Thursday, 6 October 2011

Autumn is here again ....

Autumn has arrived. Once again, autumn is here to soothe the mind and body, that was extremely tired, sweaty, struggling through those long sultry months of summer. I know autumn is here as there is fragrance in the air now ... yes, autumn has arrived as I can inhale the redolence of the dew dampened grass ... I know this is autumn as I see the cuddling pair of doves that perch on the Neem tree by the window of my room preparing to bring in their babies. All over I can see the air enceinte with soft autumn, bright and lovely, perhaps in anticipation. But, that one fragrance I long to inhale deep, that one soft and sensuous feel I so desire, the joyous lightness in the air is lost somewhere... lost forever ... no more to be found ...

Loved the transition from summer to autumn as a pony tailed, chubby cheeked, bright eyed little girl. "But why is autumn associated with melancholy ? Isn't it freshening after a long summer", I would wonder. As my ever-brimming-with-joy kind of a nature refused to associate autumn with melancholy. "Well,  is it because soon winter would be here, the sky turning grey, keeping most of us indoors?" I would muse. No, I would put my foot down against this thought of cold sadness ! I should not think so, enjoy was all I should in this autumn. This was the festive season, festivity all around and in the air, then why should I worry about winter now which was still far in the horizon !

That was quite a few years ago, I would think with a chirpy mind, jump around with a feather light gait as if I was floating in the air. Ascending the flights of stairs with a light skip of two steps at a time was a fond habit, humming at all times. Bejeweled with a crisp smile on my face and eyes, I embraced life with a glorious warmth.

Every year, during the months of September, October and November, the two tall and bushy shrubs of Sewali in my Aaita's garden would be bedecked with tiny white flowers which looked like twinkling stars with an orange dot in the centre and a long stem of the same orange hue on each of them. The entire garden would be filled with sweet fresh fragrance of Sewali making the autumn atmosphere irresistibly magical. Although Aaita remembered it too well, I never forgot to remind her to wake me up early before going to bed. The house maid's daughter was my constant mate during those years of growing up in my Koka-Aaita's home in this quiet and peaceful township in the upper region of the State. Her name was Sewali, till this day I wonder why was she named after a flower. Rocky, the naughty black and white pup, a cross between a Lhasa Apso and Pomeranian was the one followed Sewali and me all over the huge compound starting from the pond and cow shed to the sprawling front garden and the grove at the back with dozens of fruit and betel-nut trees.

Sewali and I would run out to the front gardens, bare-footed each morning carrying in our hands our prettily woven  bamboo baskets, Koka had bought us in the weekly market. How lovely the feet  felt as they touched the dew soaked soft damp grass ! The raw smell that the damp grass emitted was so freshening ! Sewali would say, "If only the grass remained this damp in summer too!" I promptly replied as the learned grandma, "Then we would have sweat on our body as well as under our feet." We both  burst out laughing to our own innocent fun. The two trees of Sewali were much inside on either side of the huge iron gate and the drive that separated the lawns leading to my Koka's spacious, high roofed Assam type house. By the time we arrived upon the Sewali trees, most of the flowers would have fallen on the dew soaked greens of the lawn, making it look like a breathtakingly beautiful floral carpet ! Ah such a splendid sight ! Time was all we seemed to have those days, never remembered hurrying up for anything. Talking incessantly of flowers and the tiny insects that crawled up our feet and hands while picking up the Sewali flowers, chasing butterflies, giggling every now and then for no obvious reason was still fresh in my mind. With our small hands we picked baskets full of Sewali flowers, although it was never enough to fill our hearts. There would still be plenty of Sewali left strewn on the lawns. Fragrance of Sewali would not only linger on in Aaita's puja room but also wafted through the entire house always, during the months of autumn. My most loved  part was when I sat under the Sewali tree holding Rocky in my arms and Noren the gardener gave a good jerk to the tree letting the flowers fall off all over us. Rocky would roll over the thick carpet of flowers, Sewali and I would giggle through out. We would run in and out of the house to collect thread or needle to make  garlands and offered to Goddess Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati. Tying strings of Sewali to our ankles and wrists gave us immense pleasure. Oh what an enormous amount of fun we had tying garlands on Rocky's neck and decorating him with the flowers! How wonderful autumn was ! This was my autumn, my loving, comforting, fun-filled  autumn, how could I forget my autumn !

