This is one of my favorite days of the year – the day when we re-pot the plants. We sit in the sunny garden the whole day and go through a cycle of replenishment and planning and hope. The pots are emptied, scoured out, washed and then filled with a happy mix of manure, sand and soil.
We decide which plants should be split and which goes into which pot . We’ve been doing this for more than 10 years, Dhanraj , who came to help as a young teenager and still helps part time, and I. I have the book learning and he has the experience of his years in the fields with him. We’ve both learnt on the job; he to act as if he was bowing down to my superior knowledge and me to trust his green thumb even when he chops the roots rudely and shoves the plant carelessly into the soil.
The pots recall a number of stories. Some of them are from the times long ago, when as a green girl, I used to go to the market and buy the pots and lug them home anxiously in a bag. Some from a time when the house was newly built and money was very tight but a visiting niece persuaded me to buy all, all the pots a vendor was carrying on his head right on our road. A couple of tiny pots from a train ride up north when Laloo Prasad created an outlet for potters by selling tea in terracota cups on trains. A bunch of small pots used for serving kulfi when my brother in law and sister ran a take away catering service. Some rounded pots used for the children’s wedding ceremonies. A couple painted by my sister and filched from her, when she wasn’t looking. Some gifted by a friend who was leaving town. It is like looking through a photo album.
The process usually takes place in January; the feeding of the soil and the planting of new seedlings so it will all burst gloriously into flower in May – the Season. A British relic, of course, that all we Ootyians embrace. Some of the more serious gardeners will compete in the Flower show. We have no such ambitions. Enough if the plants flourish and flower and amaze us and our visitors .Till then we will anxiously water and potter and nourish the garden.
In June, when the rains set in and we are driven indoors, we let ourselves be enveloped by other concerns and allow Mother Nature to take over. Slowly , all those boundaries and edges and demarcations disappear and the garden settles into a green wilderness which is relaxing and restful. We make occasional forays into weeding and pruning but our hearts are not really there. The work will begin once more, truly in January when the compost rots to the perfect pitch in the shed of the cow herd.