If the rose is a symbol of beauty, passion and love, the chrysanthemum stands for loyalty, devotion and cheer. For the past few weeks, chrysanthemums, also known as mums or chrysanths, have been adding beauty to the City Beautiful where we have built a tradition for creating festivals around its flowers. With the delayed winter, the mums in their delicate hues have been cheery even in the last month of the year standing well in pride with the red poinsettia or Christmas flower. The Chrysanthemum Show in the terraced garden in Sector 33 had the visitors intoxicated with the delicate, spicy fragrance of the flower that is Asia’s own and is known to have been cultivated in China long ago.
The Chrysanthemum has inspired poets in different parts of the world to celebrate the blooms in verse. Du Fu, the well known eighth century poet, wrote several poems in the praise of the flower that is also a symbol of enduring life and birth, and rebirth. Then English poet Thomas Hardy wrote the melancholy poem ‘The Last Chrysanthemum’ in which he bemoans that why should this flower delay so long to show its tremulous plumes and that nothing remains for it but shivering in tempests turbulent! Guldaudi, as it is called in India, for it is said that some Dauds of Saudi Arabia traded in this ‘Gul’ or blossom, brought forth more cheery verses. Nearest home is a celebratory Punjabi poem by Bhai Vir Singh called ‘Guldaudian Aaian’. The poem has a girl running out in the open crying out to her female friends to join in welcoming the blooms.
It is this poem so dear to a city doctor, Gunita Gill, that came to her lips some 30 years ago when she saw the Guldaudi in bloom at a friend’s home. “I lived then in a PGI house in Sector 24 and I started gathering saplings for my garden. Just in a couple of years, I was so proud of my flowers that I decided to call my friends, colleagues and friends of my school-going daughter for a tea party to rejoice at the beautiful blooms,” says Gunita. The flowers began to increase in numbers and the tea parties started getting bigger. It has been an annual affair for the past 30 years even after the garden-proud Gunita moved to her Mansa Devi complex home. So the young women in the first decade of their careers, including doctors, administrators, teachers and others, kept up with this festivity well past their retirement bringing their daughters, daughters-in-law and even grandchildren to enjoy the flowering festivity.
Last weekend it was special because Gunita, the gardener, announced that this year it would be the end of the affair, but ‘No’ cried her friends who seem to be enjoying every moment of this annual ritual. Gunita laughs, pointing out to her ‘Pompoms’, ‘Snowballs’, ‘Spider Mums’ and ‘Button Blossoms’, and says, “One is getting on in years so one may or may not be able to grow them in times to come, but let’s enjoy them while one may”. And while the season is still lingering into December, remember to dry some bunches of white and yellow chrysanthemums for brewing a flowery tea as the Chinese still do for a natural coolant in summer time.