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RASHMI OBEROI | 16 MAY, 2019

Hope Amid Gulmohar Petals

The hope remains


This morning, the streets and paths were red with Gulmohar petals and the treetops a fiery red. The flowers always remind me of the days of yore – of prose, poetry and puppy love. Intermittent showers may have brought down temperatures for the common man but in political circles the heat is on and dirt being flung around.

The smouldering temperature in the month of May gets a reprieve through the early morning breeze, the melodious singing of the summer birds, the intoxicatingly sweet smell of flowers and the red fire in the skies thanks to the blooming trees. The red ‘flame’ is indeed a treat to the eyes.

Walking along the bustling lanes later in the day, one might just be able to ignore the rising temperatures the city is facing this summer. Between the traffic signals and the chaotic junctions are plumes of flaming Gulmohars. Discovered in the 19th century in Madagascar by botanist Wesnel Bojer, the Gulmohar is flamboyant when in bloom, as the world's most colourful tree.

For several weeks in summer, the tree is covered by exuberant clusters of flame-red flowers, which on closer examination are striking: they have four spoon-shaped scarlet or orange-red petals and one upright slightly larger petal which is streaked and marked in yellow/white. The Gulmohar is naturalised in India and is widely grown as a street tree for its umbrella-like canopy and of course for its stunning flowers.

The busy day ahead and the realities of the elections in our country come to fore as one meanders through traffic and multitudes of people… The mind is boggled by all the hate and slandering… We hit a new low each day with the tone and tenor that is shrill and jarring.

Sporadic conversations discuss the travails of a dry spell and the fear of drought looming large. Ironical as it might sound, most civic and construction agencies are pleased as punch as the long dry period is not testing the drainage system and those involved in construction activities are able to continue their work without any problem.

One brief heavy shower late last month had flooded many areas as the drainage system came to a full-stop and had made visible the arrangements made for the onslaught of monsoons in poor light.

With the ‘clouds’ providing a glimmer of hope every now and then, and then blowing away under the gust of strong winds and the rains playing truant, it appears to reflect the current state of our country. These elections will be remembered for the vitiated atmosphere under which it was fought, with all parties indulging in vicious name calling and blatant attempts to polarize the voters.

Poll rhetoric during elections is normal in India but this time the levels were often personal and below the belt, leaving the rest of the country aghast, disappointed and wondering where the political discourse was heading.

A large part of the problem can be traced to the fact that most politicians are either semi-educated or minimally educated having suspect degrees that are more a formality than any educational value. It is a fact that despite consistent efforts for changing the face of the country, much remains to be done.

But it is to be realised that the deeper the inherited malady, the longer it takes to put things right. The levels of decency has gone down abysmally and political propriety has been thrown to the winds.

Every stratagem to lure the voters to vote them to power is being tried. Their chief weapon of disinformation is speaking of lies. They seem to believe that when a lie is repeated umpteen times, it passes as a truth but the voters are mature enough politically to sift the grain from the chaff.

All this brings us to one conclusion that there is an urgent need for all parties to discuss and debate establishing a minimum standard of protocol in public life that all must ensure and follow, in and outside the Parliament. It is imperative that each party has its own checks and balance, ensuring that its leaders and party cadres uphold a minimum standard of protocol in public life. There also must be no place for violence in any form, is that too much too expect?

While we grapple with all the shenanigans yet again, I do know for sure, there will be a bed of gulmohar petals on the streets once again tomorrow, bringing with them the faint flicker of hope and the freshness of a new dawn.

When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy,
And the dimpling stream runs laughing by;
When the air does laugh with our merry wit,
And the green hill laughs with the noise of it.

~ William Blake

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