The best news from Goa, India, this year is that we’ve had a good and plentiful monsoon. As I have always said, it is the best time ever to be in Goa. The skies are laden with dark and heavy clouds, and if you’re a sky-gazer like me, you’ll notice the subtle changes with every passing day, or even in a matter of a few hours.
Sometimes, the clouds will cover the entire sky in a band of dark grey just above the horizon and you know that in about half an hour or so, it will begin to rain heavily where you are. At other times, they fan out in feathery formations, and you know it is only a passing shower. And depending on the mood of the skies, the rain will fall in a light spray-like drizzle, that you can barely see or feel. Or with the wind in its sails, it can lash in all its fury, drumming large and heavy drops on rooftops, window panes and windscreens. At such moments, umbrellas are little protection against nature.
The ones who do well in such unpredictable and stormy circumstances are wildflowers, as I discovered to my surprise, this monsoon. I am so glad I resumed my morning walks this year and although I thought the monsoon months might be something of a washout, I am delighted to say it’s been anything but. For most of the monsoon – which lasts four to five months in Goa – I have been able to stick to my morning walk regimen and it’s been pure joy.
Because of Covid-19, the Joggers’ Park where I go for my morning walks now has been closed. But the main roads that I take are overgrown with wild foliage and the most beautiful, dainty flowers that I never knew existed. They seem to have sprung from nowhere, bursting with colour, freshness and life.
Except for a blue-coloured one that grows on a creeper vine called Morning Glory, I don’t even know the names of the others. They are mostly in whites, yellows and shades of lilac and purple. The one I found most curious is the white flower with tendrils on its petals. Never seen anything like it in my life. And I have seen plenty of flowers in my lifetime, especially growing up in Assam. We had a regular garden as well as a kitchen garden where my mum – who has a real green thumb – used to grow peas, among many other veggies. Yours truly spent many an hour there eating sweat, tender peas and admiring sweat pea flowers that would grow amidst the pea patch. All while ostensibly helping to pluck peas in the garden, if you please.
Coming back to the wildflowers in Goa, their forms are so delicate that you wonder how they survive in such heavy and constant downpours. Some are so delicate, in fact, that when I once tried plucking them and bringing them home, the flowers fell off the thin stalks that held them.
That’s when I also discovered that wildflowers are meant to be in the wild. On several occasions during this monsoon, I tried placing them in a vase at home and to my dismay, found that they would droop and wilt by the end of day. However, they can also surprise. One day, I turned on my desk lamp in the morning as it can get quite dark inside the flat on some days and voila! I found that one of the wildflowers that was only a bud when I brought it home in the morning, blossomed and bloomed within an hour!
It appears that wildflowers respond best to light, rain and fresh air. Not for them, are vases, still water and indoor domesticity. They seem to like the early morning sunshine, the falling rain and the cool morning breeze. I notice that they choose to grow in patches of bright sunlight, avoiding the shade of the trees and almost always turn to the sun.
When the rain pours, the birds go silent. Not the wildflowers. They seem to thrive in the sun, wind and rain. Here then, are the wildflowers of Goa in the 2020 monsoon, in their natural environment.
I am attempting water colour sketches of some of them for a 2021 calendar for our home, just for my parents and myself. All with watery backgrounds, in keeping with the monsoon theme. If they turn out well enough to be shared – fingers crossed – I might just gift a desktop wallpaper calendar to subscribers of my blog next year!
Wildflowers are fine, but I would rather not have wildlife intrude on my morning walks! Now that the rains have ended, unfortunately, my morning walk route is overrun with cattle herds foraging among the wild grass. I ended up twisting my ankle one morning, trying to negotiate my way around them and that forced me to take a week’s break. They are a real nuisance and I wish the Chicalim authorities would do something about them. Cattle on the roads in Indian cities – even the big ones – are a common sight and it’s time civic authorities took action against this.
In recent days, I also notice packs of stray dogs – many with collars around their necks – snarling and growling at each other. Morning walks are meant to be a time of peace and quiet, with nothing but the song of birds in the air. So, I am hoping that Jogger’s Park will reopen as scheduled today, when the next phase of unlock begins.
Then again, if it wasn’t for the park being closed for Covid, I might never have discovered these wildflowers in the Goa monsoon of 2020!