My Green Sisters-in-law
by Vimala Ramu
(Bangalore, Karnataka, India)
My sisters-in law are GREEN. The green colour I associate with my five sisters in law does not infer their attitude (jealousy) nor to their general state of health(biliousness). It applies to their green fingers.
Though I have lived in houses with kitchen gardens, once we moved to our own house I decided to do away with kitchen gardening and use the space available to grow flowers and decorative plants. Our front yard had a magenta bougainvillea creeper trained up two floors. Two coconut trees had been planted by our mother –in law. We had Hibiscus, Ixora, Muessanda, Easter lily, crotons and cacti along with potted plants. The back yard had been planted with plants of fragrant flowers like different varieties of jasmine, champak, nandi battalu etc along with a short lemon tree. A papaya tree had come up on its own and had treated us to some tasty fruits.
But when we had to build the garages, a concrete one at the rear and a grill enclosed one in front of it to accommodate two cars, all the trees and plants had to be removed and the driveway was also concreted. As for the front, even the little patch of green had to be concreted as I could no more maintain it. As for the plants left in the front, my husband is so ‘military’ in his attitude that he believes that even plants and hedges should always be trimmed and lawns always manicured. When the colorful blooms and shoots burst forth spontaneously on the advent of spring, he treats it as waywardness on the part of the plants and so proceeds forth with the clippers and chopper to give the plants a crew cut.
But my sisters-in law have bigger plots and more freedom to plan their garden. The first of them has a large industrial site in which in addition to a front rose garden, many mango seedlings from the previous occupant shot forth and she distributes raw mangoes to the rest of the family every year. My sister –in law no.2 has a lovely patch of garden maintained by a gardener and she always shares her ‘doddapatre’ leaves,pungent and acrid , which make a unique chutney with curds. The sister-in law no.3 sends us vegetables and fruits- cluster beans, brinjals, ladies finger, bananas, sapotas etc from their two farms throughout the year in addition to a year’s quota of tamarind. Sister in law no.4 has 3-4 banana plants in the rear which yield very tasty bananas and which along with banana stem (which makes crisp eclectic salad) she shares with the rest of us. Sister –in law no.5 who has her house in a posh area in Bangalore has each and every plant in her garden handpicked and planted. She has the greenest fingers and attends to the plants personally. She shares her rare decorative potted plants and the choicest mangoes when the season is on. Her parties are a veritable feast of mango juice, mango gojju, aamras and mango ice cream.
Sometimes I feel guilty about being the recipient of this unidirectional bonanza. The only consolation I have is I used to share my coconuts with the others before their trees started yielding fruits and before mine were cut off because the coconuts would fall on our neighbors’ pots and break them. ****