These days I can neither read nor write nor sit before my computer all the time, though I call myself a full-time writer after my retirement. During my teaching days, I was spending much of my waking hours with my studious students, illustrious colleagues, and with Shakespeare and Auden. I loved every one of them and all reciprocated their love in their own way. That gave me a lot of raw material to push pen on paper. Back home in my study, I felt blessed to snatch a couple of hours for scribbling my thoughts. Weekends are exceptions.
After retirement, I am given all the time in the world for doing the work I loved, love, and will love most – reading and writing. Evenings with fellow writers in country pubs, morning walks with strangers on the promenade inspired my pen and it became more active than ever. But Lady Corona brought a big lockdown on me, thereby making me run short of raw material. I strongly believe in the saying: “If Mohammed can’t go to the mountain, then the mountain would go to Mohammed”.
A garden on the terrace would get you enough raw materials. A little bird told me. I jumped at that suggestion. Converting all the rice sacks into grow bags, thanks to my wife, I filled them up with sand and manure from the neighbor’s backyard, pulled them up to the terrace one bag after the other with a rope. Arranging them all in geometrical shapes, I made much use of the seeds from the kitchen and planted them. Jumping over fences was not only adventurous but also fruitful. Many flower plants found roots in my terrace garden.
Seeds gave rise to shoots, shoots to plants, and plants smiled in colours. Since going out of the house got ruled out I was able to go up and see the sky. I became more connected with nature. Every plant began to tell me of my responsibility, like the kids born of my loins. Getting my hands dirty is one thing. Enjoying the yield is not another thing. One gives rise to the other.
Being around plant people who care for my oxygen is a blessing indeed. My grandchildren who volunteered to dirty their hands added to the pleasure of tending the garden. A little after sunrise we were there; a little before sundown we were there weeding, watering, pruning, replanting, and several such activities that kept us engaged for a couple of hours in a day. My grandchildren liked the garden work for it gave them a welcome break from online classes. I liked the work for it inspired me to do my creative writing from a different point of view. No more human characters entered my works but only birds, beetles, squirrels, and rats.
Rose, jasmine, and kanakambaram bloomed inviting bees from god knows where. These winged creatures gathering honey made a pleasant sight and their buzz was manna for the ears as long as we maintained a social distance. But when women at home wanted those flowers to adorn their heads to add fragrance to their long tresses, we had our bee stings. That was also a pleasant adventure – to dodge their chase and yet gather flowers.
Black beetles too wanting to have their share buzz over our heads frightening us with their dronings. But crows like knight-at-arms make a dazzling swoop through the air and disappear gobbling down beetles. The more the crows appear more the beetles disappear. Crows do not relish bees on their plate. Perhaps their sting is worse than their buzz.
Squirrels and rats are the much-hated rodents in the terrace garden. Both love to prune the plants in their own way. An uprooted plant or a plant cut at its stem would make any gardener weep over his loss for hours more than the time he had spent in bringing them up. “Kill rats but not squirrels.” That was from my pious wife. I may get a fat pension but food has to come from her kitchen, you know! Lady Corona brought down the shutters of restaurants too. Poor me! I have no way but to admire the cute little ways the squirrel handles a tasty flower or a tastier tomato.
At a time when no visitor is allowed inside our house, I welcome all the winged visitors and the creeping ones that find their way to my terrace garden. I understand their language and they understand mine. We are experts in sign language, you know! Whenever I take home the yield from my terrace garden, be they flowers or greens, fruits or vegetables, my lady’s fingers drum on my back as a mark of her appreciation in kind.
My father used to tell me, “If you have no one to envy you, there is no use in living”. Lady Corona made the people from my neighboring terrace envious of me. Thanks to the Lady and the plants.