My mother's garden

My mother's garden

Mother had a green thumb. She had a deep love for plants and was very knowledgeable about them. Father’s job was a transferable one and during his career, the family moved from Poona (now Pune) to Rajkot to Patna and then finally to Calcutta (now Kolkata). In all the cities except Calcutta, the family lived in bungalows with gardens.

Mother used to be very happy, growing and tending flowers, fruits and vegetables at all the places we stayed in. She was quite unhappy that in Calcutta, we lived in a flat. She used to reminisce about the lovely gardens she had left behind. She spoke wistfully about the many birds, including peacocks, which used to visit.

So in Calcutta, she filled every inch of space in our balcony with pots to grow flowers like varieties of jasmine and herbs like basil, mint, sambrani and curry leaves. Money plant climbers grew on either side of the balcony door. She also grew brinjal and bitter gourd creepers. Father used to joke that she could even grow a coconut palm in a pot if she put her mind to it.

After father’s retirement, my parents moved to Belgaum (now Belagavi) and lived in a bungalow with a front garden and a big backyard. It was like heaven for mother. I think the years they spent in Belgaum were the happiest of her life. She made several trips to the Horticultural Society and brought home seeds and saplings. Soon, every nook and cranny in the garden sported some kind of flowering plant, fruit or vegetable. In the front garden, she grew colourful dahlias and roses and fragrant jasmines and sugandhi (white butterfly ginger lily).

In the backyard, vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, tomato, bitter gourd, brinjal and plantain grew alongside fruits like banana, papaya and custard apple. There were also several coconut palms and mango, guava, chikoo, lemon and jackfruit trees. Mother’s favourite was the Ratnagiri Alphonso tree which used to bear hundreds of mangoes while still only about five feet in height.

Mother spent most of her mornings and evenings pottering about among her beloved plants, weeding and pruning while chatting with them. She treated her plants like her children, speaking lovingly to them, caressing them as she spoke. Under her loving care, the garden thrived, producing flowers and fruits endlessly.

Mother spent 17 gloriously happy years in the Belgaum bungalow. After father’s passing, she moved to Bengaluru to be near her son. What a wrench it must have been for her, to leave her beloved garden behind!

Today, it pains me to write that neither the beautiful house nor the garden remains. It has all been built up. How the builders had the heart to cut down all the precious trees and plants, one cannot imagine. The price of development and a rising population is a steep one.