By Sonya Rehman
I’ve been thinking about the Gulmohar trees back home a lot lately. Have you seen a Gulmohar tree? It is a glorious tree with the prettiest flaming red flowers; like a tall, upright girl with a mass of red, frenzied curls. In English, the tree is known as ‘Delonix Regia,’ I can’t even pronounce the name properly, besides it doesn’t sound as romantic as ‘Gulmohar’ – so let’s just stick to the desi name. In Lahore, I’ve grown up amongst Gulmohar trees, Amaltas trees (Cassia Fistula) and those beautiful, pre-partition trees that line the roads in Cantonment – like wizened, old, giants, creatures from another world, these pre-partition beauties shade the area, Cantonment, with their leafy branches, their protective presence. They are glorious. Thankfully, they haven’t been chopped down (yet), and many, if you look close enough, have such thick roots, that some pavements on the main roads look slightly bumpy and cracked.
The Sharif’s have nurtured this wild dream to convert the beloved city of Lahore into Dubai; and it’s happening – from the mall culture to the uprooting of the trees along the canal (to widen the road), to the horrid, fat, hobbit palm trees planted along the green belt on Main Boulevard…sometimes I wish our leaders nurtured within them, amidst all that hardened corruption, an aesthetic outlook, a creative bent, but then again, look at Hitler’s paintings, who knew such talent and creativity within could also carry so much sickness of the soul. But wait, stay with me…the Gulmohar trees…my grandmother planted two on our street – one, just near our gate, when in full bloom, every summer, would drop it’s beautiful vermillion petals on our porch. If you haven’t seen what a Gulmohar’s flowers look like, you must, get a hold of one immediately. They are stunning – pure red, a tinge of orange and some petals (on the inside) are white and yellow, speckled with red. The shape is beautiful too, like a frilly, feminine skirt. The Divine Artist knows His art all too well – such a master craftsman. One can be reminded of home by the smallest of things. But in my case, it is the Gulmohar trees that I see planted in this particular neighborhood here – the creamy paint of the villas, offset by Gulmohar flowers – and usually, if the taxi takes a certain route (every morning to my work place), I pass the neighborhood and think of my own street back home. And there’s this sweet comfort that takes over me – it’s the consistency of the beauty of the trees; whether in Lahore, or here, in Dubai, the consistency of the tree’s tangibility, prettiness, is the same, it’s the same formula, the same ingredient, the mixture of earth, seed, water, and hands that have produced this magnificent tree.
I hated being alone when I was younger. I just hated it. But the alone-ness when you’re an adult, is a different kind of alone-ness. It’s not loneliness, or perhaps it is, but there’s this odd feeling of having to do everything on your own, with only yourself as your own audience. The other day, I asked a new friend here, if she still felt emotional living here on her own. She answered: “Yes, yes I do, I feel vulnerable, I always feel vulnerable.”
I do too, but there are many days when the alone-ness feels comforting. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to enjoy one’s own company? Perhaps that is the first step to falling in love with oneself, to nurturing oneself, because as the cliche goes: if you can’t love yourself, how can you love another?
Last month, I finally put together my little nest. The basics came from IKEA – from the cutlery to the coffee table, a chair and a bed, that place is honestly adult lego heaven. When my furniture finally got delivered, I opened each box and laughed my head off looking at the instruction manuals – they made it look so easy. Since there was no way in hell I could put together a bed, much less a tiny side table (major LOLs followed in my first attempt), I got my building’s watchman and his pal, this dude called Yoginder, to put together the furniture. When the bed was assembled, I freaked looking at the final piece – it was the size of a cot and the planks looked like they could snap easily with just the slightest bit of weight. “Uh,” I said, shaking my head, looking at Yoginder and the watchman, “What will happen if I lie down and the bed cracks under me?” Yoginder burst out laughing while the watchman giggled. Their assurances didn’t cut it for me, so after they placed the mattress on the bed, I made the two of them sit on the bed together and bounce on it a bit. They were laughing their heads off. But the bed didn’t give way. The planks, later that night, I realized, were made of soft wood, and thankfully have not cracked…till now. However, it’s a strange bed, it feels more like a hammock than a bed, it sways a bit – quite odd, but nice. I also christened my apartment by murdering a grand total of three small roaches with a wiper. Forgive me God, please. In Lahore, I would’ve run out of the room screaming for my brother, but here, on my own, I don’t have the privilege of a male figure loitering about in bermudas ready to rescue me from horrifying insects. So, instead, I grow a pair, and do it myself. And hey, guess what? It’s empowering. I killeth the roacheth and saveth meself.
Apart from the Gulmohar trees, my other favourite sighting – but this time, enroute from work to ‘home’ – are these words (picture below) spray-painted on a steel construction wall in Barsha. Too bad they recently painted over it, but luckily, I took a photo. Isn’t it just, profound?
Tomorrow, a new week will roll out. I’m bound to see the Gulmohar trees again at some point – they remind me to continue seeking beauty in everything I do and see…they also remind me, that whatever one plants within the story of their lives, will soon be reflected in the many outcomes that make up the journey. One must continue being a seeker of beauty – into the darkness and into the light, there is abundance everywhere.
Indeed, life is beautiful.