The Childless

“When you return from Office this evening, visit the florist and please get two roses …”

“Roses? We have many in our kitchen garden! Why florist?”

“I haven’t completed my sentence as yet….you shoot out a question! I want the particular type of rose. “Lady Banks!”

“Your question is complete?”

“Yes, please bring a pair of roses.”

“What Bank you said? Co-operative Bank or Nationalized Bank?”

“Lady Banks….roses! Some select florists keep these roses at Karol Bagh Market…This has arrived in our country recently, from Latin America! Please remember…

“What’s special this evening? If you let me know, I can spend the whole day with added enthusiasm and happiness.”

“I will tell you about it in the evening…after you get the roses!”

–Such conversations and exchange of ideas are normal between husband and wife, when the husband leaves for the office. The special topic of the day is-“roses!”

On a number of occasions, she says,

“Bring some cashew nuts this evening”- and I forget.

“Bring some Paneer this evening”-that too I forget.

“I say, special sale of Patola saris is currently in full swing in Karol Bagh Market-if you can find a dark-green sari please get one for me. I have confidence in your choice…I will pay for it!”-yet, I forget!

But the topic of the day is special. A very important issue! She immensely liked roses. This flower is the soul of her life; she is the soul of my life. I need to strike a careful balance between these two souls. This being the case, I must get two “Ladies Bank” roses for her. .Lest I forget!

* * *

Some backgrounder….

Roses!

A garden with colorful rose-plants! Who will not be viewing such a sight! The Queen amongst the flowers! Its beauty, the fragrance, the process of buds turning to beautiful flowers with cluster of petals! What a beautiful transformation!

Eye-catching!

Rose flower is her soul-mate! For her, the happiest place on Earth is her little rose garden. Her mini-tour, in the association of those plants, will have no end. She takes acre of them with great love and attention.

That is her enlightenment!

How’s that? Why does she feel so? Her feelings are indescribable!

Only those who have experienced will know its bliss-value!

The topic of discussion is always rose, rose and rose again!

“Can we go to the Mughal Gardens tomorrow? (One of the biggest rose gardens in India attached to he President’s Estate at Delhi). It is being opened for public view for a month, from tomorrow! We must reach there by 6.00 a.m.”

“Why tomorrow? The garden is thrown open to the public for full one month and July has thirty one days. Shall we reach there even before the gardener opens the gates of the garden? The owner of the Garden, President of India, may not like to visit the garden so early in the morning!”

What a craze for roses!

For me, that word is the past tense of RISE. Tomorrow being Sunday, I usually do not get up from the bed before 8.00 a.m. The bed tea, biscuits, newspapers, morning news, ..I have planned all the ‘bed-ridden’ activities for the most welcome, once in a week arriving, Sunday.

But she has done the advance planning for the rose garden visit. The unilateral decision!

To take a quick round of the Mughal Garden it takes about two hours-I said quick round! She takes naturally double the time. Like a passenger train that stops in all the big and small stations. She will talk to each plant, in her special ‘rose’ language, examine them carefully with motherly tenderness, without touching the petals, the health of the rose-buds get her special attention and appreciation!

The rose-specialist!

Rose– she is like the black bee!

What astounding progress is achieved as for rose-culture! Botanists have artificially cultivated thousands of varieties of roses. Red, white, yellow etc. But you have something unbelievable about the limitations of the botanists so far!-They have failed to create the blue color rose and she is not happy about it.

Why no blue rose?

Four hours passed and no trace of tiredness on her face. Who will not be happy at the sight of the garden! The rose plants seemed to invite you to visit them again and again.

I asked her: Do you remember this song?

“Oh God! I am confused by your taste and arrangements,

Below the nectar-giving rose you have placed the pricking thorns…”

Beauty barricaded by sharp thorns!”

“Beauty requires protection!”-the clear cut replies from her.

Ask any question about the rose. You will get super fast answers, with the speed of an arrow released from the bow.

Her ordinary and classified knowledge about roses is without parallel! She is the master of their history and geography. Challenge her in this area, and one will be amazed.

