City Season – Leaf Fall, Around Town
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
See—a biscuit packet, a chips packet, a juice tetra-pack, an orange sachet, two paper cups, a plastic thaila, another plastic thaila, one more plastic thaila… all empty. These discards are many but still difficult to spot, for they are enmeshed into hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of fallen leaves on the footpath, by Gurgaon’s Mianwali Colony.
Welcome to the oddest time in the Delhi region. They say it is, or soon to be, springtime in the western world, when trees dress up in new leaves. But in Delhi, the leaves are steadfastly falling from scores of trees, dressing up the roadsides instead.
Sample these sights:
In a posh south Delhi locality, a black dog is asleep by the lane, which is entirely covered with fallen leaves. A cyclist rushes by, the wheels violently stir up the dead leaves, throwing them high in the air. The dog continues to sleep.
A tree-lined path, near Gugaon railway station, is matted with papery leaves. More leaves are drifting down from the trees, like a slow monsoon drizzle. Two men with huge bundles on their shoulders are looking up askance.
On a service lane along Chelmsford Road, near New Delhi railway station, an elderly homeless man is perched motionless on the pave. Leaves are falling upon him, burying him (almost).
Municipality staffer Mr Sagar is dragging a bin filled with fallen leaves.
Trees of Delhi author Pradip Krishen once explained to this reporter that “for a tree to survive in prolonged drought, it needs to shut down — the best way for it to do that is to drop its leaves and stop transpiring water.” By drought, he must mean Delhi’s looming summer. Whatever, this annual shedding is a grand spectacle. “It is called khizan ka mausam,” says Aqil Ahmad of Ghalib Institute. “After this, scorching garmi shall begin in earnest, “ he observes, mentioning a book by Delhi poet Farhad Aazar titled Khizan Mera Mausam. “It is called patjhad ka mausam,” says Kshetra Pal, a retired government officer in Ghaziabad, mentioning his “childhood memories in our village in Bijnaur, when the peepal and pilkhan trees would be stripped off their leaves, just before Holi.” He now lives in a gated apartment complex and barely spots any tree from his first-floor balconies.
A memorable sight is witnessed this afternoon on Chelmsford Road. A man is sitting by the pave. The ground is covered with yellow leaves. Unknown to him, a brown leaf falls on his head. Soon, a breeze courses through. The leaf on the man’s head doesn’t stir. Some time later he gets up and walks away. By now that homeless leaf might be at his home.