City Nature - Peepal Sighting, Around Town

City Nature – Peepal Sighting, Around Town

A tree and its leaves.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The Hauz Khas pave is coated with leaves. The culprit is standing innocently by the roadside—the tree is partly leafless. Such is the case these days with many Delhi peepals.

In the western world, leaves fall in autumn. In Delhi, the patjhar, or leaf fall, arrives for certain trees after the winter, during our short spring. The phenomenon foretells the coming dry months. To survive in prolonged drought, a tree might briefly discard its leaves to stop transpiring water. March is a time of such transition, when select species of trees have parted with their leaves, and are either bare, or are just starting to be stocked with new leaves, or have already acquired the fresh foliage.

The peepal begins shedding in January, a process that continues for a couple of months, even as new leaves sprout in March and April. An afternoon stroll through parts of central Delhi shows these peepals in their moodiest—some trees are completely bare, some are completely clothed in new leaves, tinged with pink, copper and cinnamon.

A peepal in Khan Market is sharply standing out from other green trees of the Front Lane—every inch of it is currently leafless. Meanwhile, the trunk of a bare peepal in Gole Dak Khana is buried in knee-deep piles of browned leaves. In E block Connaught Place, a torn patang is jabbed into a peepal’s leafless branch. (This stranded kite is the season’s recurring motif, spotted in virtually every leafless Delhi tree.) Outside Rama Krishna Ashram metro station, green leaves are continually drifting down from a luscious peepal. “These are old leaves, new ones will come later,” says Fateh Singh, running a tea stall underneath. Next door in Paharganj, a skinny peepal is entwined into Imperial cinema’s pink concrete. Some leaves are translucent with yellow, some are green, and a few are patchy with papery brown texture.

Outside New Delhi railway station, the tall peepal behind Kapoor Juice Corner is covered with green leaves, and the tall peepal beside Gupta Pan Bhandar is without leaves. Inside the railway station, a gigantic peepal on platform 7 stands totally stripped, and yet looks dignified. A crow is perched at the topmost point.

The peepal outside Anglo Arabic School, in Ajmeri Gate, is clothed in leaves from head to toe; each leaf is part-green and part-yellow. Steps away, outside Kamla Market clock tower (the clock doesn’t work), a completely leafy peepal is standing beside a completely leafless peepal. The sight is surreal. See photo.

A mile ahead, the massive peepal facing the Dilli Gate monument is stark naked—both landmarks are exuding aristocratic austerity.

Hours later, at night, under a Mathura Road peepal, a brown dog is sleeping on a heap of fallen peepal leaves.