When we say Hope springs eternal in the human breast, we are only partially correct, for it is from Nature’s lap that hope largely springs from. With her abundant bounty, Nature not only infuses positivity and hope in us, but also teaches small and big lessons of life. The flowers that show us that beauty can bloom and thrive amidst thorns; the humble grass and tiny plants that spring right back after being trampled upon; the majestic mountain peaks that embody endurance; the barrenness of autumn and winter heralding the advent of spring; even the dark cloud with its shining outline of silver light – all are Nature’s proofs that life is not bleak but full of positiveness and hope.
Back when we lived in Chandigarh, I used to go for my morning walk in the Rose Garden near our house. It was there that I came very close to Nature for the first time, or perhaps came to really take in and appreciate her myriad moods, fragrances and colours. While the trees had their tales to tell, the rose bushes had their own. Oh, how many hundreds of varieties of all colours and shapes were there! And their names! I will tell you about them later…..
So drunk with the beauty of the garden was I, that I forgot all about changing seasons and their effects on the verdant scenery. My first autumn there was a rude coming down to earth. It was sad in a way. I had seen trees shedding their leaves during autumn, but I was not prepared to see so many of the majestic fellows being denuded by the careless winds. And cold was slowly setting in, deepening the desolation in the garden.
Winter in that City of Gardens is severe and I went for my walks with my hands jammed into the pockets of my coat, face swathed in woolen cap and muffler, head down, eyes on the path. The patches of rose on both sides of the path were also bare, except for a few hardy varieties, so I never turned to look at them. It was rather depressing to walk thus day after freezing day and my churlishness only increased. How typical of us spoilt humans to expect everything to remain hunky-dory all the time! The lines If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? from Shelley’s The Ode to the West Wind pushed themselves into my head, but it was hard to believe them. Would Spring ever come?
But come it did, and how!
The gate from which I entered didn’t give an inkling of what lay beyond it on that spring morning. It was still cold and my hands were still in the pockets and my head still down. I wasn’t in the mood to see nude trees and bare patches of rose bushes, so there! But something made me look up and….my breath caught in my throat, my eyes widened and my jaw dropped all the way to the ground.
I used to pride myself for being able to smell the setting spring while living amid concrete blocks in cities but I had never expected it to be so dramatic or that awesome. I had heard a lot about the changing colours of spring but it was here that I first saw it. I couldn’t believe that they had not been there the previous day or the day before that. Surely this miracle couldn’t have been wrought overnight? It must have been created – one shoot, one leaf at a time before bursting out in such awesome splendor. Maybe I had failed to see the tiny shoots in my despondent mood. Maybe they had all sprung overnight. I didn’t know and didn’t care.
I felt like running down the paths, singing, laughing and dancing. Maybe I did, I don’t remember now. Suffice to say that trees were completely clothed and what colours! The foliage went all the way from pale green to bright red with all shades of yellow and orange in between. Yes, folks — red foliage. I remember standing there gawking and trying to count the shades on that first day of spring. Over the next weeks I watched the leaves assuming their natural colours and blending with the rest of the garden.
What a splendid transformation Nature had wrought that day in her Creation and in one brush stroke banished the gloom that had settled so heavily round my heart.
The rose patches had bloomed too. There were tiny shoots, and bits of bright colour trying to push through the tight buds. The names of the varieties had always fascinated me and used to bring a smile to the lips. They ranged from prosaic names of the species or some personality, to the whimsical, flamboyant and philosophical ones. Amidst the Delhi Princes and the Dulhans, two names struck me and have stayed with me over the years – Careless Love and Happiness. I used to wonder a lot about the first one. Had the one who had given the name been unlucky in love? Did the person actually mean ‘selfish’ but instead wrote ‘careless’? Whatever it was, it disturbed me.
But it was the one called Happiness that I want to tell you about – about how it taught me a valuable life lesson of hope and joy. While some of the patches of rose were flush with flowers, this one used to be rather bare. There used to be a bloom here and there, but never as many as in the others. I would scan the plants anxiously for a bloom and when I found one, I used to be ecstatic.
I used to wonder at the irony of it all – how and why happiness was so scarce that one had to search for it. And then one day, it struck me. Happiness was there for us to find it. It could be right there in front of us, but not visible or apparent. If only we looked into the recesses of our mind and heart and the world around us, we were sure to find it.
And sure enough, from that day onwards, I never had to look hard for one of the blooms, for if it wasn’t there in that patch labelled Happiness, I could find it in one of the others and then call that rose Happiness! Simple, wasn’t it?
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