Thursday, December 4, 2008

A tale of two teachers

So there I was, struggling to keep awake at the dining table, promising the Gods above that I'd bow to them if they'd get me through breakfast, sane.

Nino was not his usual happy self this morning: he's been fighting a stomach bug all week and the cramps have started to get to his chirpy avtaar. A bowl full of strawberries quickly downed, I was trying to feed him the classic Gujarati snack, khakra, when I realised this was the cue for the 'd-act'.

Distraction works wonderfully with kids, especially those looking to chuck their khakra below the table. So I started to talk to him randomly about Shankaracharya - atleast my version of him. I told him how he had gone up north to live on a really cold mountain, and that he had long conversations with god and nature, that he wrote beautiful songs for the Gods and called them lots of names, in love and jest, just like mama and baby.

A little while later, just as we've finished most of the khakhra, Nino turns to me and says, 'Mama, I'm your Ninoacharaya.'


My folks are on a holiday to Kerala, and I miss them sorely, especially my Mum, who I get to see almost every other weekend.

I'm missing her so much today, I want to share a bit of her with you. If there's one word that could describe her, it'd be enthusiasm. She's always on the go, working, reading, pottering around, gardening: her many chores united by the fact that she relishes learning something new, every day.

The ability to be the one who teaches/shows someone something new - is a high as joyful as the glee we feel when we stumble upon something unexpected. As a mother, I get to experience that a lot, and often. And as a daughter, my mother still has something new to teach me, everyday.

A few weeks back, she introduced us to a rare flower known colloquially as the Kailashpati. And while it's religious connotations are big (the flower has a part that looks like the cobra hood over a shivlingum, and a small bud below the hood that resembles the lingum itself: it is offered to Lord Shiva, especially during the holy month of Shravan), it's the botanical ones that are mesmerising.

And while the shape itself makes the flower incredible, seeing the tree was even more awe-inspiring. While the foliage is high up on the tree, the flowers grow on thin, thorny arms (like sticks), and there are a thousand of them, on the trunk of the tree.

The buds hang low, sometimes grazing the ground.

A quick google threw up this: The flower is referred to as a cannonball plant, and is rare, almost everywhere in the world. It also bears a brown fruit - which I have not seen, given that we got to see only one flower. It is considered so auspicious locally, that is plucked the minute it blooms by a long list of the devout.

Incredibly soft to touch, almost like felt/velvet, it has a beautiful and strong smell - but it doesn't last long, a couple of hours maybe when plucked from stem, and after seeing it, I din't quite feel like plucking it: it was beauty meant to be shared by everybody.

My mother's hands, as she carefully opens a part of the flower - the so-called hood -to show me the cause of its legend, the lingum beneath it. Nino in the background, gazing up at the mighty tree.


momstir said...

Really enjoyed your aptly-titledposts, especially with the pictures. Your mum sounds like a lovely lady.

a hug to lord Ninoacharya. Such a darling.

Anonymous said...

Hugs to Ninoacharya!

Mums, I cant say, I never 'experienced'onw. But great to know about your mum.

the mad momma said...

what a lovely tale. i learn something new everyday...

Anonymous said...

Lovely story NM...The flower called Nagalinga in Kannada, Nagalingam in Tamil...we had a tree in our neighbourhood in B'lore, and the flowers were much looked for.


Nino's Mum said...

momstir - thank you!

preeti - Come visit us sometime, my mum's hugs are legendary :) Are you in Aussieland right now? happy soaking up the sun!

MM - :)

M - There's just one tree in the small town that my mother lives in, not far from A'bad. And guess what, there'll be one more there soon: she's planted a sapling in the garden :)

Aneela Z said...

hey thanks a mill for posting this...I saw a tree (in full bloom) at the Bombay Uni (Churchgate campus) earlier this year and was REALLY curious about it as the flowers are really unusual. The students had no idea-bah!-and I always wondered what they were and was clicking pics like crazy ...I hope someone rescues that tree (if the flowers are so unusual) for they were doing up the campus..and you know how it means that you chop up or bulldoze anything in the name of " modernization".

Nino's Mum said...

aneela - you're most welcome... hope the tree in the uni campus has stayed on.

Aneela Z said...

well with all the craziness in the city thanks to my "alleged" compatriots dont know when I will be at Mumbai uni next (have crossed my fingers and toes that better sense prevails) in the mean time someone else has to check on the tree on my behalf !!!

Nino's Mum said...

aneela - I know, damn. It's crazy and warped and scary. Fingers and toes crossed too.

Anonymous said...

One more fact about the flower...The first flower grows on the tree only after the tree is 14 years old!

Nino's Naani