City Season – Jacaranda Blossoming, Humayun Tomb & Elsewhere
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
That’s not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually not even cerulean blue. This is just purple, with no brighter colour to compete with it under the smoggy sky. All around stand other trees, in various shades of green and coppery brown. These purple blossoms are densely clustered among themselves, but their foliage has the quality of a false promise. As if it were to break into a much heavier growth, but could not. What it could have been, but isn’t, makes its beauty more fragile, and more precious.
It’s the jacaranda tree, standing tall among the many trees of the Humayun tomb complex. In fact, it is positioned between the Mughal emperor’s tomb and the so-called Barber’s tomb. Currently, its purple colour makes it so distinguishable that even those historic domes look like extras in a one-man performance. Most of the year, however, it is as anonymous as any face in the Rajiv Chowk Metro station.
When the two tombs came up, this area must have been a far thicker forest, with more trees, and this jacaranda wasn’t there. The Brazilian tree arrived in India in 1841, and was first planted in our country in the Calcutta Botanical Garden. You may fact check the claim in Pradip Krishen’s book, The Trees of Delhi, in which the author describes jacaranda as “a delicate-leaved ornamental tree—somewhat stunted in Delhi—with an open crown and low branching habit.”
The ‘jac’ begins to bloom as our brief spring ends, or shall we say, when the semal trees stop their voluptuous blossoming. It’s a time when there is a drabness in the city colours, making the sensitive citizen long for the sweltering month of May, when the gulmohur and amaltas trees start shooting out red and yellow flowers respectively. In the interim, jacaranda discreetly pops up. Unlike in Mexico City for instance, Delhi doesn’t have very many avenues or plazas with long rows of jacaranda (compared to say, amaltas). They show up sporadically, though are present in all of the city’s principal parks, including in Lodhi Gardens, Buddha Jayanti Park and Nehru Park. A cluster stands at Qadsia Bagh. A solo jacaranda stands in the circle close to Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial museum. India Habitat Center has a well-known ’jac”, and many people gather there regularly, but that’s because there the jacaranda is the name of a conference hall. Gurgaon too has a well-known ‘jac’, which is the name of a road—Jacaranda Marg in DLF Phase 2.
This afternoon, a bird is perched atop a dead tree standing next to the aforementioned jacaranda, near Humayun’s tomb. Its face is turned towards the purple flowers, see photo.