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Vol. XXXIV No. 5, June 16-30, 2024

Reflections in a lost ‘Garden of Paradise’ on a Chennai Sunday morning…

-- by Pushpa Chari

A month or so back, I stumbled upon my own ‘garden of paradise’. At the crack of dawn and literally in my own backyard. So here I am,

with a book, of verse,
a flask of filter ‘ kapee’,
And thou (well, actually my dachshund Planet) beside me,
And this (indeed) is paradise now”!!

And no, I do not,refer to the ‘Garden of Paradise’ brilliantly woven into my recently acquired Qum Carpet, or the Charbagh garden of Islamic aesthetics, but to my randomly planted flowering – tree and plant-filled 15 ft by 10 ft “Jugaad’ garden in my South Chennai home which seemingly morphs overnight into a seasonal paradisiacal garden: perfumed, carpeted with exotic blooms, filled with mesmerizing music and…

But let me begin at the beginning as all stories and gardens do, and as a riposte to doubting Thomas friends; who think my stories of garden paradise in Chennai to be a part of my summer madness. So here goes………

It is 5-ish in the morning and as I grumpily open the door to take in our milk sachets, I am assailed, enveloped and perfume-surrounded by what appears to be air drenched in the fragrance of a hundred flowers! The scented air is all pervasive, intense, magical. I take deep breaths – do I smell whiffs of the ‘nithyamalli’ growing wild in my “jugaad” garden further down, a hint of the sweet-smelling temple tree and Rangoon creeper blossoms draped over my garden wall or the intensely fragrant flowers falling from my neighbour’s Millingtonia tree? I walk towards my “Jugaad” garden with the perfumed air growing heavier and more heady – and suddenly stop in wonder. The whole garden space is transformed into a carpet of yellow-gold Peltoforum flowers, steadily dropping from the Peltoforum tree like gentle rain on the ground below! And up above is the enchantment of the dawn-breaking eastern sky painted in shades of glorious pink, through which the sun’s rays struggle to emerge. Truly a Van Gogh moment. Or my garden of paradise moment?

But wait, there is more to complete the picture: the rising chorus of birdsong in a crescendo of crows, sparrows, seven sisters, koels, and more belting out their own individual morning ‘raagas’. The deafening birdsong orchestra fills the air and the heart, giving that perfect musical touch to my garden of paradise. Birds fly everywhere making music, and yes, my favourite avians, a pair of rose-ringed woodpeckers, join in the orchestra with their ‘knock on wood’ drumming while the butterflies come dancing in … Caught in the grip of the mood and the moment I sit down to meditate and fall gradually into deep, sound sleep.

To be shaken awake by my phone’s 8 o’clock alarm bells ringing. Cruelly, persistently. Well, time to bid farewell to sleep and alas, to my ‘garden of paradise’ too. It seems to have vanished in the hour while I slept. The perfume in the air has faded, the birdsong a memory, the flower carpet curled up at the edges in the glare of sunlight – and the birds and butterflies have flown away.

But tomorrow is another day, another morning. And I’m sure my ‘garden of paradise’ will come visiting again a few more times till the scorching summer ends my garden trsyts. Till next spring then…

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  1. Srinivas says:

    What a dreamy piece about a slice of Nature in the concretised city!!

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