The Whimpering Flamboyant

By Dr Rajagopal Soondron

I have been there for decades, standing alone by a footpath on the fringe of a sugarcane field; generations of labourers have walked by to their work in the early morning, sometimes enjoying my summer shade. But for years I have been witness to those people, bent on social changes to improve their lot, going about building roads, highways and dual carriageways not far away. And even malls.

My luck was that some young kind-hearted environmentalist landscaper had insisted that I be spared the axe. Now I am the proud permanent guest of a wonderful modern mall – not far from its busy parking plot.

Come November — my undying faithfulness becomes apparent, always spreading my green veil on while simultaneously prompting out my buds so that everyone passing by would stop for a minute to have a hearty peep at my blossom. I would reciprocally enjoy that hidden smile behind their lips and moustache; and many a kid would happily show off their new mobile – while snapping some immortal pictures of my wonderful colours. I am the hero of that festive time.

I would see cars rushing in and out day and night – while the dazzling weekend fun from that mall would warm up my heart. Yet December’s glorious atmosphere is unparalleled: it stands apart. I would giggle at the happiness on the children’s faces as they walk, run and laugh raucously below my panoply after happily giving their school a long miss. Surprisingly, their parents look more relaxed and contented as they themselves surreptitiously capitalize on their children’s relief to slide into a jolly mood, while secretly playing Santa Claus and stepping into the end-of-the year activities.

I have envied the wonderful play of light going on in the mall, how my cousins’ trunks in the main alleys have been dressed up in serpentine strings of led bulbs to the amazement of those kids as they jump around freely and carelessly much to the parents’ concern. Where I am, I even have a free sniff of the aroma coming from the cuisine’s menu being scooped out in the numerous restaurants, courtesy my pal the Breeze as it blows downhill over the mall to bring all those evanescent goodies to me. He keeps me posted on how, inside the mall, the youngsters would roam about, peeping and window shopping in the background musical atmosphere of the festive season. Small business people have capitalized on the occasion to set up shop to peddle all sorts of novel gadgets, succulent food, crystallized sweetmeats, latest toys and flashy decorations.

This has been going on year in and year out for as long as I could remember – so much so that my ageing years had gradually eroded my spontaneity that I have failed to renew at the end of 2021.

But that sleepiness and blasé attitude of mine have suddenly taken a jolt since last year, shaking me awake again. I suddenly discover the irrational, hesitating behaviour of the people walking by. I am befuddled as I notice that men and women no longer give me that December adoring look and lighthearted laugh. Funny, now they talk less; in fact, they have barricaded their mouth and nose behind a queer contraption; they rarely hug – they keep distancing themselves from others as if they are leprous. ‘What’s going on?’ I ask myself.

December 2020-2021

So, I felt a pang of unhappiness and worry as I miss the jolly old feelings that should have gripped mid-December. I look around and feel alone; of course, I have sensed a sort of moroseness, of moodiness and lack of enthusiasm in the past months. Heavy-hearted people have walked by in a pensive mood fortunately, my pal the Breeze would finally come to murmur in my ears about serious depressing tidings. All my enthusiasm to generate so much greenery and colourful blossoms seems to peter out. I hear again about the nasty virus-causing panic in the population, leading grown-ups and young ones to lose their jobs, their health and even life: no wonder parents have been keeping away from the mall. Now I understand why I had seen less of those tots’ mirth, smile and galloping steps.

So gloomy! The Breeze, shaking my shoulders, would whisper to me that the music goes unheeded and no one seems to waltz around with Tino Rossi’s unforgettable Christmas songs, which lingers on with just a glancing attention from the grown-ups, not even willing to rake up their own childhood memories of their fantastic yesteryears.

I feel like weeping. If only the rain would come, I would weep with her to hide my tears.

Yet I keep doing my best, still enveloping myself in the most luxuriant mantle of flowers and bloom, going to the extent of sacrificing my greenery to the maximum, to make place for more of my ever changing coloured petals from whitish to pink, to saffron, to reddish yellow and even to “rouge scarlate” … but to no avail. I can hardly elicit some flamboyant smile, hope and happiness in those people walking by or racing away in their berlins. I am crestfallen; but my friend the Breeze is more optimistic; it travels around and gathers more news about the health risks existing in the country. It sustains my hope by saying that it is just a peak in that covid infection; soon will come the plateau and then it will taper off. But I said – meanwhile many will have to pay dearly with their lives; and the breeze gives a sigh of sadness what with human folly, virological research or deforestation setting a virus free and stirring a lot of heart-rending sadness.

Why Pal, tell me? Oh, this is the law of Mother Nature dear; don’t forget the pesticides, insecticides and dusts you are subjected to; in winter you look a dry, dead skeleton of a dud. Fortunately, like a Phoenix, you cyclically rise magnificently out of the ashes to entertain us with your November blossoms.

What moroseness! What tragedy! I feel naked this 2021 in spite of all the attire of colourful explosive colours Mother Nature has dressed me in. The children would miss the most wonderful moments of their tender life. The adults, putting a bold face, are trying to abide to new sanitary rules and restrictions; to adapt to the new challenge – to learn about that backlash of Nature, and to build a new way of life: the new normal – the latest axiom!

Don’t despair my Flame, soon Homo Sapiens would rush back and crowd the place again; it’s not in their genes to withstand chronic stress. Soon they would invade the food courts and will not give a damn about covid. But won’t there be a price to pay, dear? Definitely. They would soon turn emotional yet again and negligently bypass all sanitary precautions – you just see — yonder car parking would soon be packed like an egg. Let’s just compare notes next December pal. Bye-bye — time to race round the world.

Thank you again for your faithful, wonderful unflinching blossom. You are my only hope.

* Published in print edition on 31 December 2021

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