Too many seasons passed by, leaving me completely unaware of Sewali blooming and perfuming the autumn air without fail. Only I long shut my window, never trying to turn even once that side since. Many years from those lovely autumns, too many seasons later, there comes one more autumn, bringing along the mystique aura and the melancholy. I no longer ask nor wonder why, as I have experienced both autumn and melancholy too many an autumn. The window was long closed for the fragrance of Sewali to waft in. On the threshold of autumn of my life, melancholy seems to be my only sincere mate. All others have left me on one season or the other, while some live on, close to me, yet without being a mate, making all my seasons look the same.

As I lay awake on my bed last night, like many nights when sleep eluded me, a sudden gush of perfumed air filled up my room. Inhaling deep I realized it was morning already, 4'o clock. To my utter surprise, the bolt of the long shut window gave way, unable to withstand the wear and tear of many autumns. The window was wide open in front of me now. I could never gather courage to open this window once it was shut, hence, I froze before it, losing all strength to shut it again and tie with a string. Had the cool  autumn breeze done what I couldn't ? The fragrance of Sewali hit me hard, made my head feel like cotton wool. With a half uncertain fear in my heart, I looked through the open window.

I could see the first ray of sun had fallen on the lawn now which was covered by the fallen flowers of Sewali. They looked the same Sewali we picked up years ago, same smell. The dew drops glittered like pieces of genuine gems as the sun's ray touched them softly. A sudden longing to feel the petals of Sewali rose in me, a sudden urge to step on the damp grass and inhale the raw smell I so loved! My heart drumming ever faster now. One last effort to hold myself back from stepping ahead was but in vain. With slow yet firm steps I walked down the stairs leading to the garden, bare feet. Too many years, yes, too much tears later, I have gathered the courage to step bare feet on the dew soaked damp lawn yet again to feel my autumn once again. As I put my bare feet on the grass, the damp, yet sensuous feel seeped in from my feet. Inhaling deep, closing my eyes I  stretched my hands out and stood there for didn't know how long. A breeze that passed by touched me gently leaving a sweet fragrance that filled up my mind and heart. Mesmerized, as if in a trance, bending down I started picking up Sewali.... one now, then another, spreading the anchal with my hand I went on picking Sewali. A tiny ant tried to crawl on my bare foot, shaking it off I wanted to giggle like I did with Sewali years ago, but instead, few drops of tears fell off my eyes to my bare feet sliding down to the grass, mingling with the dew drops which now shone even brighter in the ray of sun, the soft ray of the autumn sun  ......

Assamese terminologies :
                                       Sewali : Night-flowering jasmine, Nyctanthes arbor-tristis (scientific)
                                       Aaita : Grand mother
                                       Koka : Grand father
                                       Puja : Worship           


  1. I remember living in Assam and admiring this beautiful flower, even i used to love picking them up from the grass.That was many, many years ago, and I had forgotten that it smelled too. Now in my garden I want to have that tree, do you think it would grow in Bangalore, for I have not seen it anywhere here?
    Your blog took me back to my younger days spent in Assam.
    I view all seasons as a time to rejoice, I especially love winter.

  2. Thanks rama, thank you so much. I guess you can grow Sewali in Bangalore, although haven't heard from any of my friends living there, do try growing one. It's such a pleasure picking them up and the fragrance is indescribably soothing.

  3. I just spoke with our landscape designer, he knew the exact name and has promised to find some place to plant this beautiful tree in our garden, I can do these things, because right now we are redoing our garden. Thanks to you i remembered it and asked for it.
    I remember what is called in Tamil: Pavaza-malli, meaning coral(red) malli (jasmine) because of the beautiful orange red stem and the dot in the centre. How memories are triggered, isn't it amazing?

  4. I haven't come across this flower though the pictures are so beautiful. I was taken back to my childhood days spent in my nana's house in UP. He had a huge garden and I remember the mogras growing there. The fragrance was so heady, and we used to pluck the buds and immerse them in water in a bowl and leave them in a room. That fragrance was something else!

  5. @rama:
    Yes it is indeed amazing! I'm so glad for you. Now you can grow your own Pavaza-malli in your garden. Wish you many lovely moments of doing up your garden and enjoy, as I know what a pleasure it is to grow a tree and see the fruits and flowers in due course.

  6. @Rachna :
    Thank you so much, so glad that I could remind you of your childhood days.I too will keep a few Sewali in a bowl of water in my room tomorrow.

