Our March landscape is bursting with reds and greens! The palash is over, and the ground is littered with faded orange flowers and green pods. Hundreds of bright green parrots descend on the trees, crunch the pods in noisy enjoyment and then take off, shrieking, to the next party. The one I managed to get a close up of, below, was either a young one who didn’t know enough to be scared of me, or too greedy to let go of the seed it was eating.
Now it’s the turn of the silk cottons, bombax ceiba, to flaunt their brilliant red blooms.
And the greens, oh lord! Everywhere you turn, the honge trees delight you with their myriad shades of green, ranging from tender pink to glowing gold to the softest, most soothing of pale greens to the almost fluorescent green of the newly mature foliage and the morose dark green of the year end. Does any language have a name for each of these shades? Well, it should. They all should.I never thought of trees as sentient beings until I read The Secret Life of Plants by Tompkins and Bird. I don’t buy a lot of the ideas in the book – it’s frankly a bit bonkers, but it has made me think very differently about trees. For the first time, I realize that they may be as aware of me as I am of them. It’s a strange feeling, humbling and yet exhilarating. What are they thinking and feeling? Are they wise and calm beings who think of us as silly young asses rushing around? Do they feel the love we have for them, and do they reciprocate? Are they nursing secret powers like Tolkien’s ents? Or what? Spending, as I do, so much time sitting under one, reading or daydreaming, I feel a very special connection with honge trees. They have the smoothest branches. When you hold on to one, you feel like you’re holding your best friend’s arm. In the local lore, the shade of each species has a different quality. Tamarind trees are supposed to have a warm shade, so you don’t plant one near your house; moringa harbours kambli poochies (furry caterpillars), not to mention ghosts, so if you’re foolish enough to sleep under one, you’ll itch like hell and be haunted… what a combination! The honge, on the other hand, is supposed to have the coolest, breeziest shade, and is the best place to snooze on a hot afternoon. As for the colours… well, don’t let me get started on the greens again, but in the flowering season, the flowers are such a delicate pink-and-white, subtly scented, and humming with bees. The world needs more honges.