A glance at the fresh pink bougainvillea on either side of the gate of my daughter’s new school instantly takes me on a journey to the most memorable days of my childhood – my school days.
I vividly remember how a row of bougainvillea plants cordoned off our huge play ground. The bougainvillea- to a schoolgirl -were like ventilated caves and secret hideouts where many an important plan was hatched. Since back then, the flowers have always intrigued me. But I had only seen the pretty pink ones then. Boy! They were a sight to behold! And they made the atmosphere light and hearty.
At present, I notice these flowers everyday when I drop and pick up my daughter from kindergarten. As I bid farewell to my child in the morning, I witness these plants swaying gently as if to soothe my aching heart of the bitter sweet sorrow of separation.
I leave the premises reflecting on all that has transpired in the morning and hoping that all will be well at her end. I cannot but think of the deep connection I share with the bougainvillea; I feel just about grateful they will be a part of my daughter’s school days just as they were of mine.
My affiliation with these plants has come a long way now. When I left a city that was my home for more than 30 years to land up on a far-away shore on the East coast, Pondicherry sprung upon me a welcome surprise – a bed of bougainvillea lining almost every ‘rue’ in the French Quarter. And my eye feasted upon not just bright pink blooms but on so many amazing hues.
Each beckoning vivid yellow or a classic grey building is bejewelled with the vermilions, carmines and ivory whites of these spell-casting flowers.
I once ardently studied these inflorescences as a curious middle school girl. Now as I drive on the shaded lanes, I marvel at the remarkable backdrop these bushes furnish for the many hungry travellers who come calling on this holy little land. Sipping on a perfectly brewed tea in an open terrace cafe, I admire old buildings laced with the various vibrant shades of these plants.
When I go back to my little one’s school to pick her up, the lovely ladies dressed in green with bright pink accessories dance with merriment as if to assure me they have kept their promise- and they’re handing me back my precious gem with fluttering pride.
I cannot predict how long they will travel with me, but the sight of bougainvillea will always provide me with succour.
“There are always flowers for those who want to see them”. French artist Henri Matisse knew what it meant to have your heart dance like the bougainvillea does in the wind.
An unedited version of this piece was originally published in the author’s blog