“I love the thrill of chlorophyll
when hiking through evergreen.
Nature shows off its bouquet.
between shades of lovely green.”
Plants and I share a special bond since childhood. I remember following my grandfather religiously to pick flowers for Pooja and then my grandmother to the Tulsi Vrindavan to water it every day. Then there was our favourite crepe jasmine tree, the first tree that I learnt to climb. We kids ate our breakfast amidst its branches, rode it as our horse and chewed on many a sugarcane cuttings climbing that tree. Then there were the madhu malti flowers that we would collect and make rings and garlands from. Later we moved to Delhi and I remember growing cauliflower, brinjals and many flowering plants on our postage stamp sized green patch. Post marriage I moved to Bombay and lost my contact with the green world.
One day I wanted to make batata wada and was out of curry leaves. I couldn’t go out as it was pouring heavily and Shubham was too small for me to leave and go. So, I went to my neighbour’s house and asked her for some curry leaves from her plant. I saw some small saplings growing and requested her to give me one. A few days later she called me and gave a sapling. Thrilled I immediately sat to work, thus beginning my association with the greens again. Today I have turmeric, ginger, garlic, and a few flowering plants growing in my little green world but the sweet neem tree remains my favourite, not only because it was my first green in the garden but also for the lessons it has taught me.
Curry leaves are an important ingredient in many recipes. They are irreplaceable because of their taste, aroma and medicinal properties and the recipe remains incomplete without them yet they are usually discarded in the end. This has taught me to always give my best to the task at hand without thinking of what it would bring me and honestly it has almost always served me well.
Many a butterflies have laid their eggs on my curry tree. This has not only helped me teach the life cycle of butterflies to my son and students in real but has also made me philosophical about the struggles of life while observing the transition of a caterpillar into a butterfly. But the most important lesson that it has taught me is to wait patiently and keep going through the difficult times in pursuit of happier days. Every winter it sheds most of its leaves, becomes dirty, ugly and lonely but come spring and it shines with the lovely hues of green, full of life, attracting butterflies again. It seems to tell me, “Be patient, this is how life goes on. Bid your time and times will be good again”.
I’m sure you will agree with me that sweet neem is not just a medicinal aromatic plant in my kitchen garden but a teacher too. It is and will always remain my favourite ‘Green’ in the garden.