City Season – Leafless Tree, Lodhi Garden
Look this season.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Leaves are falling. As brutal summer inches closer, scores of trees across Delhi have started shedding their leaves. If it’s windy the yellowed leaves drop continuously in a gentle shower. By noon, roads are carpeted with a golden-coloured layer. Many leaves find their way onto the subway stairs, into ATM cabins and even into the open kettles of roadside tea vendors. In the evening, when office-goers reach the parking stands, they first have to wipe the papery leaves from their cars’ windshields.
One recent morning in Panchsheel Park, leaves were falling like a steady snowfall upon and around a security guard stationed outside a bungalow. He remained absorbed by his mobile phone.
Indeed, one of the more stunning sights in the city these days is the spectre of currently leafless trees—their naked branches raised upwards like limbs of mourners, their shadows on the ground looking like wrecked umbrellas.
And one of the most stunning bare trees to be seen is in Lodhi Garden, on the west-facing side of the Bada Gumbad monument. This evening, even as the garden’s life continues in its usual hyper-energy (Bollywood dance practice, badminton matches, push-ups, yoga, photography, dog walking, etc.), this peepal tree, almost the height of the adjacent monument, is looking even more grand than it would with its leaves. You can see all its branches—there are hundreds of them, thick and thin, densely entwined into each other, and making such a web that in some sense they don’t seem bare at all. A few black birds are perched at different places, freely flitting from one branch to another as if playing badminton. The shadows of these branches have made a pattern on the monunent’s wall too, where it is looking like an embroidery set on stone. Some of the higher branches taper into barely perceptible stalks.
In the western world, leaves fall in autumn. In Delhi, the patjhar, or leaf fall, arrives for certain trees after a short spell of spring, heralding the coming of harsh dry months. For a tree to survive in prolonged drought, it temporarily shuts down by dropping its leaves so as to stop transpiring water.
But new leaves will come soon in most of these bare trees. So come to pay your respects to this naked peepal as soon as you can. It’s already glinting with spotlights of new green.
Leaves fall, tree stays