City Season – Amaltas in Blossom, Lajpat Nagar
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The park has no grass. Tailor “master” Mehmood Alam enters this dull brown earth, lays out a mat towards the west and starts to offer his evening prayers.
The scene is breathtakingly spectacular. It was beautiful even in the absence of the tailor. Indeed, everyone in Delhi region ought to visit this park right now, despite its glaring drawbacks— no grass, no nice benches and no flower hedges. This small South Delhi Municipal Corporation park in Lajpat Nagar is filled with a great number of Amaltas. The trees are in their summer bloom. All across Delhi you may see the Amaltas trees decked with golden yellow flowers. Some places might be more majestic with their luxuriant blossoming (think Hailey Road or Amrita Shergill Marg), but this park pulsates with magic precisely because it is so forlorn for the rest of the year. Every summer, it transforms into the fairy tale Cinderella, dressed up for the annual Met Gala. Even more fantastic is that the trees here are especially fertile, and so dense with flowers that you rarely see the Amaltas branches, which gives an impression of thousands of flowers miraculously hanging in the air.
The beauty of a typical Amaltas, however, is so arresting that one is equally transfixed by a solitary tree. Such as the one growing by the roadside in Gurugram’s Sukhrali village, close to the smoggy highway to Jaipur. This Amaltas is as excessively clothed with flowers as a Pilkhan tree is with its fresh green leaves. Even though there is no breeze this afternoon, the flowers are falling down continually. If you stand under the tree, the flowers fall on your head, shoulders, arms, and feet. It is like standing under the rain. Curiously, no matter how thick an Amaltas flower cover can be, its startling beauty offers no shade from the hot glare of the summer’s afternoon.
And now, here in Lajpat Nagar, the tailor “master” has left the park. A teenager enters. Rahul leans against an Amaltas. His eyes are focused on his mobile phone screen; he is playing a video game (see photo). One of the tree’s low-hanging branches is splattering into a phooljhari of golden sparkle, just above Rahul’s forehead, as if they were the boy’s thought bubbles. The sight is beyond beauty.