“Look at that yellow- Rose plant. How tall it is!”

“Tall and healthy? It’s tall, but not comparatively! In Tombstone, Arizona, USA, you have a rose ‘plant’ that is 9 ft tall, the stem is 40″ thick, it is spread in 5380 sq. ft. To support it, 68 poles have been provided, and thousands of feet of pipes for watering it. About one hundred and fifty people can sit simultaneously under its shade. The plant has attained its present growth, from a stem brought from Scotland in the year 1884”-she gives this explanation enthusiastically! The details are so perfect as if one makes the preparations for paper for an important examination!

Why should people like us, living in a small house constructed on 90 sq. yards plot, think about such giant rose plants? But one thing is certain. If that plant is in India, below its shade, instead of one hundred and fifty, one thousand five hundred people would have been there.( some people would have constructed temporary shelters under it.) Some small shops, pakora manufacturing units, hawkers selling soda, bidi and cigarettes would have done brisk rounds in that area. And one can expect constant inquiries from the car owners, “Whether we can park our car here!”

By the time we returned home after completing the Moghul Garden tour, the clock struck eleven!

…and the gardener sat on the steps of the house waiting for us. He visited us on every Sunday, to take care of our terrace garden. He will occasionally bring the new plants, and for any type of new rose plants, she was the easiest of the customers. Our Terrance brimmed with planters of all sizes and colors but all rose. This gardener is not much educated, but he is the storehouse of knowledge. He can beat any horticulturist. He raised plants from seeds or cuttings, plant and weed flower beds and borders, tidy pathways and clear leaves and litter, prune shrubs, check the health of plants and provide fertilizer and pesticides etc. He renders the beautiful terrace more beautiful, by spending the entire Sunday. Every Sunday she gets updates and latest about rosés, and gives special thanks to him.

Her own Moghul Garden!

For the last seven years at 6.00 p.m. she visits the terrace, rain or shine. She will make a slow and steady ‘tour ‘of her wonderland. You can see her with the water can, carefully watering them and she knows the level of thirst of each plant.

The neighbors say in jest. “She has come to the terrace-adjust your clock-it is six

O’ clock!”

The rose garden is her family. The plants are her children. How else she can spend the time?

Eight years have elapsed since marriage. For about two years, we are a happy family. Worry creeps in thereafter. Some doubts! Why no children for us?

“What’s wrong? Are you vigorously pursuing family planning? Better to own this responsibility as early as possible. To postpone it is no solution. The two-child criterion is the accepted in the present times. So, why delay?” Many well wishers opine thus. Sometimes, make fun of us! The ever green couple etc!

What is the use of delaying? —but who is delaying it anyway?

Detailed medical examination is over for both of us. Both pass with flying colors. The doctors can not find out the reason. The non-specialist doctors referred us to the specialists. The specialists directed us to the super-specialists. “They call for many types of investigations. These days, investigations dominate the medical profession. We have no other alternative. ..All this is expensive.”

We know, we have no other alternative!

The super-specialist fails to diagnose our problem.

According to the results of the investigations, ‘everything is perfect with both of you’!

And they say…”Don’t you be afraid of anything!”

What a great relief for us’-“Everything is perfect!”

What a great worry as well-“Everything is perfect and yet…”

The efforts continue. Meetings the saints, country medicines, chanting of mantras and the ways and means of tantra…fast on a particular day for a particular cause etc.

Donations, charity, philanthropy, pilgrimage to holy centers…

Wheat cakes for the cows, flour for the ants….

Medicated capsules of Unani, Homeopathy, home-remedy decoctions….

Different combinations of vegetables….

Actions according to many suggestions…valued opinions….

Consultations with wise people…their experiences.

Nothing fructified….we are disappointed.

Only the final course is left with us now-relentless prayer at the feet of the Lord..

Will the benign Lord not accept our submissions with total surrender at His feet, with heart full of love? Will He not listen to our prayers?

O, Lord Krishna, how long she shall shed tears and suffer intensely!

