Many moons ago, the bead-like red seeds that emerge from the tiny star shaped yellow flowers were used by Arabian Jewellers as units of weight because all of them have identical weights. These are from Ratan Gunj tree. As they say, nature provides the strangest story.
Article by Sudeshna Chatterjee | DNA India
As I look around, I am struck by so many humble spectators whose girths talk of untold stories of humanity. Its leaves of different shapes and sizes and almost every hue of green play a little sonata at the onset of a quiet breeze. In fact, the moment I walk into the Mancherji Joshi Road that opens out to several gardens at Parsi Colony, Dadar, Mumbai, there is not just a distinct nip in the air, the place looks like ‘Moody Land’, the one that you read in Salman Rushdie’s novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories.
In the ‘Moody Land’, the sun would shine all night if enough people are enjoying themselves. Here in the gardens, as the late afternoon sun casts its soft golden glow over the grass and the benches, at the happy cooing of the young couples, on the wagging tail of a stray dog, on the calm demeanour of a middle aged woman checking on her mobile, on the eager contours of a peanut vendor…it seems even when the sun sets, the night will be equally at glee with the well-manicured gardens beneath. Katie Bagli, author of a book on sixty trees found in and around fourteen gardens at Parsi Colony remarks, “Several of these trees are pretty veteran and at times very exclusive to the area.”
As you enter the Firdoshi Road, an avenue of grand and majestic Mahogany trees greets you. How do you know they are Mahogany? The leaves are asymmetrical at the base. Come in the early morning during summer time and the whole of Firdoshi Road will be like a carpet of fragrant tiny cream-coloured flowers. Its fruits look like propeller blade of a helicopter. When dried, these fruits are like wooden capsules, very hard. I turn right and walk into Khareghat Road.
Here there is an entire avenue of guest trees with its gnarled and knotted trunks that look like the wisdom lines of a war hero. The name is probably because the German botanist Dr C Kleinhoff, who studied this tree, freely distributed its sapling to people. Throughout the year, the trees are either in full bloom or fruiting. The fruits are membranous capsules, pale green at first and gradually turning to light brown. Each looks like a fancy jewel box. “If you are lucky, you will see the white seed resembling pearls inside. Some times, even more than one,” Bagli informs.
It is because of the vision of one Parsi gentleman, Mancherji Edulji Joshi that the community today enjoys such a lush surrounding. Every road here has an avenue, each for different trees, like one for Kasod, another for Mahogany, yet another for Copper Pod etc. There is as much fragrance as freshness in the air. The roads are wide and clean. The trees, native and exotic, huge and slender, tall and short, all live with intense bonhomie and peace. Yes, serenity is the byword here.
Lo and behold! There is the sacred Sita Ashok tree at the junction of Lady Jehangir Road and Ambedkar Road. I remember its bright crimson flowers that tend to keep the grief away that I saw last at Rani Baug, Byculla, Mumbai. There are also the revered Peepal and Banyan trees. You do not get to see such indigenous trees much today. Every time I touch a Banyan tree, the first emotion that comes to me is obeisance. Typical to a Ficus species, the fruits of a Banyan tree are hidden inside the fig. The red figs against glossy green leaves are such a pretty sight to behold. This tree is only to be seen here in the city. Hailing from Madagascar, the common name is Hatiamiuki. There are four of these at Five Gardens.
It is ironical that in such a splash of green, there are Cannonball and Neem trees too. It’s the fruit, a great pollution indicator, which looks like a cannonball that give the tree its name.
On that sombre note, as I walk out of Parsi Colony to catch my train at Dadar, my lungs still cackle with joy with so much of fresh oxygen nestled inside.