I remember the first time I experienced a Bangalore tree in its glorious entirety. I was visiting the city in March 2015; my husband and I had briefly stopped for breakfast at a darshini in Rajajinagar. We stood outside, tucking into conical dosas when I couldn’t help remarking about the damp green coolness that pervaded the air despite it being a warm day. I glanced around and looked up to see an intricate latticework of leaves and branches budding from an enormous tree growing in close proximity to us. For a brief moment, time stopped; oblivious to the roaring river of traffic, people talking, and dogs barking, I was lost in contemplating this miniature night sky of sorts, the tiny spaces of visible sky appearing like stars in the dense dark greenness.
I had been photographing trees for a very long time; having grown up and lived in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, I perhaps sought them out because I saw so few of these creatures in the magnificent states they were capable of achieving. True, desert trees possessed their own singular, minimal beauty but I nonetheless yearned to see the venerable banyans or spreading peepals or blooming jacaranda.
When I subsequently moved to the States, I found myself in awe of particularly the autumn trees, turning crimson, gold, or orange almost overnight; even if it was still a snowy spring, the cherry trees were enveloped in lacy white, appearing like frozen snowflakes. A few years later, when I arrived in Delhi, I was fortunate to reside in what was the greenest neighbourhood in the capital, which contributed towards greatly deepening my appreciation of and enlarged my knowledge of trees; the planners had with great foresight planted numerous flowering trees which bloomed throughout the year. There was not a single month when the night air was not thick with the scent of flowers or the ground below the trees carpeted with fallen blooms. The crimson red silk cotton would herald the arrival of spring; the jacaranda showered purple while the gulmohur sang red throughout the summer. The temperamental kachnar trees in front of my house flowered when they felt like it; behind our house, the massive peepal tree too wore red berries of earrings.
Having moved to Bangalore a month ago, I have taken pleasure and basked in the beauty of Bangalore trees. During my first morning as a Bangalore resident, I stepped out of the car in a street in Indirangar to glimpse a beautiful spreading tree, the branches and leaves writing a poem on the sky. Odes should truly be written to them, I wrote on my Instagram account. In the past one month, I have already accumulated a cache of precious Bangalore tree memories. I stand beneath a giant spreading tree outside Raintree store; I look up to see the half-moon hidden inside the new leaf-studded branches of a tree outside Cubbon Park. In the park itself, I see a library of trees, each a character in its own right, growing, surviving, and infusing the air with their unique eccentricities. A friend kindly takes me to Lalbagh where I stand speechless in front of a theatre of a tree, a two-century-old white silk cotton tree in spectacular rose gold bloom; it is is the first time I have stood beneath a tree whose flowers rain down upon me. Yet, I must confess that the trees I admire most are the ones which dominate the streets, tenaciously pushing through the concrete, their roots rumpling it into subterranean waves, adding unique textures to the already multi-layered city.
I am grateful to have always lived in places where I awaken to the glimpse of trees; my apartment in Bangalore is no exception and I wake up to the rustling of leaves, watching them silhouetted against the sky. These trees make a new city a more familiar place, telling me that if people make a place home, so do the trees that I have come to befriend over the years.