I had finished my morning chores and had settled down with the news paper. My wife went out to get flowers for her ‘pooja’ (worship). I had just managed to gloss over the Kejriwal item on the front page (a permanent fixture nowadays) and was proceeding towards the exchanges between Rahul and Modi (another permanent fixture) when she returned, flashing her eyes
“Not a single flower in the plant and you are sitting here reading your paper”.
“What do I do if there are no flowers? I can only water the plants, pour manure and hope they will oblige. I can’t force them to give out flowers.”
“You don’t have to tell me that. You know what I mean. There were at least half a dozen flower buds last evening and not even one flower now. People are robbing everything and you do nothing. Throw that paper away and do something.”
I folded the paper making it difficult for her to snatch it and asked “Half a dozen buds? Where were they?”
“Where??? On the plant. Where else?”
“I mean which part of the plant? Ours or theirs?”
|See the bud on the branch flowing out of the compound? - It is their's|
All the plants which are in front of our house have two parts. The flowers that are on the branches facing the road are ‘theirs’. The pious flower thieves, who are dependent up on the flowers in other’s gardens for their morning worship. They are available to them on ‘first come first served’ basis. Those on the branches facing the house are ours. The owners. I am Ok with that arrangement. I was a freelancer myself once and understand the temptation.
“I am telling you that your neighbor does not care where the flowers are. He even comes into the compound to search and takes everything away. You just can’t keep quiet. You have to tell him to leave our flowers alone.”
Now she was focusing on the point. Her complaint was about my immediate neighbor who has enough plants in his own compound but comes out every morning to get the small white flowers from the roadside plant right next to my house. I believe they are a must for his rituals. Having come out, he also claims some of our flowers and offers them to his gods to enhance the results. My wife was not aware of this. One day when I returned early from my swimming I saw two hibiscus in his bowl and made the mistake of mentioning it to her. Now he is the first suspect for every missing flower. She wants me to tell him that he is a thief and warn him not to lay his hands on our flowers.
|Type of carnation, called 'nandi Battalu' in kannada, must for my neighbour;s worship|
It is not easy for me to do that. You see we are neighbours and have cordial relations. He invites us for their annual Satyanarayana pooja and the females in his family - wives of the three brothers and their three daughters, six in all - make up the major chunk of invitees for my wife’s Gauri pooja. And I have not seen him actually plucking my flowers – though we know it to be a fact.
“Let it be” I tried to placate my wife. “He takes the flowers and places them on the idols that he worships and so do you. You know that nothing misses the god’s eyes. (Here I tried to tell her Kanakadasa’s story - eating a banana when no one is seeing- but she was in no mood to listen) He knows that they are your flowers. You will get the credit.”
“Don’t teach me philosophy. I can do it better than you. I want flowers for my pooja and that is it. If you do not have the face to claim your property so be it. Go to the market every morning and buy flowers for my pooja.”
I went down and saw the plant. It was true. We have three hibiscus plants in pour compound and the two next to the compound, facing the road, were totally bereft of flowers. Not just my wife but the sun birds would also be very much disappointed.
|Large pink hibiscus - Sun bird's favourite|
A pair of sunbirds come early evening everyday looking for nectar and insects. Though they are partial to the large pink hibiscus, they do fly around the other hibiscus plants, poke their beaks into the flowers and try their luck. When there are no flowers they just fly around the plants and go away disappointed. I may get flowers from the market for my wife but what about the birds? I had to do something. But accosting my neighbor and telling him to his face not to take our flowers was quite embarrassing for me. I was wondering what to do when I remembered Munnabhai’s ‘Gandhigiri’.
The next Sunday (Holiday for our swimming pool) instead of going for my long walk I just took a short stroll and returned early. I was pottering around in the back yard till I heard my neighbour’s gate opening. He has a huge metal gate which slides on metal wheels making a lot of noise. I came into his view when he had just finished the road side plant and was walking towards our hibiscus. He saw me and stopped in his tracks abruptly. But he recovered fast and asked me casually,
|My neighbour's gate|
“Good morning doctor. No swimming today?”
“The pool is closed. I finished my walk early. Got enough flowers? I think it is already time for your ‘pooja’. I hear your bell ringing (the hand held sacred bell used in worship)and your reciting the ‘mantras’ (sacred verses) everyday and it goes on for a long time. I think you need a lot of flowers. You may take flowers from these plants too” I plucked two flowers from the plant and offered them to him “Just leave a few for us. We are not so particular about our rituals.”
He came forward to accept the flowers but responded with “No no no. I have enough flowers in my compound. I come for these small white ones which are a must for the worship. I do not need your flowers. Thank you.” He went back hurriedly pulling his gate in place.
All my flowers have been safe since then and my wife very generously leaves out a few everyday for the birds.