Till death kept him apart

Mohamed Ismail at Government Botanical Garden in Udhagamandalam.

Mohamed Ismail at Government Botanical Garden in Udhagamandalam.  

D. Radhakrishnan

After retirement Ismail continued to work as a casual labourer till his death

Udhagamandalam: Even as arrangements are apace for the 2009 Annual Floral Carnival at the Government Botanical Garden here many of the regular visitors feel that the conspicuous absence of a familiar figure will cast a shadow over the preparations and the event.

Y. Mohamed Ismail, the longest serving and best known mali of the garden passed away here on Sunday night. He was 79. Ismail, who had spent most of his years inside the garden knew every nook and corner of the 55-acre tourist attraction like the back of his palm.

With his father Yusuf being part of the garden during the mid 1900s, Ismail joined as a trainee gardener around 1950 and thanks to his love for nature became familiar with various species within a short while.

Consequently, over the years even officials who had done M.Sc (Agriculture) and more often turned to Ismail for clearing doubts relating to plants. He had at his finger tips the botanical names of practically all the trees and plants in the garden though he had studied only upto Standard VIII in the local Municipal High School (now Government Higher Secondary School).

He retired about 20 years ago but since he couldn’t tear himself away from the garden he continued to work as a casual labourer till he died. While many of the officials of the Department of Horticulture who had been associated with Ismail told The Hindu that they will miss him and his expert opinions on plants and flower shows. The Assistant Director of Horticulture N.Mani who had used his services for many years said that in identifying species Ismail possessed extraordinary talent.

Botany students who came here on study tours benefited immensely from his knowledge.

Since ferns were close to his heart, he spent most of his time in the fern house. During the lean seasons he helped collect seeds from flowers and during the months preceding the annual floral carnival he helped in the preparation of over 10,000 pots containing flowers like Ranunculus, Inca Marigold, Pansy, Petunia and Antirrhinum.

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