City Season - Annie Ernaux & Bougainvillea Blossoming, Around Town

City Season – Annie Ernaux & Bougainvillea Blossoming, Around Town

City Season - Annie Ernaux & Bougainvillea Blossoming, Around Town

The face of bougainvillaea.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Now we know the true face of bougainvillea. It has searching eyes, blond hair, a glorious glow, and, on cool evenings, it holds a glass of white wine and wears a soft pashmina shawl over a blue-green cocktail dress.

This is how the bougainvillea would look like if it were a person. The conclusion was reached on Saturday evening at the French ambassador’s residence, in Central Delhi’s Nyay Marg. A reception was being hosted for visiting French writers, in town to attend the Delhi Book Fair. The showstopper was Annie Ernaux, the 2022 Nobel laureate. As she stepped out into the garden, filled with fashionable Delhiites enjoying their access to an exclusive invite, the writer’s gaze instinctively turned towards her right, to a dense foliage of papery pink bougainvilleas. In her 80s, the author had a trying day full of commitments, but the flamboyant sight of the flowers transformed her face at once into a thing of transparent joy—her face became the bougainvilleas it was watching (see photo).

Indeed, the ambassador’s garden showcases the Delhi bougainvilleas in their most gay avatar — dense, clustery, linked to each other from top to bottom like a wild river cascading down a hill. But you don’t need to network with ambassadors to cherish Delhi’s bougainvilleas. As the heat rises, the city is being taken over by bougainvilleas. These flowers fall easily, frequently, and cover the ground in a bed of pink.

Although they bloom throughout the year, the bougainvilleas are particularly friendly to high temperatures. Now they are starting to bloom across the Delhi region. An unruly mob is burning pink by a roadside in Sector 35 in Gurgaon; its shade of pink is so deep that from a distance it looks like cotton candies hawked by Sadar Bazar street selllers. Another invasive colony of bougainvilleas is stealing everybody’s thunder, as always at this time of the year, at a phase 5 lane in Gurgaon’s Udyog Vihar. During the same season of another year, this reporter witnessed a pedestrian looking in awe at these flowers, approaching as if he was trying to smell them, maybe unaware that they have no scent.

Indeed, bougainvilleas makes for a perfect marriage with summertime aridity, when the entire Delhi region gets dusty, smoggy and waterless. Dr SS Sindu, the longtime secretary of the Bougainvillea Society of India, confirms bougainvillea as a thoroughly toughnut creature that thrives throughout the year, and marvellously from March to May.

Meanwhile, at the ambassador’s residence, Annie Ernaux was so dazzled by the pink bougainvilleas toward her right, that she forgot to turn to her left. The equally wild and beautiful white bougainvilleas that were standing there ended up like the author’s disappointed fans, who could not get their books signed by her.