Do you have a plant story?

I think everyone should have a plant story. Like you eat a fruit, save the seed, sow it and then eagerly look at it every morning to see if there is any life peeking out of the soil.

As a kid I never had one. Oh wait, the school project doesn’t really count because we all mostly use a pulse that sprouts faster and once the teacher has checked the project no one really knows what to do with all those tiny seedlings.

But my dad had one and my grandma had many plant stories.

Dad told me that when he was young and living in Palakkad, someone got him a mango. Not just any mango but the very famous Malgova mango.  But dad got just one. He simply loved it and wanted to hold on to it. So what did he do? Like any other kid he sowed the seed in his backyard and took care of it. He watered it every day and watched it grow. It grew taller and taller just like him and soon started to bear fruit. In the intervening years, the house has changed many owners but the mango tree still stands there as a loving childhood memory of my dad. And when he saw the tree years later, it was almost like meeting an old friend for him. As if he had to greet the tree, my dad took a stone and aimed for a fruit.

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Do we have any plant stories to tell the future generation?

I remember when I moved to Bangalore and how the first thing I got introduced to was a Brahmakamal plant climbing all over the house. Oh! there were so many stories about it. Right from who gifted the plant, to how many people have taken a leaf from it, to how many flowers bloomed last year. There was 15 years worth of memories. It was like a member of the family. So much that even the slightest mention of pruning the plant was met with a defensive remark on how it is not disturbing anyone.

And then on the other side we see people just thoughtlessly cutting a whole tree to create an extra room in their house or to widen the roads. I wonder if we have stopped connecting to the stationary life around us? Can the youngsters relate to trees with a little bit of emotion or will it just be textbook information of ‘save trees’ and ‘global warming’? Even more heartbreaking is my grandmother leasing out her mango tree because she can’t find anyone to climb the tree and pluck mangoes anymore. The simple joy of plucking a fruit, sometimes seasoning it with salt and eating it even if it’s raw and sour with such excitement has almost lost its charm.

When I moved to Bangalore, it had already changed too much for the liking of true Bangaloreans. The weather was not the same, the traffic was bad, too many apartments, … but what I found unchanged or may be less changed was the openness to gardening; not just the love for plants but the eagerness to grow it too. Go to Siddapura and point at a plant and the guy will come up with its botanical name! Local political parties and the BBMP give away free dustbins for segregation, hold local composting workshops all of which create awareness. There are these Organic Terrace Gardening (OTG) groups in almost all parts of the city where a bunch of enthusiastic home gardeners meet and exchange seeds, plants and information. So many of them include their children in gardening even if it is teaching them how to pull out weeds.

There is hope then that all is not lost. There is hope that we will learn to appreciate the little things in life even if our goals are big. There is a hope that when the future generations realise that Pokemon is not real and the world doesn’t begin and end on their phone screens, they will have something real to connect to; something that builds memories and creates stories.

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