City Season – The Yellow Amaltas, Prithviraj Marg
The summer dream.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
June in Delhi is a hot month. But the summer has its consolations — and The Delhi Walla is not implying the midnight car rides to India Gate for ice cream.
Drive around the city’s slow-roasting circles and avenues and you will find them awash in yellow — the colour of amaltas, or laburnum. In April, the trees were stark naked. A month later, they are laden with blossoms — it’s on a bed of these very flowers that actors Madhubala and Dilip Kumar shared some romantic moments in the 1960 film Mughal-e-Azam.
Perhaps one of the best places to see amaltas in bloom is in north Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar, where the trees line both sides of the quiet residential boulevard.
“In the colonial era, one would not have seen the amaltas on roadsides,” says Pradip Krishen, author of Trees of Delhi. “The British did not like to plant leaf-shedding trees and the amaltas were sighted only in parks. After they left, these were brought outside the public gardens.”
In another summer, Mr Krishen had told me: “The most remarkable feature about the amaltas is that it is still a wild tree with wild genes and wild characters. Gardeners and horticulturists are an interfering bunch of people and tend to select and breed for large, showy flowers or prettier foliage or better fragrance or some such character and so it’s rare to see a cultivated tree in a city like Delhi that remains true to its wild form.”
Amaltas aficionados have their preferred sites. Even the solitary amaltas in front of Humayun’s Tomb, for instance, is capable of drawing attention to itself, away from the 16th century monument.
You must certainly visit a red-brick bungalow on central Delhi’s Prthviraj Marg. Formerly the residence of the Mexican ambassador, number 13 has a garden guarded by two Amaltas trees. The yellow – the only yellow amid the green foliage – stands resigned to its fate. These flowers will go away with the summer. For their sake, may this difficult season lasts long.
The amaltas at 13, Prthviraj Marg
Elsewhere in Delhi