Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Frangipani

The heady scent of the frangipani wafting over the warm summer air has mellowed the harshness of many an Indian summer for me...

The dark glossy green leaves cast a cool shadow underneath its boughs twisted like aged wrinkled hands. The flowers themselves look so dewy fresh even under a blazing sun, they can make you forget the heat for a few moments.

The Frangipani, better known in India as ´champa´ in north India and ´chapha´ in Maharashtra is a tropical plant native to Asia and the Americas. It has a great many species producing exquisitely coloured flowers in many hues and shades.
Moreover these flowers often have an irresistible sweet fragrance.

Little surprise that these flowers have found their way into love songs and symbolise beauty, romance and love in many eastern cultures.

A famous marathi song talks of a maiden whoś hiding her feelings for her lover. Her friends compare her hidden love to the fragrance of the green champa flower hidden under her drape, try as she might to hide the flower, its fragrance still surrounds her.

The picture here was taken at Lalbaug in Bangalore, on an overcast day in late July.

I sign off this first post with a beautiful piece on the Frangipani by Rabindranath Tagore. 

The Champa Flower
Rabindranath Tagore

Supposing I became a champa flower, just for fun, and grew on a branch high up that tree, and shook in the wind with laughter and danced upon the newly budded leaves, would you know me, mother?
You would call, "Baby, where are you?" and I should laugh to myself and keep quite quiet.
I should slyly open my petals and watch you at your work.
When after your bath, with wet hair spread on your shoulders, you walked through the shadow of the champa tree to the little court where you say your prayers, you would notice the scent of the flower, but not know that it came from me.
When after the midday meal you sat at the window reading Ramayana, and the tree's shadow fell over your hair and your lap, I should fling my wee little shadow on to the page of your book, just where you were reading.
But would you guess that it was the tiny shadow of your little child?
When in the evening you went to the cow-shed with the lighted lamp in your hand, I should suddenly drop on to the earth again and be your own baby once more, and beg you to tell me a story.
"Where have you been, you naughty child?"
"I won't tell you, mother." That's what you and I would say then.

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