Garden of opportunity

Rini thinks her cousin Divya’s garden is a mess. But a walk through it offers her a different perspective.

Updated - May 14, 2024 07:11 pm IST

Published - May 10, 2024 12:17 am IST

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi | Photo Credit: Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi

I hate it when Rini visits us on vacation,” grumbled Divya.

“Don’t say that, you will hurt Rini’s feelings,” Ma replied softly, glancing around hoping Rini hadn’t heard her cousin complain.

“What about my feelings, Ma? Don’t I feel hurt to hear her whine about everything in our small village? Yesterday, the moment she stepped out of her car, she told me that our garden isn’t like the beautiful ones in their big housing complex in the city. She called it a mess.”

“Maybe Rini can’t see its hidden beauty,” replied Ma.

“What beauty?” asked Rini, striding into the verandah.

Watching her grimace, as she took a sweeping glance around the garden, Divya could no longer hold her growing anger. She blurted out, “Our garden, Rini!”

“You mean this dead dump!” Rini’s eyebrows came together. “Come with me to our city, I’ll show you what a real garden looks like. Like the ones in our housing complex and at my school. You will not find a dry leaf lying on the ground. The grass in the lawn is regularly mowed. It’s so green and inviting, I can walk on the lawn barefoot. Vibrant flowers grow in rows, unlike your garden where everything is unorganised and drab!”

In the garden

“Why don’t you take Rini for a walk in your garden,” suggested Ma, as she went back inside. Rini followed her and returned wearing knee-high gum boots. “I’m ready to go.” Divya chuckled at the sight.

“Why is your garden, so messy, Divya?” persisted Rini.

“I’ll tell you why, Rini. But first you tell me what you see in my garden.”

Now, it was Rini’s turn to snigger. “All I see are weeds, overgrown bushes, untidy grasses and fallen leaves! Basically, a big mess.”

“Then, you need to get your eyes checked,” quipped Divya. Breaking a twig off a neem tree, she flicked some fallen leaves in front of them to uncover slugs and snails.

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi | Photo Credit: Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi

Surprises galore

“Yikes!” Rini jumped back and stepped into a small bush. Just then, a wild hare sprang out from a burrow that had been perfectly concealed under the bush.

“You scared away my friend, Handsome,” frowned Divya, as the hare bounded off.

“Your friend scared me, Divya. Will he come back?”

“He will. This is his home!”

“So, I was right. This isn’t a garden, but a jungle,” declared Rini. Looking at the slugs and snails, she added, “Are these pests your pets too?”

“Not all of them are pests. They feed on dead leaves and other decomposing matter and also air out the soil when they dig burrows,” explained Divya.

“Now I see why your garden is in this sorry state,” scoffed Rini.

“Why do you mean?”

“You have slow and lazy helpers, Divya.”

Divya shrugged. “Nature can’t be hurried, can it? Guess what else lives in my garden?”

“Snakes?” Rini said, glancing around hoping she hadn’t disturbed one.

“Don’t worry, my friend Mini the mongoose watches out for them,” said Divya, pointing to a patch of wild grass and flowers, where Mini lived.

“A mongoose!” exclaimed Rini.

Knowing how much Rini loved baby animals, Divya added, “If you stop complaining about where she lives, Mini might show you her babies. It hurts to hear anyone criticise one’s home.”

“I didn’t meant to hurt your feelings, Divya. Just that, your garden is not...”

“My garden is different from the landscaped gardens where you live,” Divya interrupted Rini. “Do you know how many kinds of gardens there are?’

“I know that a garden has beautiful flowers, soft lawns, and nice benches for people to sit and enjoy Nature’s beauty.”

Beyond humans

“People!” chuckled Divya. “It’s always about what people want. But, Rini, this world is also for wild creatures. It is also good to have spaces that suit them too.”

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi | Photo Credit: Ilustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi

Rini was silent. Divya noticed her observe a couple of munias, as they took off from amid the grass, with long strands in their beaks. “The dry grass you find so repulsive serve as nesting material for birds,” Divya added.

“So, your garden is a wildlife garden? “

“Sort of.” Divya shrugged.

“And all those gardens in the cities are useless!”

“Of course not, Rini. All I’m saying is that, as much as we prioritise green spaces for our wellbeing, we should also spare a thought for the wellbeing and needs of other life forms.”

Divya watched Rini take another sweeping glance around her garden. But this time, to her relief, she didn’t grimace. A smile spread across her face. Rini pointed to a hibiscus bush where a purple sunbird was drinking the nectar. “Oh, look at that butterfly nearby, awaiting its turn,” laughed Rini.

Before leaving, Rini embraced her cousin and apologised. “Sorry, Divya. I was wrong in calling your garden a dead dump. I realise that gardens serve more purposes than just beauty meant for our eyes and enjoyment.”

Divya smiled. “You’re not alone, Rini. Unfortunately, many people think the Earth is meant only for them and their enjoyment, leaving Nature and its lovely creatures with little or no space at all.”

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