My Daffodils, poet's envy

  • Sanjeev Bhatla, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Apr 19, 2014 08:48 IST

It is again that season when trees are dressed in their best new leaves and colourful flowers to attract the cuckoos. The pleasant weather that invites you out to enjoy this bliss of nature takes me back to March 1993, when I had just started my career as a trainee engineer at a village near Pinjore.

Our factory and bachelors' hostel was 5 kilometres further. The evening or night shifts left me ample leisure time in the day. One of those days, I had some work at the village bank. Those days, finding conveyance was a challenge but I managed to hitch a ride till the destination.

As the weather was fine, so after the business was over, I took a stroll back instead of looking for a lift. The small village road had a seasonal stream flowing on one side, while on the other side lay a large stretch of yellow-green mustard fields, a jungle, and the Kasauli mountains.

The light breeze carried along a sweet fragrance. It was the bouquet I knew and liked since childhood.

I searched in vain in all of Hindi poetry, in the works of Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Suryakant Tripathi Nirala, Mahadevi Verma, and other greats, but couldn't find anything to describe the aroma of sheesham (Indian rosewood or tahli), which I can compare to alstonia or raat ki raani.

In these months, the tree starts blooming with soft fresh leaves and tiny bunches of whitish pink flowers. That half-hour walk got etched in my memory.

In 2009, livelihood brought me to Mohali. My edge of the satellite town of Chandigarh was still undeveloped and raw. One day again in these months, I took along my kids to explore our new neighbourhood.

We were on a small, lonely road lined with wild bushes and shrubs. A bater (common quail) and her little ones disappeared into the bushes and a brown rabbit hopped across.

A large tree in the middle of the stretch looked a patriarch among the small growth. Its branches were adorned with red apron. A small platform around its trunk proved that some people frequented there for worship. I wondered who, when we have so many temples in the town.

Enamoured by that tree, my children wanted to hug its branches but I was afraid they would rip their clothes or encounter a snake. As children, we would get into the thorniest of bushes to fetch the lost gilli (wooden bail) during the sport of gilli-danda (tip-cat), and in the course mow down the scrubs, scratch our limbs, and get barbs into the skin.

A number of lizards and other insects were disturbed from their slumber and a lot of red-yellow berries were won. At 40, age hadn't made me braver.

A mysterious force dragged me to the big tree, a journey of 50 metres through plants laden with beautiful purple, white and pink wild flowers. These were not antirrhinum, aster, sweet pea, gerbera or petunias that adore the lush urban lawns, yet butterflies and cuckoos preferred their company.

I don't know what English romantic poet William Wordsworth experienced when his "heart started dancing" while he wandered lonely as a cloud high o'er vales and hills but now I had also found my "Daffodils".

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