City Season – Semal in Bloom, Around Town
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The glass-concrete office complex in Gurgaon’s Shankar Chowk is gigantic beyond belief. On the other hand, the prettier pavement tree stands some distance away. It is glossed with thick red flowers that appear to be leaning towards the building, as if wanting to give a friendly peck on its intimidating facade.
And, suddenly, a flower falls.
The blossoming of semal marks the arrival of the year’s most moderate season — when it is neither cold nor hot. Unidentifiable the rest of the year, these trees are suddenly as noticeable as the pink cotton candy hawkers in Kinari Bazaar, catching our attention as we carry on with our dreary life in the Metro train or the auto rickshaw.
Semal is among the 252 species of trees found in the Delhi region. Arranged in tiers, its branches shoot out from the trunk like the ribs of a parasol. The trees abound in Delhi’s diplomatic avenues, particularly in Neeti Marg. At Bhikaji Cama Place, the cab drivers speeding down the Ring Road risk being distracted by a pair of semals, so scarlet-red that they resemble fully loaded apple trees. On a service lane in Panchsheel Park, a bunch of super-tall semals are right now so richly endowed with flowers that it looks as if someone had thrown vermillion up in the air, while a sparsely decked semal is standing guard outside the 16th century Khairul Manazil mosque on Mathura Road. It looks grand.
Indeed, semal exudes more majesty in utmost solitude. Such as this one on Gurgaon’s Dividing Road, outside KCM Automobile workshop in Sector 17.
Stranded amid a dusty yard, the tree is very short, its trunk is spindly, and it possesses only a few dozen flowers, smeared with the most lacklustre tinge of red. Indeed, this semal is certain to go unnoticed if it were surrounded by its richer cousins. But here, in the austerity of this desert-like space, its presence lingers like a phantom of necessary consolation.
The poignant sight touches the heart more intensely than the lush semals elsewhere.
Semal in season