City Moment – Semal Flowers, Jeevan Prakash Building
The beautiful Delhi instant.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The arrival of Delhi’s dreaded summer is most poetic. It is heralded by the blooming of the red semal. These flowers start growing when their large, stout trees are still leafless. Soon the bare branches are clothed with pulpy red flowers, which, after growing too heavy, fall on the ground with a soft thud.
The Delhi Walla sees them everywhere at this time. Just last week I spotted the showy semal outside a friend’s drawing room in GK-I. There it was, leaning most majestically over a platform of Karol Bagh metro station. Indeed, in March, the city’s avenues and roundabouts are carpeted with these flowers. Some get squashed by car tyres and become even more slippery, and dangerous, for unsuspecting pedestrians.
One morning, however, I saw a most unusual sight for a semal season. A young security guard, stationed outside the gate of Central Delhi’s office tower Jeevan Prakash Building, was silently picking the fallen flowers from the ground. One by one, the uniformed guard was tucking the flowers down onto the pointed edges of the building’s iron gate. Soon, the gate, and the surrounding fence too, were covered with these red flowers. The metal barrier suddenly started to look less forbidding.
Finally, the guard made a garland of semal and hanged it on the gate.
Why did he do it?
On being asked what happiness this decoration brought to him, the young guard, who was extremely shy, did not say a word. He only smiled.
A guard’s instinct