Flowers Memory Blowers!

[All my photographs]
My memory of events is associated with flowers and music. The latter is common, though I would like to believe that the former is not so common. The explosion of music offering gadgets must have had its effect simultaneous with disappearance of gardens.

The advantage I had was that I grew up in a small village, actually a Tata Power colony in the ‘ghat’ that leads to Pune from Khopoli. With the jungle around, you saw various different flowers. I often watched my mother make ‘gajra’ of those flowers.

We stayed in a bungalow and a creeper bore pale violet flowers. Later I learnt that those were ‘Ipomea’ flowers. I do not know the local name. I met Ipomea again when I walked from LBS Marg where you have the Kanjurmarg Bridge to Powai Lake. Believe me, in the late sixties it was an area considered full of flowers. The road from IIT-Powai to Powai Lake was flanked by marshy land, and it was a fit habitat for Ipomea [aquatica]. Not a single flower one can see today, thanks to Hiranandanis and corrupt corporators of Mumbai Municipality who lack vision. But that is a different story. I recently met this beautiful flower. The colour was blue to violet.

The story of Sterlitzia is interesting. The housing complex in which my daughter stayed in Durban, SA was called Sterlitzia. I had never seen this beautiful flower earlier. Though quite common now, it was not so during my college days, I would like to believe that it perhaps had not made it to India. I noticed it in Durban. Then again at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Cape Town. 

There is an interesting story about this flower. One variety is called “Sterlitzia mandela.” And I read it at Kirstenbosch Garden. I read it again on a website. Here it is:
Sterlitzia 'Mandela's Gold' marks the first time a yellow Bird of Paradise will grow true from seed. Usually they will cross pollinated by the more common orange Bird of Paradise. At the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, in South Africa, the curator had access to 7 yellow Bird of Paradise plants and spent the next 20+ years hand-pollinating them with each other to increase the stock. Their first yellow Sterlitzia introduced to the trade was released under the name 'Kirstenbosch Gold'. In 1996, they were given permission to re-name it in honor of Nelson Mandela.

Among lotuses, Neel Kamal is not the very common variety. Not around Mumbai. My memory of lotuses goes to our hometown Pen where I had seen beautiful red lotuses. On the way to Pen one could meet this beautiful flower. Not anymore. [This seems to be the recurring note!]. In Mumbai I was surprised to find lotuses in a small lake [pond may be a better description, but as a school going boy we used to call it a lake] near Marwadi Chawl area which you cross when you move from Chembur Naka to Sindhi Colony. But they were pink or red lotuses, not blue. Blue lotus fascinated us perhaps because of the film Neel Kamal. The film had nothing to do with blue lotus except that the heroin was named Neel kamal.

I saw blue lotuses in the Kodaikanal Lake and shouted ‘Hey Blue Lotus!’ only to be corrected by the person who rowed our boat ‘No, it is not a lotus!’ What the heck! I felt insulted. On reaching my hotel room, I consulted Google and it told me that the man was right!! [Quote] ‘A common misconception is confusion of the lotus with the water lilies (Nymphaea, in particular Nymphaea caerulea, sometimes called the "blue lotus"); they are practically unrelated; far from being in the same family…’ [Unquote] So it is a water lily! Ok, ok. But why waste time discussing the botanical classification? A blue lotus is beautiful and it was stunningly beautiful in still waters of Kodaikanal Lake.

And particularly this one near a big tree looked very delicate like Mumtaz in Dara Singh's arms! People of my generation will understand what I mean!!

Another flower reminded me of my Khopoli days was this flower which I believe belongs to Sunflower family. Or at least I think so. I do not know the name. But let me not hazard a guess. What matters is that we saw them in plenty growing on the walls. Brought back old memories. Flowers seen in your young days are like girls in your school – permanently etched in memory!

I noticed Kurinji plant in the Kodaikanal garden. It flowers once in 12 years and will flower again in 2018. Never seen it earlier but I knew a similar one. As a young boy I had travelled to Mahabaleshwar where my father picked up a bottle ‘Karvi’ honey. Karvi flower, he told me blooms once in seven years. Never got to see one bloom.

Wow this bottlebrush tree! Myrtaceae! [Prof Nadkarni, I haven’t forgotten!!] You find it in UDCT campus and in many small parks in Mumbai. It also reminds me of the real Ashoka tree or Saraca indica. More about it later.

And finally these red flowers! Discovered in Kodaikanal garden. I do not know the name. I had seen those in Lalbaug. You do not waste time finding out names of flowers when you go to Lalbaug in Bangalore soon after your marriage, right? It is more than thirty-five years since I visited Lalbaug. I remember pretty red flowers and pretty…..

Vivek S Patwardhan 

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