Flaming Poinsettias


Ravi, my maali, is my prime find of the season. He arrived in my life when I was about to lose my patience and temper for good with the earlier one, a perennial irritant and an ad-hoc arrangement in want of a better alternative.It was, however, a matter of coincidence that Ravi turned out to be the son of the blue-eyed gardener who used to take care of all the “modest gardens” of the block from the time when the jungle infested locality was trying its level best to spruce up into an upcoming human habitat. During that time he was the only one around, knowledgeable as well as shrewd enough when it came to making money, till one fine morning we heard that he was no more. He had been to his  gaon (native place), never to come back again. One of those fluke bike accidents, sudden and avoidable!

Ravi had come upon my address, both the rented as well the permanent one, in his father’s torn diary but found it a bit awkward to call upon me unsure whether I’d welcome him with open arms. We met, at last, through my sister, who spotted him on one of our neighbours’ balcony, pruning the plants.

On a closer look he does resemble his father. Brown eyed, has the same way of talking with a lisp, a seemingly innocent smile and strands of hair falling rakishly on his slim forehead. Albeit more suave and sophisticated. His suggestions, usually the expensive ones, are always prefixed with “Ham soch rahe the kii…” On the aside, Ravi is BSc. B.Ed from Agra University, having joined the family guild with as much reluctance as avenues of employment scurry past the aspirants!!!

Ravi's Handiwork

Ravi’s Handiwork

Ravi's Handiwork

Ravi Promised these would look brilliant in Peak Summer. Me…Waiting!!!

Reluctant or not, gardening is mapped into his genes. He is a veteran when it comes to imagination, innovation, proficiency and resourcing. Not in that particular order, however, he does come up with bright ideas quite often. Needless to say, all his experiments are funded at my expense. He doesn’t miss a single opportunity in minting money and has come to fully understand (read take advantage of) my weaknesses.As I said earlier he has a way with him. I do not know whether he employs the same tactics with the others or not. But he always keeps me informed of what my illustrious neighbours are up to in terms of beautification/enlargement of their gardens, the list of exotic plants they have ordered or are going to order, what a nice thing it would be if I followed suit, so on and so forth. These are fed with a peculiar mumbling intonation more in the nature of a soliloquy as he looks away philosophically to the other end of the horizon the sun wickedly winking into his eyes. Most of the times I give in, dazzled not so much by the brightness or profundity or profitability of the investment, but more by his persuasiveness and that inimitable style which is so intrinsic to his antecedent.

The other day he had a pair of these robust eye-catching shoots off which sprouted flaming red and bottle green leaves branched alternately. Before he could come up with his hard-to-desist “Ham soch rahe the kii…” offer, I vigorously nodded off the plaintiff. My plea  the price was too exorbitant. But not for long…by the end of the month, the black plastic pot came to rest on my balcony with a fatalistic shrug and plunk. The deal was final.


The shade of red varies with the length of the day!

Here, I apparently digress from the main. Remember the Tower of Babel? The Biblical genesis of all languages on Mother Earth…Strange that the most potent human expression had to start off with an incomprehensible babble!! Notwithstanding, its inherent limitations, languages have, by all means, flourished with travel and the intermingling of cultures. It is  really a thought to ponder upon  the way words like guru, bazaar, assassin, avatar and many such have come to be permanently incorporated in the English Dictionary. Similarly, it’s a pleasant wonder how Hindi, as our official language, has developed with an emphatic vocab of all the technical terms finding precise synonyms in the native version. My own mother tongue, Bangla, borrows generously from Urdu, French, Portuguese, Persian and the likes easily tracing the historical lineage of the series of colonial invasions of the land.There are ample number of interesting anecdotes about nativization of language – words and expressions. And that is how languages have grown throughout the world. I still mourn Srirampore becoming Srirampur post-Independence and occasionally misspell it.

An English traveler, landing on this godforsaken land dotted with green, asked the native man chopping grass by the sinewy river bank, “What is this place called?”

The man thought the foreigner was referring to the bundle of grass lying next to his feet and replied, “ Yeh kal kaata.”

The Englishman replied back satisfied, “Oh! So it is Kaalkata, is it?”

And that’s how the city came to be named Calcutta, now Kolkaata.

Though, the authenticity of the above incident may be debatable yet the fact remains that the so called purity, per se, of any language, over a period of history (more so, with the ‘global’ onslaught), have come to be ‘soiled’ to the extent that no language remains ‘untouched’ by other languages. On the other hand, it’s, if I may say, the ‘polluted’, ‘adulterated’, ‘infringed upon’ vocabulary (by official/unofficial entry/intrusion of other languages and dialects),  which have unquestionably expanded and enriched the respective language(s). There are these so-called untranslatable words, German, Czech, Polish, etc., which have come to be embraced by the English language as it is, there are the nativized ones which have found place in the vocabulary because of their colloquial worth and ease of usage and there are those technical ones in English which have been straightaway adopted by other native languages in want of appropriate synonyms. Whatever the type be, in the final analysis, borders have blurred when it comes to symbiosis of languages.


