“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”
― Iris Murdoch
“Amara! Amara! It’s time to go!?” called out a woman’s exasperated voice, “Where has that scatter-brained girl run off to now?” she sighed.
Moments later, a flushed and windswept looking little girl ran into the room. Her choli was wrinkled and her lengha dragging on the floor with streaks of dirt visible on it; far from the vision of cleanliness and order she had been when her mother had seen her last.
“Amara!” gasped her mother, “Look at the state of yourself! What were you doing?! Your father has already started the car, we have to leave in five minutes! I don’t know what I’m going to do with you!” she scolded. Amara just grinned back up at her mother and bobbing with excitement she replied, “I was just in the garden Amma, my black rose was supposed to bloom today and I needed to check before we left.”
“How many times have I told you? No gardening when you are wearing formal wear!” Amara’s mother exclaimed. “But Amma, I really had to re-check the soil composition, and there were a few weeds that were trying choke the tulips, you know that they–” Her mother sighed, resigned about her antics. Stepping forward, she grabbed the girl by her hand and dragged her into the bathroom to try to tidy her up. A few minutes later, looking considerable neater and grumpier, Amara stood outside with her family, her little brother teasing her about getting scolded by their mom.
Soon, at their father’s gruff command, they all clambered into the family car and drove off. They came back home late at night, exhausted and full of excellent wedding food and cheer. While the rest of her family got ready for bed, Amara was about to rush to check her Garden, when her brother’s voice stopped her. “Oi, get changed first, you know mum’s gonna lose it if you tear your lehnga.” he warned. “I’m late already.” she replied but with a resigned air. He rolled his eyes and pointed out, “Since you’re already late, a few more minutes are not going to kill your plants.”
“I guess.” she replied, reluctantly turning back to her room and getting changed. As soon as she had changed, and with her party clothes lying in heap on the floor in her room. She was off. She quickly went to the back garden and sat down on her favourite stoop. “Sorry I’m late”, she called out breathlessly. Then closing her eyes and willing her breath even, she started to sing. She sang for fifteen minutes and then, smiling out into the empty night, she said, “That’s it for today, everyone, tomorrow I’ll bring a new story to read to you.” Then, getting up she walked around the verdant garden brushing her fingers along the flowers and plants, saying, “Goodnight, Hania, Ahmer, Shaista, Ḥamīd…”
The next day, Amara woke up especially early, plucked a few of her most beautiful flowers and went to visit her best friend, Maheen so they could walk to school together. The reason Amara was bringing flowers today was because yesterday was the day Maheen’s mother was supposed to come back home from the hospital after giving birth to Maheen’s younger sister. Amara had looking forward to seeing the baby all week. Maheen lived next door and had been Amara’s friend since they were both in nappies, so she knew all about Amara’s quirks.
Being three months older, Maheen had always considered herself the responsible one and Amara the ditsy one. As soon as Amara knocked on the door, Maheen opened the door and pulled Amara inside. Seeing Amara, Maheen immediately said, “Amma is still asleep, so you have wait to see the baby in the afternoon, let’s get going.”
Ignoring Amara’s protest, Maheen locked up and led her out onto the road. Amara, still clutching the bouquet, walked after her friend, forgetting her frustration after a few minutes and happily chatting. Their school was just around the corner, and as they walked they came upon a man standing on the side of the road barking into his phone and looking extremely unhappy.
As they walked past him he ended his phone call and slumped to the ground, his face crumpling as if he was trying not to cry. Amara, seeing his face was struck by compassion and before Maheen could stop her, she had stepped forward and thrust the bouquet into the stranger’s face. The man looked up, startled, he stared blankly at the flowers and before he could say anything, Amara said, “Take this mister, you were looking sad, and my mother says flowers are the best medicine for sadness.”
Saying this Amara handed the flowers to the flabbergasted man, then turned and stated walking again. At first the man was too shocked to do anything, but then he smiled in spite of himself and decided that even though he was getting divorced maybe the world wasn’t such a bad place after all.
Amara and Maheen were still walking and they soon reached a crossing, Maheen was scolding Amara for talking to a stranger, “Honestly you do these things all the time, what would your mum say?”
As Amara turned around to reply she did not notice the car speeding past a red light and hitting her. Thus ended her life as fragile and beautiful as her beloved flowers.
What do you think of when you see a flower? Do you think about its colours or its scent, its soft petals, or its fragile beauty? For Amara, the flowers in her back garden represented a whole another world. The delicate loveliness of flowers called out to her, they made her happy. She was diligent in her care of them; every day she watered them, pruned them, wiped them down with a wet cloth and weeded the flower beds. She knew each type of flower and all their characteristics by heart. With each flower that sprouted she named them individually.
Sorry everyone, I don’t know how but this story sort of took a turn for the tragic on me. When I started this story, I was aiming for a sweet, cute and childish little slice of life tale. When I ended it, it was like this…