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Time for a ‘leafy’ shower

As summer gets closer, trees across Delhi start shedding leaves. If it’s windy, the yellowed leaves drop continuously in a gentle shower, and by noon, the roads are carpeted with a golden-coloured layer.

entertainment Updated: Mar 08, 2010 01:45 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

As summer gets closer, trees across Delhi start shedding leaves. If it’s windy, the yellowed leaves drop continuously in a gentle shower, and by noon, the roads are carpeted with a golden-coloured layer. Many leaves find their way onto the subway stairs, into ATM cabins and even into the open kettles of roadside tea vendors. In the evening, when office-goers reach the parking stands, they first must wipe the dry leaves from their cars’ windshields.

“It’s basant, a happy time,” says Hindi poet Ashok Vajpayee referring to the season. However, the thought isn’t shared by everybody. “I associate falling leaves with melancholy,” says Michaela Kreuterova, a Czech citizen who has lived in Delhi for six years. “In my Europe, leaves fall in autumn, which is a kind of sad season because it heralds the coming of the cold, harsh winters.”In Delhi, it’s the opposite.

The autumn, or patjhad, arrives after a short spell of spring, heralding the coming of hot, harsh summers. “For a tree to survive in prolonged drought, it needs to shut down,” says Pradip Krishen, the author of the magisterial book, Trees of Delhi. “The best way for it to do that is to drop its leaves and stop transpiring water.”

Watching the leaves fall brings mixed emotions. “I feel bad for those poor leaves,” says Parveen, a sex worker in GB Road. “They fall to the ground to be trampled upon by people’s feet.” Thumri singer Vidya Rao, windows of whose Mehrauli apartment open in a shrubby archaeological park, compares the phenomenon to the cycle of life. “Things are returning to earth,” she says. “New leaves will come. This is life.”

However, not all Delhiites are lucky to live within an eye-view of gardens or tree-lined avenues. “I don’t see any trees from here,” says Pushpa Singh, who lives in an apartment in Vasundhra, a suburb beyond the last Metro station of east Delhi. “But my tulsi plant on the terrace has shed its leaves.”

Lovelier still is that a few trees which have gone leafless, are now in full blossom. The branches of semal trees, for instance, are decked with thick pulpy red flowers. “The strategy of trees in this eco system is to put out flowers first before the new leaves appear,” says Krishen. “This makes the flowers more conspicuous for pollinators.”

The leaf lovers, however, need not wait till the monsoons to see the next growth. Most trees cultivate new leaves weeks before the rains. And that dazzle of naked branches clothing themselves in green is as beautiful a sight as this season’s leaf shower.

“This is our last chance to enjoy cool weather in the open skies before the oppressive heat takes over.”
—Ashok Vajpayee, poet