A Colorful Crime: What My Father Taught Me

5 min readNov 25, 2019

I remember my two plants in Pune, India, that never came out of their owner-induced coma. The Gerbera only opened up its nursery-gifted buds and died right after I managed to sprinkle some water on its pink flowers and relished the clichéd shot of a greenhorn photographer. And the Monkey’s Puzzle, too small to trouble any of our forefathers, had its claws constantly turning brown one after the other, before the entire plant morphed into a sad puzzle of dead or wilted branches.

I must be a bad copy of my father, I thought.

Baba had a way with plants. Like a creative chef who also arranged his craft well, one season he would make concentric circles, and the other, rectangles (his most debatable design was a closed semicircle, like the shape of a ‘D’ which mother had some serious trouble digesting), painstakingly arranging the little saplings of seasonal flowers according to their size and colour.

Every winter, our backyard (not the front as one might guess) filled with marigold, rose, zinnia, dahlia, calendula, dianthus, petunia and many more. For us, the ability to regurgitate these exotic names in front of the class mates was as much a matter of pride as the partial ownership of the plants themselves.

We saw father toil in his modest garden, carefully preparing the soil, tossing it up with his self-cooked compost and fertilizers, making little holes in the amorphous grey mix to bury the seeds in. Squatting beside him under a lukewarm sun casting golden shafts of light as fat as the gaps between the teak leaves, watching him go about doing everything methodically was our easiest family activity! Of course, we too contributed. Either by occasionally watering the bed, or — if we had a passionate ‘catch-me-if-you-can’ race with the cousins — trampling all over it, even though the hardest slaps were reserved for rendering this service.

We loved his plants, but couldn’t hold it for too long! So we would break off a thin stem from a wild shrub and subject his plants to the same treatment that George Washington did to the cherry tree. We would swing the stem so fast that it neatly cut through the leaves, or even the tender shoots. The challenge was the neatness of the cut, and we strove to achieve perfection at the cost of swollen, broken skins.


Tech Enthusiast, Professor, Traveller, Green Army, Tennis Lover. Paradoxically straddling Technology and Literature. Manages @pure_odisha on Instagram.