Gardening as a hobby started quite late in my life, even though I grew up in a place where there was always a small garden in front of our house I was not much interested in flowers and colorful leaves. It was however not the same for my grandmother, her way of gardening was quite rough when she wished she would plant something and on a whim, she would trim down something if not completely chopping it off.
Our garden had a small play area in the middle with a guava tree, my father had built me a swing on this tree and I would spend my summer vacations swinging all day and come monsoon I would have a delicious guava in my hand. During the summer vacations even with the sun touching the 40’s I would set up a small tent in between and play pretending to be a traveller going across the world in my open hood jeep and setting up my tent to rest for the night.
The construction of the tent was quite simple and easy, use four wickets to make the pole and cover it with a large bed sheet. The floor was simply covered with a floor mat. Sometimes I was lucky to have the company of some kittens but my grandmother would be the first one to throw them out. Being summer it was definitely hot and even though I would shower in my sweat I would continue to spend day dreaming about a safari.
Come April and the garden would be covered by red with the fallen petals of Gulmohar. My sister and I would then play criss-cross with the flower buds. Days turned into years and all of that changed, the garden area was actually not ours but belonged to a relative, one fine day I came to know that the whole are would be cleaned up as construction work would begin. The rose bush, coconut tree, guava tree, pomegranate tree were the first to go and the last one was the Gulmohar.
Even though I and my sister were in tears my grandmother was calm and quiet and watched it all from a distance. After the clean up a wall was erected separating me from my beloved garden. Just like a phoenix rising from the ashes some of the plants which could be shifted or grafted was replanted along the newly constructed wall. Most of the flowering plants were gone and only the Crotons and some Wild Cactuses were replanted.
In the year 2004 after quitting my first job right before Christmas I had a gap of nearly a month before starting my next job and during this one month, I decided to completely overhaul my garden. The first major challenge was to clear the soil which was mixed with a lot of gravel and cement chunks from the recent construction. It took me weeks to separate the soil by hand and taking out the chunks of stone and concrete. Next was the time to add fresh manure to revitalize the soil, luckily during that time at Agri Horticultural Society Gardens we have annual flower show and this is a trip one must do to see flowers which are a real treat to the eyes. Here you also get to buy gardening accessories, natural manures and of course seeds and saplings.
Since by now I was already into photography thus loved to photograph the lovely flowers that were put up for exhibition and competition at the Agri Horticultural Society Gardens. Secretly even I wanted to have colourful flowers in my garden too.
Loaded with natural manure, seeds, saplings and gardening tools I come back home, surprised to see all these my grandmother instruct me the proper way to apply the manures and using sand as a balancing agent to create the right mix of soil for optimum plant growth.
Following her instruction within months the garden started yielding fruit of labour and small colourful flowers started popping up. Even the crotons had much bigger leaves than what they used to. Soon the small lane that acts as an entrance to our house became my garden.
This change of guards at the garden was quite ironic since within three months my grandmother passed away leaving behind a legacy of love for plants and flowers. My gardening continued and at one point went to such an extent that my whole Sundays were dedicated to it. However time changes and with work and family, not so much time could be invested but still the small strip of garden remains.
What I would regret is that my daughter would never be able to enjoy the summers under a tent in our garden, sometimes to compensate that I make a tent with bed sheets over our bed and ask my daughter to crawl under. Trying my best to make her imagine travelling across a dozen deserts and spending the night in the jungle while elephants and tigers roam outside.