For the obvious blessings.Male or female, doesn’t matter!

* * *

… Ladies Bank? Yes, I do have it. Today’s rate is rupees twenty four!” The twinkle in the eyes of the florist can be clearly seen!

“Twenty four rupees a dozen? You are unreasonable. Why do you quote such a fancy price”?

“Gross misunderstanding Sir….I am quoting the rate of one piece of Ladies Bank rose…not dozen. If you want two pieces, give Rs.45/- This is no-bargain shop, and yet I give you concession…you are a cash-customer for Ladies Bank!”

“For one pc twenty four rupees? What you think of yourself? I am no novice about roses. We have a rose garden (The fact is, even though we have a rose garden, my knowledge about roses is very limited)

“You know about roses, and still you bargain Sir? What do you think of Lady Bank? This one is world famous variety. It grows under rare conditions. It demands special climate and care. Its food, a special fertilizer, is imported from Paris.”

I pay him twenty four rupees and purchase a rose. (I do remember that she has told me to buy two roses!)

Wasteful expenditure! She may not know that this rose is so costly!

When I press the call bell, she does not open the door fully and she sees the solitary rose dangling in my hand and she is instantly angry!

My hands hold the Lady Bank! In front of me, the lady…..bang….bang….!

“Where is the second rose?”

….Silence is the sweetest sound on Earth…I say to myself!

“I say, where is the second rose? She is about to erupt!”

My poetic talent saves me that day!

“The second rose is your pose!” I say, somewhat confidently and with borrowed bravery!

Though angry, she looks attractive and the fighting pose and the red cheeks demand appreciation!

The rosy cheeks!

Now the color changes to dark red!

A few second tickle…

She stays within the door…I remain outside…..

What will happen now?

Then,

Congratulations!

A little smile sneaks through her lips.

“Who can beat you in quick repartee?”-she compliments me thus many a times in the past.

She appreciates me, and pays hearty compliments for my spontaneous poetry

Congratulations again! The battle royal about the Rose flower is over. Cease-fire!

—-The history students may know about this episode. The War of Roses in the fifteenth century between the York family whose symbol was white Rose and the Leicester family with the symbol of red Rose. The importance of Rose is such!

Who says, Rose flower is the symbol of peace and love?

But no war about Roses in our family.-But she initiates casual fights and arguments about the rose flowers and plants.

“You buy it for bargain price! Its cost is rupees forty two months back.”

I compliment myself for having made the profit of rupees twenty two in the current transaction.

The gardener stands before us palms joined. He says, “Sister, you please get the Ladies Bank sapling yourself. I try in several nurseries. Two nurseries have that plant but they are not willing to give it for less than rupees four hundred.”

“Four hundred rupees? One can buy a quality Walkman in that cost!” I protest.

But she uses her veto power. She places the order for the plant immediately. Next day, she goes to her parent’s place for seven days to attend a wedding.”

“By the time you return, you will have your Ladies Bank plant and the new planter, “the gardener assures.

Buy a new planter for that. The color of the planter needs to be pale rose brick. You will get such plants in reputed nurseries. You need to make some efforts for that…”

“I will sister.”

* * *

She goes to her parent’s house. Thank God! What a profound silence prevails in the house…this Sunday seems to have not 24 but 240 hours! Before going, she repeats the permanent instructions and gives additional instructions for taking care of the garden! The Rose-manual talks!

“This is summertime. Water the plants twice daily. Water slowly and steadily. .Give adequate quantity! Neither more nor less! Never forget to lock the terrace door. If the neighborhood children come to know that the terrace door is open, they will reach there for kit-flying .They will run amok on the terrace….and yes, about the gardener. He is reliable and trustworthy, okay…but do not give him the entire responsibility for maintenance of the garden. Just keep close watch on his work.-Take care about the garden—I say, take care about your own self. Don’t misuse your freedom for the next seven days; don’t order food from the hotel…

Finally she is off…for seven days…Seven means seven! —not eight! She is perfect in mathematics. Next Sunday she is bound to be here.

