Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The wonderous thing about growing flowers

“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.” Claude Monet
We all have had flowers around us at some time or the other. In gorgeous bouquets to greet us for this, that or the other occasion, reposing in a vase and brightening up the drabbest room, wearing it in our hair, even around our neck especially politicians and then at the feet of the deities. We use flowers all the time to speak for us when words fail us, to wriggle out of sticky situations, to woo and seduce, to pray, supplicate and propitiate (the gods, the boss or the wife!), to beautify and even to grieve and remember. We extract their essences and oils and use them to perfume our worlds, heal our bodies and minds and in the protective embrace of their fragrance, we offload our worries and stress and relax.
But, we leave the growing of flowers to other people. That’s bit like asking someone else to bear and bring up our children and give back them to us when all the difficult bringing-them-up bits are over and they are now self-sufficient, healthy, successful adults. And in doing so, we miss the indescribable experience of watching a flower grow. I know, I should have said, “growing a flower”. But, as in the case of children, we think we “grow” them, but actually all that we do (and can do) is provide the right conditions – sun, food, water, love, protection - and they grow themselves to become whatever they become. A rose, a biochemist, a jasmine, a dancer, a hibiscus, a football player.
So, what am I saying? Two things, actually
First, grow some flowers.
Second, it’s not easy.
Let me tackle the second thing first. Naturally, the question being, if it is not easy, then why do it at all? I’ll answer that in many ways. First, because the best things in life are also the most difficult. A happy marriage, the round chappati, a perfect. All of them take perseverance, practice and patience. Last week, I watched the Olympian girl gymnasts perform what is called rhythmic gymnastics. Each routine lasted for all of a little over a couple of minutes. But as each wisp of a girl wafted and whirled and swirled as if they were spools of gossamer silk thread being woven by a hidden hand or then the daughters of fairies, only we couldn’t see their wings, I knew that in every instant of those incredibly difficult, breathtakingly beautiful few minutes was an entire lifetime of hard, grueling, dedicated work, perhaps to the exclusion of all else. Because, if you think about it, the more effortless a thing seems, the more tireless effort has gone into it.
But, in our delusion that we’ve learnt to shrink time and the universe, we want the shortcut, the easy, the instant and as far as possible, the certain. We want guarantees, a result-oriented race for whom there must be an assured return output for whatever we put in - dahlia seeds or the down payment for those expensive computer animation classes. When in fact there are none. Nothing is certain, not that you will be alive the next minute or become a trillionaire next year. Or that you won’t. Bill Gates didn’t know it when he dropped out of college or the man who just died in a motorcycle accident.
So, grow some flowers. Because you learn that the best things in life don’t come that easy. And because you learn that often the things that give you the greatest satisfaction is stuff that you do just for the heck of it. If anybody were to ask me, I’d add three things to every school curriculum. Music, gardening and a craft - anything that teaches you to make things with your hands, like carpentry or cooking or pottery. So that the children learn not just the power of science but also of art. But more on that later….

Which brings me back an entire circle to point number one. Grow some flowers. Because when the flowers bloom – yup, if it is a labour of love and patience, they will - there might just be all kinds of nice things happening inside you. Even if it’s just one brave, bright marigold gently flaming its globed orangeness against a drab city skyline, the sight of it will be soul food. First, joyful disbelief (especially if you are a first time gardener) that you played a part in making something so utterly beautiful happen. Then, as the disbelief fades, your back will straighten up and your chest puff out just a little in the knowledge that somewhere inside you, maybe in the palms of your hands, tingeing the end of your fingertips is something of the Divine, the Magic that created everything and that created you.
And when they’ve done their blooming, don’t pick the flowers as yet. Let them be, breathing gently on their mother plant and every now and then, in a spare moment, go and look at them and allow yourself to marvel, something that as life turns us into jaded cynics and skeptics, we lose the habit of. Because only when you marvel and wonder can there be joy. I’ll end by borrowing words from a man who loved to watch all kinds of things – snow, apples, spiders, birches - and it turned him into one of the greatest English poets of our time. Robert Frost. “Earth’s the right place for love, I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.” he says in his poem, “Birches”. I couldn’t agree with him more but it’s the last line of that poem that kinda sticks in the head:

“One could do worse that be a swinger of birches.”

One could do worse that be a grower of flowers.