Memoir / Essays: Mother and Shiuli blossoms

Moinak Dutta


She had been a professional nurse. My mother. Sefali Ghosh was her maiden name before she got married to my dad and changed it to Sefali Dutta. Quite interestingly Sefali is the name of a flower found in this part of the world which blooms every autumn. So come autumn , I go into a different mind, a difficult mind too, if am I to say so, for it is like revisiting my childhood and having glimpses of my mother who happily went taking the stairs to heaven.

That year too the autumn had been awesome. The festivity had been all around. I took her for a ride around the city. Being a person who knew how bodies work, how diseases spread, she perhaps guessed something about her illness. She had a heart which had erratic beats. I remember her telling me all the time while we were having a tour of the city, through its lanes and bylanes, watching people and the trees and cars and all that consist of the cityscape, that it might be her last tour with me. I laughed.

But then, she was a nurse. She knew it. Like she knew how my eyes had an inexpressible medical condition of being wet with salty water at that time when she said those words to me. She knew it that I was trying to be brave. Her brave boy.

And she climbed those stairs easily. Without even groaning. She just slept and woke not.

Next year, I planted a sefali / shiuli tree just on our small piece of land by the car shed, beside that patio. It was summer. A full grown horrid Indian summer. The sun blazed hot and cruel. But I had to save that sefali tree. Every morning, that summer, even before the sun would turn like a scorching red hot ball of fire, I would wake up and water the tree. And every time I did that, I just prayed with all my heart that it survived that summer, the sultry, boring, lifeless summer of that year. With all my heart, nerve and sinew, I took care of the shiuli tree. If I would find its leaves turning a bit yellowish, I would check the soil, rake it, apply manure and water. In the evening, I would go near the tree and touch its little branches and leaves. Perhaps, back then, I thought of myself as perfect gardener. Caressing it. Loving it. Not that I took no care of other trees. Of course, I did that. But that shiuli tree was always under my scanner. Once I found a worm crawling at its body. I took it and threw it far away. But before that I took a snapshot of it and searched the internet to find its genus and species. Once finding that, I, with a desperation like that of a medic, found out the measures to be taken to save the tree from onslaught of worms and pests like that.

That time I thought of myself as a nurse too. A nurse to a tree. The shiuli tree.

Then came the monsoon. It rained for hours each day that monsoon. I had to take a spade and create a nullah or a makeshift channel on the ground to prevent that particular spot from getting waterlogged, knowing accumulation of water could weaken the tree at its roots.

That time I felt like a construction worker. A sewage cleaner also.

And then, the monsoon also passed, giving way to autumn. The delightful autumn.

For the first few days of the season, all other trees bore flowers. But that shiuli tree had none. I was worried. I talked to my wife. She went with me to that small garden we had beside the car shed. Our son went there too. We checked for buds. The tree though had grown taller and greener, had no signs of buds.

Butterflies!

My son suddenly quipped.

Yes, we needed butterflies to carry pollens and to make the tree bloom.

So again, I searched for trees which attract butterflies the most. I found some, brought them and planted them.

That time I felt I was like a priest. Purifying the earth praying with all my heart for its beauty to arrive.

Praying those trees which attract birds and bees and butterflies to grow faster.

They did. Butterflies arrived. Bees too.

The smell of flowers wrought my senses with joy.

I felt that time I had become half of that garden.

Only that shiuli tree.

I waited.

We all waited.

Then one fine morning, as I went near the tree, I found them. Those white shiuli blossoms with an orange core waving to me from the branches of the tree. They had bloomed overnight!

I called my wife and son.

We three stood under the tree.

The air around it had that unmistakable fragrance of shiuli blossoms.

That time I felt perfect like a nurse.

 

Bio: Moinak Dutta is a published fiction writer, poet and teacher from Kolkata, India. Many of his poems and stories are published in national and international anthologies and magazines and also dailies including ‘Madras Courier’, 'The Statesman' ( Kolkata edition), ' World Peace Poetry  anthology ' (United Nations), ‘Spillwords’, 'Setu', ‘Riding and Writing’ ( as a featured poet twice, published from Ohio, USA), ' The Indian Periodical' ' Teesta Journal', ' Pangolin Review', ' Tuck Magazine', among numerous others.

He has also written reviews of books and fictions, among which notable ones are : on  ' The Upanisads ' ( translated by Valerie J. Roebuck) which can be found at www.blogapenguinindiaclassic.blogspot.com and the review of ' The Ballad of Bapu' (written by Santosh Bakaya). His first full length English (genre: literary/romance) fiction ‘Online@Offline’ had been published in 2014, by Lifi Publications. His second fiction (genre: literary/quest) titled ‘In search of la radice' was published in 2017 by Xpress Publications. He has also worked as an editor of a poetry collection titled ' Whispering Poeisis', which had over one hundred poems from sixty poets from different parts of India and abroad, published in 2018 by Poeisis. 

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