Lost Garden of a Lost House #2

by Devasiachan Benny

Artificial silk flowers pressed into a glass case represent the lost blooms and prosperity of my family years.

Silk flowers in case

Showcase cabinet in the visitor room of a new concrete house

We were an agrarian family. The courtyard of my home was landscaped. There was a Syzygium samarangense plant that three generations and me climbed to pluck its raspberry-crimson shaded fruit. As the walls of the concrete mansion grew, the still-blooming tree was uprooted. A taste of chambaka still sits on the tip of my tongue.

But it wasn’t the only fruit tree growing there. The mango and jackfruit, coconut and areca palm and nutmeg trees, all probably older than the four generations of my family, were also axed or bulldozed – whichever was the quicker method. A wooden stable where our cows sheltered was brought down, and near it a big firewood storehouse where we stocked the firewood fuel for cooking. The priceless fragrance that attracted honeybees to our evergreen mimuspos elengi was only ever temporarily masked by what we were eating for dinner.

flowers on stony ground

Perfumed mimusops elengi flowers in central Kerala

In our lost garden there was a tube well, buried under the soil. The water it carried was tasty, cool, refreshing. It satisfied our daily thirst and the thirst of every plant that needed it. The fish pond was levelled too, so it no longer needed water.

The stems of the silk flowers in a dusty visitor centre, a replacement house, stand upright without need for water; an empty water jug made from glittery gold cardboard is all they need. These flowers in a broken display case connect our lost garden to the present. Pink petals and green stem, unwatered, make an unconvincing imitation.

I sometimes wonder if I am the only one who sees that broken display case and experiences the scent of the real flowers that lived before, our old pond, the bees who visited for a purpose.

Yes, the bulldozer did its work and demolished me. I see concrete everywhere. I see the many rich histories and legacies fading. But whoever reads this, maybe they will look differently when they next pass by.

(Copyright: Devasiachan Benny, 2022)

Twitter: @BDevasiachan

(Photographs by Theresa Benny, 2022)


Go to the next exObject My Home and Garden #3 in the trilogy.