The Basket of Petals
When I wrote that title, I thought of The Basket of Flowers, Mi. Remember the book? We took so much delight in reading it. I remember crying in several places throughout the book. I got it as a prize in a singing competition in the 5th standard and enjoyed reading it so much with you, and then Gopu mama, Mi. While it may sound a bit archaic today, the core message of the book will always be valid. I find it amazing that the book was first published in 1823 by Christoph von Schmid has so many wonderful messages in it.
Better to tell the truth than live a lie.
I suddenly have the urge to read it again now. I will, one of these days. How nice to read a simple story with life lessons woven into it. Those were the days, eh? I remember how we used to retire to the terrace in summer, with a mat and a pillow, to sleep under the stars, chatting until we drifted off to dreamland. Sometimes we told stories, sometimes we played antakshari. There were times when it would suddenly drizzle and we would hurriedly grab our bedding and rush to shelter in the space at the top of the stairs. So many pleasant memories!
So, steering myself back to what inspired the title basket of petals, we were walking back from the dentist and were about to take the steps down from the bridge to 8th Main, when we saw a rather strange sight. As you know, the steps turns at a right angle to meet the road, and runs along the compound wall of a house on the other side. And there’s a sampige tree in this house’s compound. Its branches spill over the wall. It is a solid tree, Mi, and the sampige variety is the slightly orangish one with the strong fragrance.
But the strange sight was not the tree. It was a group of four women, with one perched on the edge of the wall on the other side of the steps, trying to lean across and reach the flowers on the tree with a stick. What a dangerous sight, and a precarious position she was in! But of course they were all laughing and shouting–and did manage to dislodge and pluck quite a few flowers. They also managed to shower the ground with the petals.
I was just stunned — both by nostalgia, and shock. We had stopped to let them finish what they were doing, and then continued to walk down the steps. Of course I was curious to see how many flowers the ladies had managed to get. Imaginemy surprise when she was friendly enough to open the part of her sari pallu tucked around her, which she had used as a makeshift bag. I am sure there were at least 20 or 30 there, and the fragrance just hit me. She reached into her “pouch” and gave me a couple of the flowers. So kind of her.
I brought them back home and kept them near your photo, fondly recalling how much you loved them, and put them under your pillow! I also remembered the long walks you and Vidur went on, and returned with the snack basket you carried, with a bunch of sampige petals. The ones you got were the cream-colored variety, and had a wonderfully gentle fragrance. Our 8th main had so many of these trees and the ground would be littered with the petals. There are not many left now.
And as if on cue, I happened to be looking for something in the little cupboard and came across your handbag. When I looked in, as I always love to, found a few petals in it. Our very own homemade potpourri.
By the way, whenever I pass Mahadevamma, she gives me an accusing look for not buying the flowers. Sigh.
Funny how the connect happens, no? Our heads are so full of memories that pop out when we least expect them.
I am a big sluggish today, and I think I deserve some kaapi now, Mi. You enjoy the sampiges!
Sampige in Kannada; Shenbagam in Tamil; Champa in Hindi; Magnolia Champaca in English