City Nature – Saptaparni Flowers, Around Town
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Winter is here. Those feeling homesick for the golden-yellow flowers of the amaltas must resign themselves to a long wait for the tree’s summertime bloom. Some interim relief will however arrive in the brief spring with the red semal flowers.
Meanwhile, the smoggy cold season can be exploited in cultivating a relationship with the saptaparni tree. Now is the time of their bloom. The flowers of the saptaparni, though, are not easily noticeable in their clusters of pale green globules. From a distance, they resemble small brocollis. Unlike the flowers of amaltas, which fall all day long from their branches like a hailstorm of party confetti, the subdued saptaparnis drift down almost imperceptibly, in a spray of powdery fragments. Their bloom spurns showiness. As if the saptaparni were assured of its share of adoration, and doesn’t need the theatrics of pageantry.
Here in upscale Golf Links, where the saptaparni is said to have been first introduced in Delhi in the 1940’s, the blossoms are noticeable only to those who actively look for them. Otherwise these flowers smoothly merge into the green of their tree leaves, standing out as unobtrusively as black stars would in a blacker sky.
Sometimes, a lucky saptaparni flower plops down on the ground in its entirety, without splintering into shards. One can then place it on one’s palm and study the structure in detail. The flower is not completely green, but glazed with white; each shade’s essence ending up so fragile that one fears both might be vaporised by a passing breeze.
Saptaparnis are sighted across the Delhi region. An unusually tall tree in Ghaziabad stands on the rutty side-road that connects Sahibabad Sabzi Mandi to Sector 6 in Vasundhara. A park-facing lane in Gurgaon’s Sector 15 A, too, has a row of them.
The saptaparni flowers are particularly cherished for their scent but this afternoon they aren’t smelling at all. Hours later, at night, the same tree is now cloaked in a fragrance that is stubbornly restrained—yet effable, pervasive, and intoxicating. One feels mildly tipsy.
PS: Some of the photos show Gufran Siddqui, a chauffeur, holding flowers under a saptaparni tree in central Delhi.
The gift of cold