Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hobby as a First Love

The other day when I returned home from work, I saw my wife standing in front of one of the few hundred potted plants we have around our independent house in Chennai. She looked very upset.

I asked her what had happened. Pointing to a dead flowering plant, she said, ‘This jasmine plant is dead, in spite of my best efforts it did not survive’. Even personal tragedies do not bring tears to her eyes – but when the plants that she lovingly nurtures die, she gets very upset.

Her passion for gardening as a hobby is legendary in our family circles. I always tease her that her first love is gardening – everything else is secondary.

Over the last 30 years that we have been living in our own house, she has managed to grow hundreds of flowering plants, and other green plants. We have over six varieties of jasmine (Malli) :-Nithya Malli, Pavala Malli, Mullai, Jadi malli, adukku malli, & gundu malli, and over forty varieties of crotons and scores of colorful Hibiscus, Exora and Arali plants; flowering plants with no fragrance.

We even have fruit bearing trees – Sapota (chikku), Guava, Lemon sized Japanese oranges (called Kungfat) besides a coconut tree, banana tree, mango tree and even a drumstick tree!

In the absence of a regular gardener, my wife tends to each plant herself. Every morning she goes around the compound checking, trimming, weeding, cleaning and generally looking after the plants. Spending nearly 60 to 90 minutes on this particular activity.

Though we have a (ubiquitous) Velaikari’ (part time maid servant) who is supposed to water the plants, you can see my wife herself watering the plants if the velaikari does not turn up or if she is not satisfied with the job done by the maid. Whenever we travel she constantly worries whether the maid has watered the plants or not. Almost akin to how pet owners worry about their pet dogs or cats when they are away on tour.

As soon as we return from any tour, the first thing she will do is to go round inspecting the plants as if saying “Hey Guys, I am back to look after you!” There is a perceptible difference in the appearance of the plants as well; those drooping suddenly seem to perk up! I wonder if there is any truth in the belief that plants can also communicate with their patrons.

In the morning she has to pluck flowers for Puja, and in the evening she is kept busy collecting Nithya malli (jasmine) flower growing on our terrace. Come rain or sunshine she spends about 60 minutes every day plucking these fragrant flowers (nature`s aphrodisiac) and spends another 30 minutes tying them on a string to make a nice ‘maala’ for her hair or for use in the Puja room the next day.

I remember the year 1988 when my wife and I had gone on a holiday to USA and Canada. While shopping in a Mall in New York, she insisted that we buy a long hose pipe fitted with ‘start’ & ‘stop’ control mechanism, to avoid wastage of water, since such a device was not available in India. On our return journey one of the check-in bags contained only the ‘hose pipe’!

Like all women who are crazy about gardening, when we visit friends and if she finds a garden around the host`s house, she will go on an inspection tour of the garden before she has even said ‘hello’ to the host! Invariably, the host pleased with the guest`s interest in his/her hobby, will gift away a few plants which she would then promptly place in a pot and nurture carefully until it catches on. But when she tries to pluck saplings from plants in public gardens, where plucking of flowers and saplings is prohibited, I feel embarrassed. Invariably, I also find that she is not alone in this act. There are other equally gardening crazy women stealthily plucking and hiding the items in the folds of their Saris!!

After having fulfilled her responsibilities as a grandmother and helping her daughters during their `deliveries’, nowadays, my better half is comparatively free. So she indulges herself with a vengeance in her hobbies. In addition to gardening, she also finds time for reading,, music and writing. Time permitting, she looks after a retired husband who spends more time idling and grumbling about real and imaginary health problems.
My wife knows that an `Idle mind is a devil`s workshop and her hobbies help keep her mind and body active!

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