... we had no say, no preference, no choice. It was especially difficult for those who couldn't handle art (I must say I wasn't too bad at drawing, but struggled with numbers). If we'd had cameras and been allowed to paste pictures we'd taken ourselves, how different life would have been for many, and such fun! Now that I can click pictures, though there is no drudgery of homework, I sort of freak out with my phone camera when the opportunity presents itself.
For our biology homework, I remember we had to draw pictures of, among others, an amoeba, stages in the growth of a cell, germination of seeds, types of leaves and parts of a flower.
These I recall because they were my favourites, for even then nature's marvellous ways could cast a spell on me. We had a small lawn, and I'd get late for school because I wanted to gaze more at two new yellow flowers on a ladyfinger (okra) plant that were mere buds till the other day. I could spend hours watching a bumbling black and yellow caterpillar munching leaves off a lemon plant that hardly ever bloomed.
Nature has been very kind to me, and I'm blessed now with a family home that has a midsize tree which never stops blooming the year round. Giving us teeny-weeny buds to beautiful flowers to fruit in a space of just weeks, this tree is the darling of the family, especially the husband's.
Can you tell which tree is it? I'm saving the photo of the fruit on the tree for another time.
How many of us have actually witnessed this bud-to-fruit cycle? Not many, I suspect, for our urban jungles leave little space for such beauty to unfold and prosper. Welcome to this celebration of buds and blooms.
Meanwhile, do make a guess: what tree is this?

Tuesday 17 May 2011

A dazzling white rose, every morning

Good morning, whiteness!
The white rose that greets me outside my flat almost daily flowers for a day or two, then begins to wither. I've been watching this trend keenly: another splash of brilliance on some other branch takes over almost immediately, but two roses don't bloom together on the bush.
I wrote earlier about the rose bush that my former neighbour had planted outside my flat. One rose only at a time, and truly it remains that way.
The young man to whom she has let out her flat loves to potter about morning and evening amid the limited greenery our apartments can afford. It's great to see his little daughter faithfully by his side, when she's not away to school. He's the one who makes sure the plants outside our flats are watered regularly, and has even managed an impossible feat. He's nudged the unyielding earth outside my flat into letting him grow a beautiful little hedge dotted with cute local jasmines (below, left) that make my day each time I go out walking. It worries me less now that the flower beds outside his flat bloom much more.
The pink heart tugs at yours.
At times I feel guilty about my non-participation in an exercise that brings such a feast for the eyes. But I'm sure my neighbour's so happy to tend to the green ones around us that maybe he's best left alone with them. I can just thank him heartily whenever I see him.
The toughest must give way to flowers.
In the pictures of the roses taken over a week, note that each flower looks like a marvellous clone of the other two. The white is almost blinding, and the touch of pink just does you in. Yes, the roses dazzle in the morning; by the evening, like all else they begin to droop in the searing May heat.
A vision in white.
That's the sixth in my Nature series.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

When I got a money order

“Money order.” I looked at the man from the post office. “Excuse me?” I exclaimed in disbelief. Who, in this day and age, sends money by post any more?  Cheques, demand drafts or electronic transfer being the norm of the day, it was sort of shocking that this mode was still in use. Clearly, my metropolitan lifestyle had removed me a step from the ground realities that non-urban India faced. It was a sobering thought.
I knew of none who would send me cash this way. The postman showed me a sheet of paper with the sender’s name. It was a small organization that had once asked me to write for its magazine. Back with a bang! This money order had been sent from Delhi itself, so all was well with my world again.
I signed at two places, and the postman gave me a currency note. (Things have changed, I noted, for this man was not dressed in the khaki uniform of yore.) The sum was very small, but it set off some memories.
From college onwards, I had been put in charge of attending to all post office-related transactions on behalf of our household. So hail or storm, rain or sunshine, I walked some 2 kilometres whenever we needed to deposit or withdraw cash; to get the passbook updated; send a money order; get postal orders (those days, all application money for entrance exams had to be sent through postal orders); buy stamps; or mail a rakhi by registered post and the like.
One incident invariably comes to mind each time I fill in a cheque or a deposit/withdrawal slip in a bank now. I had to put Rs 1,200 into an account. On the deposit slip I spelt out the amount: “Rupees twelve hundred only”. The elderly man behind the counter rebuked me gently: “Child, this time I will accept it, but next time write ‘one thousand and one hundred’ or you will have to fill up another form.”
He was an exception. Most of the staff at the post office was snappy, irritable.
Technology has drastically changed the face of communication and financial exchange. There was a time when, to avoid the expense of registered mail, you could mail letters ‘Under Postal Certificate’ (UPC) to ensure that your application was delivered at the right office and not left at the doorstep or dropped into a letter box fallen into disuse. Today, even that vital appointment letter comes right into your virtual mailbox on your laptop screen, and voila! You’ve got a new job.
Post offices now offer a host of tech-based services never possible just a decade back. Unfortunately, they are still not uniformly equipped across the country; some even in Delhi took a long, long time to update. A few years back, the local post office had been supplied with the hardware but the computers lay unused for nearly a year, tied by red tape. It took me many wasted trips before my account could be closed.
For the ‘government servants’ in post offices, service with a smile is still not the motto. I discovered that on a trip to the swanky post office on Parliament Street last year. Eventually, one hopes, that too will change.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

An ode to trees

My humble way of thanking nature for giving me what I'd missed out on for so long:

Leafy patterns in the sky
You can’t reach them, however you try.
Trace them, follow them, oh so high
To be there like a bird you must fly.

They are spidery, they are dense
Now like giants they are spread.
Some are happy, some are tense
They shed leaves to give you a bed.

Fighting the rain and sun for you
They chill you shrill when the wind escapes.
They bring you fruits and flowers too
Enchanting colours and a million shapes.
Love them, nourish them, nature’s gift
Trees, these green trees, low and high.
A look—and how your spirits lift!
Keep them growing, oh, ne'er let them die.