City Moment – Semal Flowers, Jeevan Prakash Building
The beautiful Delhi instant.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The approach of summer in Delhi is heralded by semal flowers (silk cotton; bombax linn). They start growing when their large stout trees are still leafless. The bare branches are clothed with pulpy red flowers, which, after growing too heavy, fall on the ground with a soft thud.
In March, the broad avenues and roundabouts in New Delhi are carpeted with these fallen flowers. Some get squashed by car tyres. A few lucky are picked by sensitive boys.
The flower has five petals; these are thick and waxy. Inside, the pale red stamens rise up straight into slender columns from the center.
One morning The Delhi Walla saw a young security guard in Jeevan Prakash building, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, picking the fallen flowers from the ground. He was dressed in blue and was wearing a cap. His shoes were polished black. One by one, the slim guard was tucking the flowers down onto the pointed edges of the iron gate, which he was duty-bound to protect. Soon, the gate, and the fence too, were topped with red. The metal barrier looked less forbidding. The guard then made a garland of semal and hanged it on the gate.
On being asked what happiness this decoration was bringing to him, the young guard, who was extremely shy, did not say a word. He only smiled. It was a beautiful moment.
A guard’s instinct