Baisaki, Ugadi, Vishu you call it by any name, is an important festival for Indians all over the country. This day is celebrated as the day of beginning of new life and the mother earth is thanked for her bounty. This day also heralds spring and a new and hopeful beginning. This is also the birthing season for most avian life and budding season for plant life. I see this all around and this fascinates me.
Sardar Kushvant Singh writes about a tree which he planted in his back yard growing big and huge with a canopy of leaves under which he relaxes and enjoys it beauty. I observe a young pepal tree undergoing the seasonal change. A few weeks ago it started sprouting new leaves of light lemon yellow colour. These came to acquire a kind of light brown color and now have turned into a flamboyant greenish yellow and soon will be glorious dark green. All this happens in a matter of few weeks. I watch with fascination the early morning sun reflecting these colours and the tree acquires a rare beauty. Indians have worshipped the peepal tree [Ashwath] [Ficus relegeosa] from ancient times and there is no village where this tree doesn’t occupy a central place in the scheme of things. The embankment built around it acts as a meeting place and social club for the villagers and the huge crown of leaves give the much needed shade in the scorching summer sun. The abundant fruits common to all ficus tree is heaven for birds. These trees live for centuries and the other famous ficus tree Ala [Banyan][Ficus Bengaleses] grows huge and broad and lives for centuries. There are two around Bangalore who are grand patriarchs and I feel, in their presence, a sense of revered awe. The one located in Swami Nithyanand’s ashram [Dhyanpeetam] of Mysore road beyond Bidadi is reputed to be more than 600 years old.
My favorite Ficus tree remains the common Goni mara or [ficus Mysorensis]. This too grows huge but not that huge as the peepal , has some arboreal roots [I have never seen one touching and implanted on the ground like you see with Banyan] and has closely placed branches and leaves so the tree is more compact than the others with hardly any space in between. It bears enormous quantities of fruits, initially coloured yellow and when ripe a kind of orange red. It is a sort of Mecca for birds during fruiting season. These are common trees planted on either side of roads and also grow in the wooded areas. Now if you are lucky to see this tree, it looks from a distance like a green crown [leaves] studded with orange and red [fruits]
From the balcony of my house I get a clear view of a Sapota [Chicku] tree growing in the backyard of my neighbor’s home. This tree bears fruit and the owner finds it difficult to pick the fruits in the upper branches, much to my delight. There is a family of squirrels that guard the fruits against birds who try and get at them. The bird that makes the most attempts and succeeds occasionally is the green barbet! It is great fun to watch the squirrel family trying to shoo the barbets away only to find them settling on another branch. The other bird that bothers the squirrel family is the parakeet. This noisy bird when it comes to feed sends the squirrels into a nervous tizzy. Parakeets are not fastidious feeders like the barbets. Their policy is eat one and destroy ten. Such extravagant, wasteful and noisy characters. Their performance reminds me of the needless and noisy extravaganza of a wedding feast!
The only visitor who cares a damn to what the squirrels think is the jungle crow. This magnificent bird is a fearless omnivore who believes in the dictum, ‘if there is anything edible I will eat it and enjoy doing so’. I once sat on a char and watched two jungle crows fighting over pieces of insipid papad which I kept throwing at them. It is a sight to see these big birds balancing on tiny branches and getting at the fruits with the squirrel family loudly protesting from a distance!
Copper pod in full bloom
Copper pod, rusty shield bearer [ Peltrophorum pterocarpum ] is a common avenue tree in full bloom now. I t is a large well leafed tree and bears tons of orange yellow flowers arranged in clusters. From a distance the tree appears aflame with orange interspersed with green. The flower has five thin wrinkled petals beautifully arranged in a circle around a central bunch of stamens [?]. With hundreds and thousands of these flowers the whole tree looks remarkably beautiful. Right now if you take a walk or drive on double road that connects 100ft road up to ESI hospital, Indiranagar, you will see on either side of the road a profusion of this tree.This stretch the road can be appropriately named as copper pod avenue! Should be done before they name it Hanumanthappa road!