City Season – Summer Warning, Chelmsford Road
The pink bougainvilleas.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is late afternoon. The Delhi Walla is walking down the quiet Chelmsford Road in central Delhi. The sky is clear blue. A homeless man is sleeping on the pavement. Suddenly, I come face to face with the summer.
The white boundary wall of a railway officer’s bungalow is weighed down by pink bougainvilleas. This kind of flamboyant blooming of the aforementioned flowers takes place only at the beginning of the hot season.
In their book Floriculture in India, authors Gurcharan Singh Randhawa and Amitabha Mukhopadhyay wrote:
“The beauty of bougainvillea is that it flowers during the dull summer months, when excepting such trees as Gulmohar, Pink Cassias, Peltophorum, and Jacaranda very few other ornamental plants produce flowers so freely. As a matter of fact, flowering is best during the dry period. In a wet climate, some of the bougainvilleas flower very little. Bougainvillea does not normally flower in the shade; but when it does, the quality of the flower is poor. In very wet climates bougainvillea flowers very poorly.”
Papery and scentless, these pink clusters – with patches of white here and there – foretell the onslaught of dry, dusty and scorching days. The best places in Delhi to watch bougainvilleas in bloom are at the Buddha Jayanti Park near Dhaula Kuan, on the Ridge Road in central Delhi, at the Sunder Nursery near Humayun’s Tomb, at the Chirag Nursery in Chirag Delhi, on the Hauz Khas Village Road near Aurobindo Market and along a few stretches of the famous Lodhi Gardens. The campus of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in west Delhi’s Pusa has a garden exclusively dedicated to bougainvilleas.
On Chelmsford Road, the bougainvilleas have colonized even the higher branches of the surrounding trees. The pavement too is under their control – throughout the day the flowers keep falling in a constant shower. The warning is unambiguous. The summer months are at the gate. There’s nothing we can do now.