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Rang de Basanti in Delhi!

With the temperature crossing the 40-degree mark, there is no more time to be wasted. Amaltas flowers are the only good part of Delhi summers, writes Mayank Austen Soofi.

art and culture Updated: May 19, 2009 21:11 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

With the temperature crossing the 40-degree mark, there is no more time to be wasted. Amaltas flowers are in bloom and they remain so only during the months of May and June.



Leave your AC room and hit the road — Hailey Road, that is. This quiet stretch of a road near Connaught Place is at present glowing on both sides in a spectacular sprinkling of gold. Thanks to the amaltas tree.

But why should you care? “In peak summer, the sky is hazy grey, the air dusty and everything is tiresome,” says Kunal Chatterjee, a student of classical music. “But the cheery sight of amaltas invigorates the senses.”

Yes, trees can be cool. Native to India (though Greece and Egypt claim it as their own), amaltas is noted for its yellow flowers that blossom only when the weather gets hot. As if nature is compensating for its intolerable heat.

At this time of the year, you inevitably come across these dazzling bursts on any Delhi street, but there is a reason why we ask you to take a walk down Hailey Road. There, the sight is incredible — rows of amaltas trees; yellow flowers entwined with the green leaves of the peepal; flowers crawling up electric poles, snaking around notice boards, falling like snow flakes onto the ground, covering it with a golden-hued carpet.

No wonder they are also referred to as golden shower and golden rain. While walking, don’t skip the giant amaltas growing out of the guards’ barrack at the Iranian embassy.

“The most remarkable feature about amaltas is that it is still a wild tree with wild genes and wild characters,” says Pradip Krishen, the author of Trees of Delhi.

“Horticulturists tend to breed for showy flowers, prettier foliage or better fragrance and so it’s rare to see a


cultivated tree that remains true to its wild form even in a city like Delhi.”

Amaltas has other uses, too, though not that aesthetic. Its roots, bark, seeds and leaves are used as a purgative to make one vomit and, well, also as a laxative. But on Hailey Road, you just focus on its look.

“Don’t let its flowers blind you to its fragrance,” advises Krishen. “You’ll have to take a deep sniff when the diesel fumes are at their minimum but the amaltas emits a truly lovely fragrance, especially in the morning.”