memories, like flowers …

I am thinking about Wah again.

It is a feeling, a sensation, a fragrance that follows me around.  It happens once or twice – every year.   Suddenly I would feel transported to a place called Wah.  For days after that I live in a parallel world that once was.

Wah – my beautiful city where I spent most of my formative years.

Wah in Urdu – means Wow, amazing, wonderful, lovely… it means all of it  put together and more.  To me it also means waking up on beautiful mornings listening to the birds chirping in my mother’s fruit trees. Or coming home after school in the afternoon feeling the cool air on my neck and listening to the rustling sounds of tall slim and handsome poplar trees. And it most definitely means the whole family gathered around the table for the evening cup of tea and spending quality time in each others’ company. Yes, I am thinking about Wah.

In “Tuzk i Jahangiri” –  the chronicles of Mughal Emperor Jahangir –  it is noted that once the Emperor was coming back from Kashmir; it was getting late and the army was tired. They decided to look for a place to put up their tents for the night. A few soldiers were sent on to look for a nice and safe place and report back to the Emperor.  In their search, the soldiers discovered a place, all green with lush grass and covered with wildflowers … a valley surrounded by mountains. The soldiers reported back and gave this news.  The first word that the Emperor uttered when he reached the place was WAH!!

So this place became Wah for eternity.

Wah had all four seasons. Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer, all so unique and distinct. All of them so beautiful in their own ways.  Sizzling hot summers and then the first rains of Monsoon. Fall and forlorn, naked trees. Then winter and howling winds or rain silently falling on the roof, or a thunderstorm like no other with such force and ferocity. Foggy mornings and hard freezes crunching under the feet. And then Spring – the glorious spring. when the whole city would be wrought with all shades and shapes and kinds of flowers. The air so clean, so fresh and fragrant. One had to be there to experience the magical Spring!

I remember waking up in the mornings and tip-toeing barefoot on the wet, lush green grass, towards the flower beds to see and smell the beauty.  Have you ever smelled the sweet peas? Seen the variety of colors they have?  My mother and our gardener Zarin Khan always discussed and planned before planting the saplings. The neat and disciplined person that my mother was, Zarin Khan would never do anything in the garden without consulting her. It was amusing the way he would come to the back veranda and sit on the stairs, waiting for mother. Meanwhile Rehmat Bi would bring tea and something to eat for him. Then mother would come out holding her cup of tea and sit down on the takht (a kind of a settee) and talk about flowers, seasonal vegetables and if any tree or the hedges around the front and back yards needed trimming, cutting or pruning. The seriousness on their faces was priceless.

My favorite place in our back yard was between the two rows of sweet pea flower beds. Just lying there and watching the sky was soothing.  Zarin Khan never liked this. The first time he gave me a warning –  “Kho tum achha nain karti. Begum saab hum pe bigarta he!” – “This is not good- the mistress will be very angry!” He’d let me go but the next time he caught me, he complained to mother. I will not say what happened next but I knew I was at fault after all! But this doesn’t mean that I stopped visiting!

Here in Florida, every time I went to a nursery to buy some plants, I would check the seeds racks. In Spring when buying annuals, I would look for sweet pea saplings. It was only this Summer that I happened to see the pea seeds. I thought, once the frost was out of the way, we would plant the seeds. But one afternoon, my dear other half happily broke the news that he had planted the seeds while I was taking my afternoon nap. I was a little apprehensive but they survived the hard freeze!

When they were a feet and a half high, I started looking for the buds. Yesterday I spotted some. They will be blooming by the end of this month. I hope and pray they have the same sweet fragrance.

I love Petunias and Marigolds too. Actually it’s the yellow color of Marigolds and the purple of Petunias that make me happy and feel alive. Have you seen a purple colored sweet pea flower? It’s a beauty!  But, here the tampering has perfected the beauty of flowers and fruit, but robbed them of fragrance, and even the taste in the fruits’ case. My purple petunias have no fragrance, they are just pretty. I hope its different with the sweet peas.

Narcissus, sweet peas, marigolds and petunias are a few of my favorite flowers.  Yellow of  marigold and purple in petunias and sweet peas; I absolutely love them.

And I love the timeless times where memories reside.

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