City Season – Spring Delights, Around Town
Sweet and short.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
At last it is spring.
The Oxford English dictionary describes it as “the season after winter and before summer, in which vegetation begins to appear.”
In the West, this is the time when new leaves start appearing on trees that were bare in winter.
It is the other way round in Delhi. As spring begins, the leaves start falling from trees.
The trees are preparing for the summer.
Pradip Krishen, the author of Trees of Delhi, once told The Delhi Walla: ““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.”
One late afternoon in March I was walking in the colonial-era district of Connaught Place. The subway stairs were covered with fallen leaves. Pavements were lined with thousands of dead leaves, which had been gathered into mounds. The rubbish bins, too, were filled with leaves, along with soft drink cans.
These brown and yellow leaves had lost their softness and had become brittle.
In the book City Improbable: Writings on Delhi, Delhi-based author Namita Gokhale wrote, “Delhi in the springtime boasts blue skies and green lawns, and an incredible profusion of flowers: roses, tulips, gladioli, larkspur.”
In the park above Palika Bazaar parking, I found the flower beds washed in white, pink, purple, blue and yellow.
While the sky was whitish-blue.
The weather was neither warm, nor cool.
Two couples had claimed a bench each. Two loners were sleeping on the grass.
I was carrying the book Diwane-e-Ghalib: Selected Poetry of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib. Describing this time of the year, Delhi’s 19th century Urdu poet wrote:
Spring again is here with a style
Sun and moon watch awhile
Look, O you inhabitants of earth
This is embellishment with a high profile
Land has become heaven’s rival
In beauty and bounty mile to mile
When verdure outgrew flowerbeds
It spread on water like a carpetpile
Nature has granted narcissus sight
To savour efflorescence all the while
Breeze is imply breathtaking
Is intoxicating like wine virile
Why shouldn’t world rejoice, O “Ghalib”
The king has recovered from a sickness vile
This is a short-lived delight.
“For me, there is something of a sad dichotomy about spring,” says Andrew Buncombe, the Delhi-based Asia Correspondent of The Independent. “The days are bright and clear, the evenings balmy and pleasant. But, after five years living in India, I also know that the long painful summer, with a blinding white heat utterly unknown in Britain and which drives one inside and fries the brains, is just around the corner.”
Summer, it seems, has arrived. The lemon drink vendors have pulled out their cold water trolleys that were gathering dust in the winter. The ice cream vendors, too, have emerged out of hibernation.
“As is the way with good things, spring is invariably the shortest of the seasons,” continued Ms Gokhale in City Improbable. “Delhiwallas have a short, glorious reprieve from the rigors of winter, and then April is upon us and a cruel, merciless summer begins its annual subjugation of the spirit.”
Colors of spring
Fallen on the stairs
Such is life
Stuck among the survivors
Chocolate ice-cream please
It is spring