City Season – Raluca’s Spring, Green Park
A European’s Delhi spring.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Smelling a pinkish powder-puff (calliandra) flower, Raluca Sidon, a visitor from Bucharest, Romania, says, “I’m seeing it for the first time. It doesn’t grow in my country. I think I have read about it in a book.”
Ms Sidon is roaming about monuments in south Delhi’s Green Park. It is her first day in the city. It is also her first day anywhere in Asia. The winter has just ended. The morning is sunny. “In Bucharest, it is still very cold. The wind is chilly. There is no sign of spring.”
Delhi, however, is in the midst of its short spring spell. The branches of semal trees are tipped with thick pulpy red flowers, which, when grown too heavy, fall on the ground with a thud. The day temperature is cool, not cold. In the peak noon, there is a feeling that summers are around the corner.
“Spring in Europe is very explosive,” says Ms Sidon. “When it arrives, ice melts and water in the nature starts to flow. It’s like the blood coming back to the body. First you see the flowers of apple and cherry trees, and then you discover that leaves have started growing.”
In Delhi’s spring, leaves tend to fall instead, heralding the coming of summer when the water will be scarce and sandstorms from Rajasthan will be a regular occurrence. “For a tree to survive in prolonged drought, it needs to shut down,” notes Pradip Krishen, author of the book Trees of Delhi. “The best way for it to do that is to drop its leaves and stop transpiring water.”
A year ago, around this time in Bucharest, Ms Sidon wrote in her diary: “The purple lilac is smelling fresh and bitter. The trees are in perfect state of youth. Tree leaves are as fresh as my little nephew Jacob’s ears, transparent and soft. This spring is perfectly directed. Its beauty has no equal.”
Watching a gardener sweep away the fallen leaves from the grassy grounds of the monument complex, Ms Sidon says, “In Romania, all trees shed all their leaves during the autumn. They become stark naked. Here in Delhi, the leaves are falling now, but not all the leaves are falling and not from all the trees. As if this were not a seasonal thing but something that goes on all the year round.”
Picking up a dry leaf, the Romanian woman says, “In Bucharest I missed the sun. Here I’m happy seeing it.”
Walking towards a tree, she says, “Delhi’s trees have so much life in them. Maybe because of the birds. I feel life in the grass too. Maybe there are snakes.”
Although the city is in the second week of March, Ms Sidon, looking up at the blue sky, says, “This is feeling like late August in Bucharest.”
Our March, her August