Life has kept me unusually busy. How else can I explain my not buying or growing plants or trees despite my love for everything green? As I look back, there was perhaps too much happening for me to actually find the time and energy to indulge in plants.
I am glad I still find moments to sit up and admire trees — in parks, on roadsides, in people’s houses, on highways… Sometimes it is a unique shade of green that compels me to take notice. Other times it’s their sculpted shapes, especially among bare denuded trees. The sudden joy a solitary Gulmohar or Amaltas brings to my mundane existence often forces me to stop, take photographs and save the moment in the picture gallery of my smart phone.
Like most of us, I see the immense value a large dense tree brings to the blistering Lahore summer. The sight of even one tree being cut is heart-breaking, and I may have lectured a lot of people on how we must protect our trees.
And yet I never planted a proper tree or tried to develop an organic relationship with it.
The house that I currently live in is a small rented property, with a nice half-grassy back lawn and a katcha flower bed along the driveway. About three years back, at least three plants started taking the shape of small trees, two in the flower bed and one in the back lawn. It was interesting because they were self-grown (wonder if that’s a term). They must be one of those wind-pollinated trees.
Before we knew it, they had grown up into full-blown adults. All three of them are different species. I still don’t know the common or botanical names for two; one is a jangli shahtoot (wild mulberry) for sure.
I especially get a chance to see this one tree in the back lawn because it now covers our entire bedroom window. This is the room where I sit and work, and of course sleep and wake up. I get to hear so many unusual bird sounds every morning when the blinds are still down. At times, the birds bang against the window glass as if by accident.
In the morning, as I roll up the blinds, the joy multiplies. When the rain comes in the company of windstorm, as it often did this monsoon, the branches flutter with force, looking both lovely and intimidating. The leaves hold raindrops long after the rain has stopped.
The sehra bail (or curtain creeper) the maali (gardener) had planted years ago to cover the bare walls now hangs down from the branches that are more than twenty feet high. It’s a marvel when and how the creeper jumped from the wall on to the tree. Perhaps, that’s a done thing in the plant kingdom.
This tree attracts birds of all hues, literally, which are a pleasure to watch from inside the room. I may have seen quite a few birds for the first time ever.
It’s an education watching the tree. This monsoon, it has borne a lot of black round gooey fruit. This must be why the bird traffic is constant all day. It’s amazing the way nature has a way of feeding its creation. The relationship between the tree and birds through fruit has now become even clearer to me.
This year I noticed a lot of over-ripe fruit on the ground, leaving a characteristic pungent smell. People generally resent the fallen fruit for its smell as well as the fact that it spoils the grassy lawns they so love to flaunt and would choose any day over the trees (our maali has already advised me to get the tree chopped to get rid of this mess).
But that’s not the end of the food cycle. Soon it’s time for some special bees to come onto the fruit, both fallen and hanging.
The whole ecology is mind-boggling, something that we the city-dwellers mostly remain ignorant of. I too would have stayed deprived of all these (in)sights if this tree had not come to me, offering an incredible view to my room and teaching me so much.