The flowering plants that my mother had planted in her home garden were many. I remember having seen in our home garden dahelia, balsum, marigold, hibiscus and several other flowers. Marigold, yellow and orange, was always there. It belongs to compositae because it’s actually a composite flower: an inflorescence. There used to be many other flowers of the same family in the pots at home. Chrysanthemums, the national flower of Japan, were seasonal occurrences. I am personally biased against them, and against the dahlia flowers, member of the same family as marigold and chrysanthemum and the national flower of Mexico.
The yellow hibiscus above is the national flower of Hawaii. Like the red Hibiscus rosa-sinensis flowers, they have no smell, neither good nor bad. It was in class nine that I came to know the botanical name of the Hibiscus sp. My father used to teach me Biology those days. Before that, it was simply adhul or gudhal for me. Our home garden had the pink coloured flowers with a white line at the middle of the base of each petal. I still like the pink one more than the deep red ones that are more popular in Kasi. Now the deep red ones are more popular in Kasi because they are the favourite flowers of the goddesses at the core of the Bengali Hindu’s pantheon: Kaali and Durga, and Bengalis are a dominant presence there. Rather, they used to be a strong cultural force till the mid-twentieth century in Varanasi. Many have migrated to the metros or abroad. Back to the flower after the digression, there’s one variety of hibiscus that’s called lanka java in Bangla, i.e. chilly hibiscus. There’s another, rarer, variety of the red hibiscus which is called panchmukhi java or five mouthed hibiscus.
I saw the the white hibiscus for the first time in Udaipur. In Kasi I had seen only the pink and red ones. After that I have seen several other colours, but till then, hibiscus meant either red or pink for me. The white Udaipur hibiscus has one full story that’ll be told some other time. We have red hibiscus plant at home now. Never got the white one so easily where we live.
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