Swathi suggested me to stay over at her home so that I can catch up with Amoolya for breakfast on next day. Swathi lives in US now. I cherish the in-person conversations we have whenever we meet. So, I stayed over to spend some more time with her and her family.
Next day, on an early morning while Arun uncle was still in his blanket, I walked into the room wishing him, “Good morning uncle.” Swathi mentioned that they have a roof top garden which uncle has started a few years ago. As the (Rajasthan)house I currently live in also has a roof top garden, I got interested in it.
“Uncle can I see the garden?” I asked. He heartily accepted the request and took me for a visit on a foggy morning. The central space of terrace got occupied with all these beautiful plants. Uncle managed to grow sugar cane on the rooftop garden. A sugar cane on a rooftop garden! I consider it as quite an achievement. “Yeah, we need to cut this soon ma. The green shoots are coming up. This will suck up all the sweetness,” he explained looking at the sugar cane, he managed to grow it on his terrace. "All the work is done by aunty and Uma." he credited where it's due. "I started it but it’s aunty and Uma who does all the work." He was honest.
He got different varieties of Chilli. A chilly that turns black to red and another green to red. A few more Chillies looked like cherry tomatoes. A lot of hot Chillies to spice up the day. "We get at least 2 meals a day in a week from our garden." he shared.
Swathi challenged me to guess what this material could be. I tried hard scanning what it could be but, Alas, it turned out to be the antenna cover. I could never imagine it. The plants are planted in water bubbles and curd buckets and what not. Talking numbers and stories behind it, Uncle shared how he got all these buckets from Sanath Nagar market.
The blue drums were cut vertically horizontally, customized the stands for them. A lot of effort and thought has been put. Looking at the coconut tree, Swathi mentioned how his dad wants to climb the tree but they don’t let him. "Why don’t you try hiring some person to cut them," she asked. Uncle in his signature style analysed the cost and said how it’s ineffective.
Talking about trees and plants, there are a lot of stories that are entwined to the building. There's this small tree that's as old as this house. It is protruding from the front wall. The whole space has been not touched to let the tree grow. "I want to do my best and save it ma." He pointed out to me the other tree.
A tree that unearthed walls. "The trees know how to accomodate. It's us who needs to accomodate with the nature." He means his words. There's been a lot of effort to not cut the trees.
Talking about a few more trees, uncle suggested Swathi, "After going to U.S plant a curry leaf tree, you will save a lot of money by not buying five twigs for $5. I got reminded of the curry leaf tree I got right in front of my back yard. "We had two Curry leaf plants," uncle shared the story.
"We had this trees, when my dad was here. A boy used to come and collect all the leaves packing it in a big cloth and pay 80 rupees to sell it off at the near market. Every two to three months, he used to visit us and take all the leaves." Uncle recollected an episode. He narrated. "My Dad once asked him, Yenabi rupayalena?- Will you only pay eighty rupees. The boy replied, "Naaku ganesh gudi daggari ammithe anthe isthaaru saar" When I sell this at Ganesh Temple, I get only this much sir.
Thinking of those two trees, uncle shared how those two trees had their end. "One tree had to be removed when I was building the first floor because of drainage constructions. Another tree was not growing after a few years. We cut a little hoping it revives but, it never revived.
Continuing the story with the boy who pays 80 rupees, uncle shared, "My Dad passed away and after 12 years, the boy came and told me sorry. "Saar mee naana gariki, 80 rupaayalu ivvali. Nenu ivvaleka poyanu." The boy who paid 80 rupees every time he took Curry leaves couldn't pay the last due. Thanks to inflation. The curry leaves are costly and 80 Rupees is nothing. However, the boy didn't forget the due he has with uncle's father. "Not all people are cruel naana. See, after twelve years, he still remembered and managed to come and tell me. Ippudu kuda taluchukunte, I'm teary eyed, he reinstates believing in humanity.
I told him, " Either you use it or donate it in the Ganesh Temple where you sell the leaves."
There's one more tree as old as the house. More about it later.