It was a fortnight into May and the tree’s vivid vermilion flowers and bright green foliage made it an exceptionally striking sight. The gulmohar, in its full bloom, stood proudly, in this Vasant Vihar bungalow’s compound.
“Caught you!” ,shouted Sanju, as he tiptoed quietly from behind the mighty tree trunk and leaped onto Radha.
“Sanju! you scared me!” ,gasped Radha, who was busy gathering the wilted gulmohar blooms.
“Why are you collecting these Radha?”, questioned Sanju.
“These flowers for my scrapbook. Don’t these look like fireflies! ” ,she said, raising one of the biggest and loveliest flowers and bringing it close to Sanju.
“Oh yes! They do!” ,said Sanju slowly, gazing intently at the flower.
” How come I never noticed it before?” ,said the ten-year old, turning to Radha and filled with wonder.
“Because you never get tired of your hide and seek games! ” ,replied the elder and wise Radha.
“Let me show it to maa” ,said Sanju as he hastily seized the flower from Radha and ran indoors to the kitchen, where Shiela was.
Warm sunrays filtered through the ornate stained glass window into the spacious, prehistoric kitchen. The gulmohar, peeping through the kitchen window, rendered a beautiful vermilion hue to the setting.
“Maa! Our tree bore fireflies! “, said Sanju panting.
He bent on his knees, trying to catch on his breath and brought the wilted bloom up close to Sheila’s face.
“Ah! The flower of Gulmohar!” ,said Sheila rather delighted, as she applied pudina chutney onto a slice of freshly baked bread.
“I can see you are as pleasantly surprised as me maa?” ,said Sanju happily.
“It’s because the tree holds a beautiful story behind it Sanju. ” ,said Sheila putting the chutney jar in the fridge.
“A Story?” ,repeated Radha, appearing from behind.
“The story of a little boy and the flowers of Gulmohar! ” ,responded Sheila. Her hands rested on the kitchen shelf and she stood facing her children, smiling.
” What is it? We are eager to know!” ,said both the children unanimously.
” Hmmm …. ” ,began Sheila
, as she seated herself comfortably, on the old teakwood breakfast table in the center of the kitchen. She poured tea for herself and passed on sandwiches to the children.
” There lived a boy, in this very house along with his parents. His mother affectionately called him ‘gopu’ , ‘the naughty one’ ” ,spoke Sheila, slowly sipping into the steaming hot tea.
“Gopu, was ten at the time of this very interesting incident. The summers that year were particularly harsh and the scorching heat had made it impossible for even a soul to venture out in the afternoon” ,said Sheila, animatedly.
“Now Gopu was on his way back home from school. The sun was searing hot and the streets wore a deserted look. The asphalt road shimmered in the baking sun and the prospect of walking further seemed very tiring.”
“A ‘kulfi-wala’ who stood at a little distance caught Gopu’s attention. Gopu felt his pockets and found loose change. He swiftly ran towards the kulfiwala and bought a kulfi in exchange of the coins.”
“From somewhere, blew a whiff of cool air that brought along with it a few red blossoms. The fiery red blossoms brushed against Gopu’s face and the cool breeze gently stroked his hair. It was very intoxicating. The boy relished his kulfi sitting under the shade of an adjoining large tree. Tired as he was,
Gopu fell asleep amongst the scattered red blossoms. ”
“His mother, meanwhile grew restless and anxious at home. Disturbing thoughts, of any harm coming to her son caused her to venture out, looking for him. She traced the way back to school and came across the kulfiwala.”
“Very worried and anxious, she enquired about her small school going son.”
The kulfiwala, pointed towards the boy sleeping under the tree shade and said “Baba was very tired. He instantly fell asleep under the tree, after having the kulfi he purchased from me. I did not want to wake him up from his nap, so I stood here and kept a watch on him.”
“She heaved a sigh of relief on seeing Gopu who by now was cozy under the vermillion blanket. Wrapping her arms around Gopu she hugged him tightly. Feeling crushing encumbrance around his chest, Gopu woke up from his siesta. He was happy on having his mother close by him and narrated the story of him being very tired and finding some rest under the huge tree.”
“His mother looked up and saw the gulmohar
smiling at her. She thanked the tree for having provided shade to her son when he was tired and weary and also for keeping Gopu safe. She thanked the kulfiwala too, for keeping a watch on the boy.”
“Together the mother and son walked back home. That night when Gopu’s father came home, Gopu’s mother discoursed the days happenings to him. Gopu’s father was worried on hearing the incident but he thanked the tree in reverence. ”
“Next day, it being a Sunday, Gopu’s father took him back to the Gulmohar tree. The hot summer breeze had scattered the gulmohar flowers, along the road and sidewalk. Amongst these dissipated flowers, lay the gulmohar pods. These were dark brown in colour and some of them were even two feet long. Gopu’s father collected some of these pods, exchanged greetings with the kulfiwala and headed back home with Gopu.”
“What are these dad?”asked Gopu enquiring about the pods, curiously.
“These, Gopu, are Gulmohar pods which contain the seeds of gulmohar in them. Soon we shall plant these and have our own gulmohar ” ,answered Gopu’s father.
“Really!” ,screamed the boy unable to hide his excitement.
“And it will have those beautiful red flowers too!” ,he continued, delighted at the thought of having his own gulmohar.
“Oh yes it will!” ,replied his father happily.
“That day went in preparation of a soil bed for the gulmohar , soaking its seeds in water and finally planting the seeds in the prepared ground.”
“Day after day, Gopu watered the seed. Soon a sapling emerged from the ground. But there were no flowers yet. The boy was discouraged, for he had thought it would flower immediately. Nevertheless he never forgot to water the plant. ”
“The rains came and now there was no need to water the plant since mother nature was in charge and soon Gopu forgot all about the Gulmohar.”
“Years passed by and the Gulmohar continued to grow unnoticed amongst the other plants in the garden. The young Gulmohar would shed its leaves many a times and then again small little leaves would crop up. Gopu was oblivious of all this but his father kept a watch. ”
“Gopu was now fifteen. One afternoon when Gopu walked out in his garden , the warm summer breeze blew one large red flower at his feet. He picked up the flower. Thrilled he ran indoors.” The gulmohar has bloomed! ” he shouted full of enthusiasm.”
“Since that day, he never forgot about his gulmohar, an offspring of the tree that gave him shade and shelter. Often he would lie under the tree for a siesta and sleep in peace amongst the flowers of the gulmohar ” ,said Sheila finishing her story and sipping the last of her tea.
Sanju and Radha still sat there, enchanted, with a million questions bustling in their tiny heads.
“So maa, where is the boy who planted the gulmohar in our garden”, asked Sanju.
“Did he and his parents go somewhere else?” ,joined in Radha.
“Do you know where they are now?” ,questioned Radha and Sanju.
” Well…… the boy, Gopu, still lives here, in this very house, with his two beautiful children” ,winked Sheila as she left the kitchen.