Plant Life Chez Baruahs


PlantsMy family consists of a bunch of collectors. My dad collects books on missile systems and recipes, my middle sister collects old love letters from heartbroken boyfriends and dusty tacky figurines they insist on giving as gifts, my youngest sister collects art material like crayons and canvasses; I collect books, pens and cables, while my mom…my mom collects plants.

Seriously. My earliest childhood memories have been of my mom telling me to stay away from the money plants. (I used to love plucking the flat leaves when I was a toddler and tearing them up into little strips. My destructive traits started with early onset of childhood.)

My mom loves her plants. To anyone not familiar with this great love affair, they would think it quaint, charming even for someone to be such a tree-hugger. Literally. But they wouldn’t really know how my mom takes this relationship to an all new level.

There was that situation when I was 5 years old once we had gone to some random aunty-uncle’s place for dinner in Karanja. They lived on the groundfloor and as we entered, my mom spied some ‘lovely Plant A specimen’ (in her own words, no less) in the neighbour’s balcony. So after dinner got over and the usual ‘Good night aunty, good night uncle’ was said, my dad was designated as watch guard, while my mom hoisted up her sari, climbed over the balcony, deftly snipped one branch away with the nailcutter she carried in her handbag, climbed over onto the main road, returned home, and planted the branch. My dad being the witty man that he is, could not help remarking: ‘Technically, I won’t be court martialled considering we did not break anything to enter. And snipping doesn’t count.’

My mom always had a huge variety of plants which were organized throughout the house, and the huge balconies life in the Navy provided. Her friends would enviously look at her plants and would beg for plant branches to grow in their own homes. My friends whenever they visited, would love getting their photo taken with the plants in the background. I myself did the typical 7th grade science experiments by growing mustard and sprouts, all of which produced some really lush green plants. Our family would be in the middle of a heated argument and just the vision of all the greenery in the sitting room balcony would calm everyone down.

Everytime we were transferred to a new Naval base, my mom would first find out who the local maali or gardener was, and where the nearest plant nursery was located. When she first learnt how to drive our old Maruti 800, I remember her frequent trips from where she would step out of the white Maruti, random plant in hand, courtesy of the maali. So there was Srinivasan babu, Parag bhaiyya, Ganesh uncle, and Mithun dada. Everytime a new domestic helper was hired, the first thing she was taught was how to water the million plus plants that belonged to Mrs. Baruah.

Watering the plants was a ceremony and everything would have to stop. Because. The. Plants. Have. To. Be. Watered. Now. If the maid was late or had taken the day off, then either my dad, or one of us kids would be enlisted to help. Depending on who was around. At 8:30 am every morning, jugs of water would be filled, and carried to the first main balcony. The bigger plants would get water right into their pots, while the smaller plants would get a spray of water with the sprayer, and the smallest plants would get a drizzle of water by hand. Then by hand, water drops would be lightly sprinkled over ALL LEAVES, so as to not dehydrate them. If it was a particularly sunny day, my mom would carry some of the plants inside so that ‘they don’t get burnt.’ Then again, at 6 p.m., the whole thing would be repeated. Sometimes I would be yelled at. ‘Don’t pour so much water into that pot. The plant will DIE.’ Other times, my mother would show me the plants. Tell me their names and what special properties their leaves have. And to my utmost regret, I could never remember.

My mom would talk to her plants. For example:

Mom: You roses and bougainvilleas better show me flowers tomorrow morning. It’s been a week and you haven’t flowered. I WANT TO SEE THE FLOWERS.

And sure enough, the next day, my mom would excitedly call for my dad and say: ‘Hey ra, moor Plant XYZ foolise.’ (Dear, my plant XYZ has flowered.!)

My mom would also talk to other people’s plants. Once, when we had driven up to our building, she looked up and saw the sunflowers growing in one flat. And thus:

Mom: ‘You show offs. Wait till my flowers bloom. They will bloom better than you, suckers.’

Then we would return home and she would ask my dad: ‘Akol amar ghorot gos keta foola nai. Sobore gos foolise.’ (Only our plants don’t flower, everyone else’s plants flower.’

And in a couple days, she would wake up to see a riot of colors in the balconies. It always made her happy, still does.

The plants have helped scraped me out of a situation or two. When I was in St Joseph’s, a convent school in Visakhapatnam, it was the principal’s birthday. On the day of the birthday, since I forgot to even make the principal a card, I quickly picked some Morning Glory flowers, tied them together with some thread and presented them to the principal. Who looked pleased. I think.

Another time, I was almost caught reading a Mills & Boon novel by my dad who thought I was too young to read them. (I was 14 years old, and now, in my old age, I am inclined to agree) As he came out in the balcony, I shoved the book under a huge canopy like leaf and he never found out. Phew.

My mom and dad are currently holidaying. And we are taking care of their beloved plants. Everytime my mom calls, instead of asking me how we are doing, she asks ‘How are my plants doing? Are you watering them properly?’

Now a couple days ago, my youngest sister comes up to me and as I am composing a work email, she casually proceeds to have the following conversation:

BH: Mamun ba, where is the nearest nursery?

Me: Hmm? What?

BH [Patiently]: Where is the nearest nursery?

Me: Why do you want to know?

BH: Because I need to buy a Petunia.

Me: A Petunia? Whatever for?

BH: It’s a replacement Petunia.

Me [finally looking up with something akin to fear in my eyes.] Replacement? Please don’t tell me Ma’s Petunia is…

BH: Dead. Withered. I am scared to tell her. So we need to buy a new Petunia and pass it off as the old one.

Me: Grab the car keys. I will get my wallet.

And so, the Petunia has been replaced and hopefully, my mom will never read this blog and be none the wise. Keeping fingers crossed. And the plants watered.

6 Responses to “Plant Life Chez Baruahs”

  1. 1 SMM

    Middle sister? Youngest sister? I always thought it wa sonly you and Preeti.

    PS: Pray Aunty does not ever read this post 😛

    • 2 Tanushree

      My cousin lives with us and I figured it would be way too complicated to explain the entire family dynamics so just stuck to the middle-youngest path.

      Mom hasn’t yet figured out how to work the TV remote, so I think I am pretty safe 😀 Heheehehehe

  2. 3 andria

    tanushreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…i loved reading this…man come to think of it aunty plants have always been there….im missing your mom so much…I can so picture your mom doing and saying all the things you mentioned… :D….im gonna miss all the stay overs at your place man…n here i thot ill miss just preeti 😥

  3. 4 Tanushree

    Arey what you saying! Feel free to drop by and hang with BH and me. We’ll get some cheap white wine and fry sausages. Come come!

  4. Loved this post. So cute and written with such a lack of passion. Or so, it seems!

  5. 6 Tanushree

    Nandini! How are you? 🙂 Yes, I hide all my interest under a thick blanket of indifference. 🙂 We should talk some time!

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