After a few days, the gardener arrives with the Ladies Bank Rose-plant.

“I get it for rupees three hundred and ninety after hard bargaining.” He is happy that he is able to get the price reduced by rupees ten! “And I am unable to get the planter anywhere…that kind of planter is not available! I try at many nurseries!”

“Pale Brick Rose….the gardener pronounces it so effortlessly….” I admire his sharp memory and fascination for the brand and color of the planters!

* * *

We have a rose plant for the last seven years. This plant is the bone of contention between me and her. If one makes the record of the conversation between us about that particular Rose plant, the arguments and counter-arguments for the last several yeas, it will be a full-length drama. Myself and my wife in the main roles and the gardener as an important side role! Several types of fertilizers are tried on it, and with the special food and treatment provided to it, it grows up into a big, healthy plant, with branches spreading in all directions, crowded with green leaves! But the plant does not produce a single rose. This mysterious plant rakes our brain constantly-what’s wrong with it?”

“If you agree sister, we can remove this plant. Why to waste money on fertilizers for its growth and time on care? Better quality plants are available in the market. I shall bring the latest one for this planter” says the gardener.

An immediate “No” from her stops further discussion on the subject.

She begins to pay extra attention to that plant!

* * *

Her absence is a god-sent opportunity for me.

“Remove this and plant and put the Ladies Bank there.”

The gardener does not protest. He reacts as if he is grateful for my instructions. “I plead with the sister several times. It is useless to waste money on fertilizers.”-and the Ladies Bank plant finds its new abode! The seven year old tenant is asked to vacate the premises!

She arrives on Sunday, as scheduled. She keeps the bag on the stair-case does not enter the flat and asks, “How’s the plant?”

“Which plant?” I say, following her. “Ladies Bank?” The gardener brings it this Friday. He gets it for three hundred and ninety-he has saved rupees ten for you!”

“Very fine!” but at the moment I am not asking about the Ladies Bank…I want to know about the flower-less plant. She came inside, takes a glass of water that I keep ready on the dining able, she drinks it with good speed and then she begins her commentary, quite emotional!

“Listen, I have a dream yester night. —Someone has pulled that plant from the planter– its own planter for the last seven years. The soul of that pant arrives towards me slowly and steadily floating in the air, in the form of a wheel made of roses, bright and emits light. It rotates with great speed, but moves ahead very slowly. It has thousands of light rays and it comes very near me, touches my body and enters within me through the navel….yes that was the great dream,” saying thus she takes the key of the terrace door, and rushes through the steps in great haste!

I too rush, reach the terrace in one breath, seconds after her, and establish myself before her with great humility, bowing my head!

I am guilty!

I say, “……I am extremely sorry. I will bring many such plants for you. Sorry! Sorry!”

“Such a plant?”

That is not the question she asks, but I imagine that she will ask at any time….but I see she is not in a position to ask…she doesn’t say anything….she fixes her gaze on the planter and begins to sob. —-the sob turns into an uncontrollable wailing soon. Water gushes out of her eyes in two streams!

Witness-one end of her sari!

That plant lay in a corner of the terrace garden for the last about 45 hours, since Friday evening! Fortunately he does not cut its branches, and destroy them.”

It lay there like an orphan! She begins to examine the plant very carefully with great affection. Out of great shock, she rests her fingers on the end of a branch, and literally screams.

“Look here!” her voice trembles.

A small rose bud lay hidden between the leaves of a tender branch. As if it is afraid of the world around …it looks as if it is fighting for life, the plant having been removed from the source of its nourishment. …and see the rose bud! No doubt about it! With water supply and nourishment cut off, the upper portion of it has turned black and dry, and its green covering has become dull.

Looking at the plight of the bud, we both sit in the terrace, completely blank! I have no words to console her. We sit in silence, for how long I do not know!

* * *

The happy tidings!

In the same month she is pregnant!

After nine months, she gives birth to the male child!

……and today is the naming ceremony of the child!

The name is “Moonrose!”