  7. Hi,

    First time this , I'm here.
    I liked your reminiscing.You gave a beautiful description of the bygone days.I can in my experience recollect the white jasmine flowers that lie strewn all around the garden , when well before dawn I used to be up and out. That was years ago. The beauty and purity of white shows bright in the time before day break.And it is called pavizha malli, mulla etc in Kerala

    Though I have not seen much of autumn as I lived in south of India , I ve had the experience of the nip in the air in autumn while travelling to other places.

    You missed out on many autumn with the sewali.

  8. awww..the flowers look as pretty as you, ruprekha :) :) esp pic no. 1 and 3! love them and their heavenly fragrance. we call them 'parijat' here in marathi if am not wrong :)
    your writing is doing poetic justice to them for sure! :))
    i just have one teeny weeny confusion. aap kahan rahte ho? was there no monsoon in between summer and autumn? :)

  9. Lovely flowers. I would love to get them in my garden too. :)
    Loved you trip down the memory lane. Its great to open such closed windows of our lives once again. :)

  10. such beautiful flowers! the basket with the flowers in it is worth a steal :)

    i too used to wonder back then as to why autumn was associated with melancholy

    nice post Ruprekha and walking barefoot on a dewy lawn - an absolute fav thing of mine

  11. Such a lovely poetic post. And the pictures are so good.I remember having spent my childhood amidst these flowers

  12. @ anilkurup:
    Thank you so much. Yes I have miss out on many autumn picking up Sewali, but do not intend to any more ....

  13. @ quaintkal :
    Thank you so much, you actually made my blush :)I live in Guwahati, Assam, where we have early monsoon and the weather is quite pleasant then. Then comes summer months which are very hot and humid. Loved to know Sewali was Parijat.

  14. @ juxta :
    Thank you so much, yes, don't intend to close that window again :)

  15. @ Sujatha Sathya :
    Thanks a lot, yes, please do if you so like, walking 'on a dewy lawn'. I've realized it very late, but never mind, I am doing now and enjoying every moment.

  16. @ Onkar :
    Thank you so much for visiting this space and encouraging me with your kind words.

  17. @Ruprekha Ba
    Beautiful post. Thank you.

  18. What a touching post! It takes me back 2 my childhood when mom (she is no more) told us 2 collect Sewali Phool from the dew wet grass beds.We were taught to make garlands,tasted fried flowers and leaves of Sewali and so many...Thank u RM for this beautiful blog of u.I like and like it.I think it can be grown in Bangalore.There r 2 varieties of Sewali -one flowers the whole year and the other flowers during autumn and winter.
    I just want 2 join ur beautiful words "A breeze that passed by touched me gently leaving a sweet fragrance that filled up my mind and heart. Mesmerized, as if in a trance, bending down I started picking up Sewali.... "

  19. What a beautiful post! Lovely pictures too! Liked travelling with you, down the memory lane! :)

  20. Beautiful , loved the pictures .. here in uk its almost winter now .. :( which is not a good sign as all plants are dieing off..


  21. @ Jayanta :
    Thank you so much. It's a nice information regarding the variety of Sewali, friends here would be benefited.

  22. Thank you so much rupam and R. Ramesh.

  23. @ Shilpa :
    Thank you so much. I'm so happy you could accompany me through the journey down memory lane .....

  24. @ Bikramjit :
    Thank you for checking. Yes winter in UK is unbearably cold for a person like me who has lived all her life in a warm place. Was in UK two years ago in winter.

  25. I never knew that Sewali (we call it Paarijaata) bloomedin the UK.

    I love this flower and I can relate with your feelings about this flower. I had it in my backyard for many years and the painter who painted our house washed his bucket with thinner and poured at the base of the plant and lo, it died! I tried to plant again in different places, but it didn't grow at anyother place. I kept the plant facing the kitchen window so that I can feel the fragrance from 7 in the evening! I used to make malas out of it and it looked so beautiful on the Goddesses' pictures. White is Saraswathi's colour!

    I must just live in memories about this flower, I think. You express yourself beautifully, Ruprekha!

  26. The flowers - the fragrance I could never forget. It wafts around the surrounding; autumn - your post makes it more beautiful

  27. @ Sandhya :
    Always loved the name Paarijaata but never knew it was Sewali. Yes you are right, we were told in our childhood that white, especially Sewali was loved by Goddess Saraswati.
    Thank you so much Sandhya.

  28. @ Insignia :
    Thank you so much...

  29. Thank you bandhabi.... for the scary tale......
    You know what I would say....................
    Wishes n wishes n wishes............

    1. Thank you so much for visiting my space ...
      Sorry for scaring you, but knew you wouldn't be scared of ghosts, hence ... :)