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Nothing fancy, just foliage...

You may have just met him at a flower show in the Capital. Now you can actually see his "children" on the terrace garden of his house in North Delhi. SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY speaks to M.G. Kohli, a lover of plants and flowers... .

M.G. Kohli rejoices in lap of nature at his Keshavpuram residence. Photos: S. Subramanium

`I HAVE many children. Let's go up to the terrace. They all are waiting there to meet you,' says M. G. Kohli, a resident of Delhi's Keshavpuram DDA flats as he leads you up the narrow winding stairway. You follow him and land up on a not so big terrace swamped with plants of various types. Not so tidily arranged but the sight of foliage in the midst of a matchbox colony is immediately soothing to the eyes. He strokes the leaves of a plant as tall as him and introduces you to his leafy "children".

"You know, they start dancing at the sight of me. As much as I like them, they like me too. They are my heart and soul... my children," says this winner of many a flower show competition. "Unlike many others, I have not so much money to buy fancy pots for my plants and so I make do with whatever I get," he adds. Your eyes fall on the plants again and interestingly, you notice that the vegetation is rooted in polythene bags coming home with grocery, old, broken baskets, used paint boxes, Styrofoam cases, Diwali diyas and unused utensils, etc. "But, since I love my plants so much and take care of them, they grow with no problems," he adds, pasting a smile on his aging face.

Kohli's garden has not only flower plants but also fruit and vegetable plants like tomatoes, ladyfinger, Pudina, grape, chikoo, brinjal to name some. But what has become "the princess" of his little garden is not his collection of roses and hibiscus but lotus! Grown in a knee-high tin vessel, this season has given him the 54th lotus so far.

"A friend working at the Prime Minister's Office gave me the lotus roots specially procured for the garden there. I waited two years for it to grow and lost all hope. But my patience paid," says this employee of Greaves India Limited with the excitement of a child asked to talk about his favourite toy. Having seen lotus in ponds and lakes, seeing it bloom with so much ease in a small vessel at Kohli's residence amazes you. My Sundays are for my plants. I spend the entire day taking care of them. I read books and articles to get the best available information." Having taken part in all the flower shows in Delhi and winning prizes, which included a Kathmandu trip as his wife animatedly informs you, Kohli now plans to host a flower exhibition on his own terrace garden this March.

"I spend a lot of money every year in taking my plants to various flower shows. So, coming year onwards, I have decided to show my possessions to others at home only," Kohli says. Accompanying his daughter for Kathak performances to a few European countries, he wandered through many a flower garden and gardening shows but concludes, "I realised, with such a little budget, my garden is the best". You take a re-look at his 15-years of "labour of love" and nod with him in agreement.

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