The only orchids that I had ever seen in Calcutta were in bouquets sent from expensive flower boutiques.
They normally had a small vial of blue ink at the base of the stem to make the orchid look blue in colour. I always preferred the Rajnigandha in its white glory and superb perfume.
Imagine the turn of events that I now live very near a place which is called Kurseong or Kharsang which literally means ‘Land of the White Orchid’.
One evening, as we were watching the sunset at Second Chance House, a few flowers dropped down from a tree under which we were sitting.
I knew for sure that this was not a flowering tree.
A lot of peering upwards and little help from the local staff revealed that there were some orchids that had flowered high up on tree. Here I was thinking the heavens were showering flowers!
I also looked down upon orchids because I thought they were parasites that took advantage of the host tree on which they attached themselves.
I could not have been more wrong!
In fact, Orchids have aerial roots that pick out their nutrients and other requirements from the air around them. More research led me to learn that Orchids are one of the oldest family of flowering plants.
Some Orchids can live up to a hundred years. As my eyes got better trained, I could now pick out Orchid leaves and flowers every time we walked through a jungle!
The natural tendency of an orchid is to flower upside down. Gazing at its beauty made me think of all the different perspectives that life can have. It would be interesting, every once in a while, to change our viewpoint and look at things upside down.
Maybe that is where the solution lies!
Second Chance House at Selim Hill Tea Garden has its own orchids. They are not many in number, but they were there much before me. Slowly, this flower, which I thought is an expensive symbol of vanity, showed me what a snob I was. I visited a nursery on the hills and picked out some plants for Second Chance House. I asked the nursery owner for some orchids and he gave me a wild hanging orchid. When I asked to pay, he said these were from the forest and he could not ask for payment. He only wanted to propagate the beauties.
The next time I met an orchid, it was even more uncanny. There had been a raging storm the night before. On my morning amble in the garden of Second Chance House, I saw a huge branch that had broken off one of the large trees. As I picked out the branch, much to my delight, I saw at least two sets of orchid plants that were grafted to it. Of course, I respected the gift that I was sent and took care of my beautiful wild flowers.
The next time someone gifts you orchids, just remember he may be trying to send you a message. The Greek Goddess Aphrodite (the goddess of Love) is associated with orchids.
As I ate my vanilla (which also comes from a special variety of orchids) tea cake with my cup of Dorje Roasted Tea, I read out aloud to myself what Confucius told his disciples -
“The orchids grow in the deep valleys, even though no one is there to admire them. They release their fragrant smell even though no one may be there to appreciate it. No matter what happens, they act like righteous men, strong and noble. They are truly gentlemen.”
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