Monday, June 19, 2017

The Lantana

Two minute tales over a cup of tea
The Lantana
images.jpe

The train was rather congested and smelled of rust and sweat. It was one of the hottest days of the month when the birds were soundless with open beaks, the tree tops dusty and brown, the roads and lips parched and cracked. Sujata and I sat side by side, our lips moisturized and our bottles full of water. “I had no idea we would not be served anything on this train!” “Don’t worry; I have packed some paratha and tikki.” She was always prepared unlike me who woke up to realities a little after they struck me. Though I did carry sandwiches but not because I knew we would not get anything on the train but because munching was the best to kill time while travelling.

Janshatabdi was pregnant with people and baggage. Indians travel with every weight possible. A colourful array of bags over our heads and equally vibrant display of colours on human forms soon blurred when the train started and people dozed into their monochromatic dream world.

I am awake. The dull sound of the engine doesn’t lull my senses. Outside the window the world turns green and gold, the azure blue with scattered wisps of white. “No scarecrows anymore- isn’t it Sujata? The birds have vanished and the scarecrows have been out of jobs for long. Poor chaps!” She laughs and says- “The orchards , not sugarcane attract the winged variety” True. Then we sight the most vibrant weed lined along long stretches of fields. “That’s Lantana,”she tells me. “Lantana Camara an exotic weed originally from Sri lanka has taken over the terrains of the Indian soil by a storm. It was introduced in this country in the nineteenth century as an ornamental hedge. It has the capacity to regenerate itself quickly even after burning r cutting it”

Now I have vivid memories of this weed as a hedge in almost every other house in Aligarh. The smell still lingers in my senses. The leaves are dry and spiky and often pierce your fingers with the tiny slivers that are invisible to the eye but make their presence obvious by evoking a deep sting when you rub your fingers gently. “I matter!” The weed seems to make a point. The surface is slightly velvety but sans the softness of velvet. Can the softness be separated from texture? Isn’t softness the characteristic of its texture? The leaf of lantana says this loud and clear. You can sense dryness even in softness. It is not always moist. Human nature is just the same- as the leaf of this weed .It can be dry in its softness and soft in its dryness. That’s the beauty of multi-dimensions of human nature. But not many people understand all the dimensions.

Coming back to Lantana- A process of delantana has started in India to help soil absorb more nutrients as this weed sucks in more than what is meant for it thereby depriving other plants of their share of the basic elements of survival. You cut it off it pops up again. That’s how it has spread itself within. What a world of sizzling simmering thriving life exists under the earth we walk on! Chop off the head but what about the roots!

The sun is at an angle now and we are inching towards Dehradun. The jungles are thick and green. The train is one and a half hour late. The shadows stretch diagonally on the earth. The thickness of the jungle absorbs many shadows. At this moment the shadows seem to be more alive than the forms that hold them . No mortal effort can wipe off the depth of existence that lies beyond the surface of the soil. The jungles silently spell it out . What is without is within-richer, , more satiated, in control of nature.The roots of the trees connect with boundless bonhomie the invisible bonds underground.Above the soil they sway in gay abundance and play Chinese - whispers. It’s  just we who keep moisturizing our lips with gloss and glycerine. We can never be familiar with the dastoor of the jungles. Suna jhai jungalon ka bhi koi dsatoor hota hai..resonates on YouTube over my phone.

The smell of lantana was thick and pungent. It wafted in through the sealed windows of the train. The Ac was cooling well despite a hundred warm blooded bodies . I peered over my finger as I rubbed it feeling the invisible sting. My hair was cropped in a neat cut across my forehead, with two untidy pig-tails, and I the pink lace frock that I got as a gift for my sixth birthday was a day old. “I’ll put some antiseptic over it! Don’t fuss!” I heard Amma say affectiontely.
The shadow of my memories stretched out like fresh laundry over the bush of lantana before my eyes.
I rubbed my index finger gently.


-Ghazala 1.30 pm. 18/6/17

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