City Season – Amaltas Tree, Hauz Khas Village
The summer’s gift.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
On April 12th, 2010, the tree was bare except for four dry leaves. When an eagle flew past the branches, they looked bleak. The Delhi Walla was in Hauz Khas Village, known for its 14th century ruins and designer boutiques. The tree lay in a desolate yard, an extension of the monument complex. It was as tall as the adjacent apartment complexes. Since it had nothing on it, I could not figure out which tree it was.
On May 10th, I again went to the same place. It was a different sight. Thousands of bright yellow fragrant flowers drooped down from the tree’s branches. Many had fallen. The floor was carpeted with them. The yard has two unknown tombs and one was hidden from the view. The tree, so unfamiliar last month, was the famous Amaltas (Cassia fistula).
The leaves of the Amaltas, one of the most widespread forest trees of India, shed early in April. The tree starts flowering in May, the month in which Delhiwallas become restless. It gets very hot. Those who can afford to, leave the city for cooler places. But Delhi is most beautiful at this time of the year when streets, roundabouts and avenues are lit up with the yellow bloom of the Amaltas. There is hardly a part of the city that is left untouched by them. As the noon grows white-hot, the yellow flowers cool the senses of anyone who dares to go into the open. The harshest season becomes bearable.
In his book, Trees of Delhi, author Pradip Krishen notes: “Amaltas is in danger of becoming (like the peacock) so common that we stop noticing it. Amrita Shergil Marg, Shanti Path and Akbar Road are lined with it. Shakti Sthal has many trees. Common as crows in every park and large garden, it is thinly scattered throughout the Ridge and in Jawaharlal Nehru University’s untended areas.”
To see the Amaltas in full bloom, you may also go to Hailey Road, near Connaught Place. The entire stretch there looks like the canvass of an impressionist painter at work. The park outside the entrance of Humayun’s Tomb is another lovely sight. But if you are scared of the heat, peer out of your window. Can you see those lovely yellow splotches there? That’s Amaltas.
Click here to read another story on the Amaltas.