City Nature – Monsoon Blush, Pilkhan Trees
Time of their life.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Do trees blush like we, humans, do? When the face turns red out of intense shyness? Well, these days some of Delhi’s trees, the pilkhans, are in full blush. Like this one, in Deer Park. The tree is densely leaved—from a distance, its canopy looks like a luxuriant wig. Its green is partly splattered with red, as if a painter had wanted to depict a New York autumn, but had changed course midway.
The leaves are in their rusty-red phase.
Actually, this colouration happens in a more memorable way earlier in the year. Pilkhan’s aged leaves begin to drop during the end of Delhi winters, by mid-February. New leaves take birth during the first days of March. Their infant shade shows up in dusty purple, changing to red, and then into tints of russets and bronzes. This is when clickbait-greedy Instagrammers become aware of the tree’s existence, and briefly turn the lens of their mobiles to pilkhans.
As days pass, the leaves become green. The magic show ends by the middle of April, after which the tree looks beautiful in an ordinary way. The coloured phase is triggered afresh by the monsoon rains. The July-August red is no way comparable to March lush. But this restrained ostentatiousness makes the sight more heartfelt—as if a middle-aged person were trying to relive their youthful prime, when one believed one would never grow old.
The pilkhan is spread across the Delhi region, generously sprinkled in Zakir Hussain Marg, Dalhousie Marg, Niti and Nyaya Marg. Sadly, a glorious pilkhan in Jor Bagh market seems to have missed its date with red this rains.
In Gurugram, a gorgeous pilkhan stands near the Jama Masjid in Sadar Bazar. A pair draws attention on Golf Course Road, beside a tea shack. Another impressive pilkhan is near the HUDA Gymkhana Club in Sector 4.
In Ghaziabad, a pilkhan near Vasundhara Valley Apartments, in Sector 6, Vasundhara, is unevenly smeared in coppery red.
To appreciate the blush like a pilkhan connoisseur, all you have to do is bring your gaze from the entire tree to a single leaf. The rusty red reveals itself to be almost pink. The veins that spread across the leaf are watery green. The leaf looks unreal, like a leaf-shaped metal beaten by a dogged blacksmith, until it starts to glow faintly and gets too hot to touch. But this leaf is, of course, cold.
The blushing trees