‘I don’t think I can live without plants”, I told a bunch of people the other day. Some times, the strangest of things we feel, comes out accidentally amid conversations. And, when we hear ourselves, it is a revelation! Till that moment, I had never considered my love for plants.
It was never like this. Back when I was a little girl, I had tried my hand at planting some floral shrubs in our front yard. I watered them diligently. After a week or so, I had seen the glow of the very first flower — five beautiful tender pink petals with a lovely yellow spot in the middle. I had been smote by my gardening skills. “I have a good hand” — I had screamed in joy because, people in my village believed that, if you don’t have “the hand”, no plant would survive.
But, my happiness was short-lived. Very soon, the shrub died. My ability to grow plants had come to an abrupt halt. My hand and I went on to do other things. Plants did not figure in any of them.
No. I didn’t hate them. But I thought, they didn’t belong to me. Plants and trees were meant for others to have and nurture. I kept my distance because, investing in affection could result in heartache.
I watched the greenery, marvelled at the flowers, used the right adjectives, but with a coldness that only I seemed to know. I did not touch or feel the leaves and I quite frankly began to hate the idea of dirt on my hands that comes with the territory.
Like with everything, the inevitable happened. A square piece of land behind the house meant — a garden had to be maintained. “Minimal plants”, I told a man who claimed to be a gardener. “I cannot tend to them, so make sure they grow by themselves”, I told the man for which he responded: “Plants grow by themselves madam”, and laughed. Of course, he didn’t know my history.
Plants came by to live. Birds would perch on tender branches and chirp away, but nothing swayed my heart.
“The summers are too hot”, the gardener told me one warm summer morning, “it is better we hand-water them once”, he looked at me thoughtfully. Angry that he tried to avoid work, I grabbed the hose pipe and began to water. The water guzzled out of the pipe and drenched the dry earth. The smell was exotic and that is how my romance with the water hose began.
Water droplets have a way of putting a smile on your face, they dance in the wind, they sparkle in the sun and when they fall on the leaf, they put a smile on the plant. I had never known such details, but I liked them. The more I watered, the more details I noticed — “it isn’t so bad”, I sighed.
I never set out to strike a friendship but before I knew, I was not just tending to plants, I was even getting my hands dirty in mud. I had begun to see, smile and even have secret conversations with them.
But, I never knew I loved them, till I announced to a bunch of visitors that I couldn’t live without them! That is when I hit reality — I had fallen in love with them — truly, madly, deeply.
Now that I am officially in love with plants, I am in pursuit of the previously unthinkable chore — learning the names of those colourful heads that light up my day. I am still learning their ways too — some like more sun, some don’t like them at all, some guzzle water, some are conscious of their diet — like us — just plain crazy. But, the one thing that nags me from time to time, do I have the hand?
Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman.