City Season – Saptaparni Blossoms, Around Town
In search of flowers.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Last night was a violent night, à la Wuthering Heights. There was thunder, lightning, and for a few minutes the hissing wind raged like a storm. This overcast morning, unlike the sunny morning yesterday, the ground under the tree is barely littered with its flowers. Perhaps most of the blossoms were swept away by the storm. The tree that until the day before was full of flowers is bare of them, here near Ashram crossing.
Hopefully the short season of saptaparni, lasting from mid-October to December, shall not meet a premature end. And this saptamarni tree will be re-decked with flowers.
Unlike the golden-yellow Amaltases or the red Gulmohurs, saptaparni flowers aren’t attention hijackers. They are green, but their green is pale, and so distinguishable from the leaves. An easier trick to spot them is to look for small broccoli-like tufts hanging on the foliage of roadside trees—those are the saptaparnis.
The trees adorn many Delhi avenues. A super-tall specimen in Ghaziabad stands on a muddy track linking Sahibabad Sabzi Mandi to Vasundhara’s Sector 6. A majestic variety stands at Gurugram’s Sector 15-A. The ideal saptaparni pilgrimage though must start or culminate at Golf Links Colony, for the tree was first introduced in Delhi in the 1940s in that upscale address.
During the storm-free days, the flowers drift down from their tree almost imperceptibly, each balkanising into numerous fragments during the fall. Sometimes a saptaparni lands on the ground without any damage. One might then pick it up to examine the architecture in minute detail. The flower turns out not to be completely green, but glazed with white.
One of the most gracious saptaparnis in the Delhi region is also easily accessible. This gigantic tree stands at the India International Center. The plaque informs that this saptaparni was planted in 1970 on the urging of IIC’s legendary American architect Joseph Stein who “linked the tree to India’s ancient intellectual heritage.” This afternoon no flower is to be seen in the tree. A gardener says that the tree will soon bloom; another says that the tree already had flowers but were knocked out by the night’s storm; one more gardener says that the flowers haven’t come at all yet. “Ayega, jaldi ayega,” he assures.
Steps away a bunch of business students, attending a day-long IIC seminar, are greedily drawn to the dazzling blossoms of a tree that is not saptaparni. See photo.