As the shadows darken the Poinsettias look deeper in colour!!!

Coming back to my latest botanical acquisition, the one with the flaming foliage…The beauty was unknown to me till I surfed the net and found out about its Mexican/Central American origin cultivated (about 100 varieties) in abundance in the deciduous tropical forests, its commercial and cultural importance, its mildly toxic nature and its English name, derived from that of Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant to United States in 1825.

Ravi's 'Pansatia'

The Poinsettia changes mood with the time of the Day!!!

Of the diverse splurge family, Euphorbia Pulcherrima, or Poinsettia adorns my balcony in its fiery ensemble of colourful, dentate leaves, created by a process of photoperiodism .

As I said I would have remained relatively ignorant of these facts had I not consulted Wikipedia. However, before doing that, in my lazy leer for easy information, I had asked Ravi the name of the plant to which pat had come the smiling reply, “Oh! Yeh to hai Pansatia, madamji.”

And I am sure, give it a patch of time, and the word ‘Pansatia’ will be found entombed in an enriched/enlarged version of Vishwa Hindi Shabdkosh, invariably so, for the reference of all and sundry.

That, my friends, is a burning example of lingual evolution at its best, nativization be damned!!!


About gc1963

A working woman with interests in reading, writing, music, poetry and fine arts.

18 responses »

  1. vimalaramu says:

    Quite a treatise on gardening and language, my dear with the wonderful feast of vocabulary from you as usual. This reminds me of the word ‘Rheumatology’. People have made it so easy to pronounce ‘Remtolgy’ !


  2. This post is not only interesting but also clarifies adequately how words and terms come into existence and how the process of their evolution and transformation goes over and over a period (must be a very long period) of time. We know that Dalit is a Hindi (actually Sanskrit) word but now it has found a place in the reputed English dictionaries because of its usage (in the political context) in India.

    I am glad that you always inform me of your posts which prove to be enlightening for me without any exception till date.


    Jitendra Mathur


  3. Nuggehalli Pankaja says:

    Geeta,it is a small but very informative,at the same time spicy essay on gardening. The characterization of the new Gardner has come out well.Made interesting reading.
    Sorry for the delay in reading .To sum up. your language is superb!


  4. Deeptangshu Das says:

    As always, a wonderful narrative about gardening and language. The gardener, the linguist and the writer are all artist figures in one way or the other. Just as the gardener nurtures plants and flowers, the writer creates and plays with words and verses. I’ve always enjoyed the way you transform mundane events of everyday life into highly philosophical moments. A great write-up!


  5. purbaray says:

    Loved reading your adventures of the horticultural variety. How effortlessly you dropped precious nuggets of gyan in between your laid-back narrative.

    Will be back for more.


  6. Zephyr says:

    Hey, that was an enlightening peep into horticulture/linguistics. We have imbibed so many words from various sources. The Hindi Salaad, with the d pronounced as a soft syllable is a case in point. So as you have concluded, pansatia will definitely be part of the vocabulary soon enough. Loved this exposition, and the pictures.


    • gc1963 says:

      Thanks Zephyr. Glad that you liked the Pansatia pics!!! Panga is another word which comes to me mind – untranslatable and so typical – waiting for it to be imbibed by Oxford. 🙂


  7. B Ravindran says:

    “Believe me, I’ve read it three times by now and not sure if I could keep a tab by the day’s end. Keep up the good work Geeta. Thanks, it was refreshing.

    Saw your post on Linkedin this morning. This guy must have been really bad, if he’s been able to drive Geeta up the wall. Good that the replacement has arrived.

    May the garden bloom !!!

    Have a nice day.


  8. Arti says:

    That was a wonderful write-up, juxtaposing lingual evolution and gardening with examples from your everyday life. The article was lively throughout, loved the Poinsettia or pansatia blooms which vary their mood with the day. 🙂


  9. Thanks Arti for your presence and comment


  10. Saritha says:

    Poinsettia flower i saw first time in Canada..didn’t know that it is there in India too…I love the colour of flower between the green leaves…Planning to get one in this spring..

    Never heard about how Calcutta got it’s name…very interesting….


  11. Poinsettias are raging beauties…go for them!!!

    The Calcutta anecdote is just a heresay….a period joke most probably heard from my father. As I said authenticity not tested. 🙂


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