There are people, I’m told, who talk to their plants. Some even play music for them, and classical is supposed to be especially popular. Sounds crazy. But there's a theory that plants feel pain and pleasure, just like us. And because soothing sounds make them happy, they thrive.
I’ve never been much of a talker. I’m better at listening.
When the yellow hibiscus folds its petals to die at the end of each day, in sign language it’s saying: ‘Goodbye cruel world’. And when the white hibiscus opens its petals wide and glows in the moonlight, isn’t it mocking me for going to sleep when the night is so beautiful?
Sometimes it feels like that.
But flowers give out secret signals through their fragrances as well. And fragrance is more mysterious. Not the light scent of flowers like the rose, but the dark, hypnotic fragrances exuded by certain small flowers like the raat ki rani. When I planted the creeper, my village neighbours shook their heads warningly and told me that snakes loved the smell. I laughed. Snakes can’t smell, I told them.
It took me some time to understand that certain insects are attracted by the powerful fragrance, and that frogs come to eat the insects, and snakes to eat the frogs.
I got the signal wrong. I thought the fragrance was telling me to breathe deeply. What it was actually signalling was: Watch out for snakes!
This year the monsoons continued right through October. As a result the flowers are all late. The few that struggled into existence soon began to rot away. ‘Too much water, we're choking,’ they signalled frantically.
Global warming, I told them sadly.
I think I heard them sigh.