Joys of ‘Joy’

Whenever I think of SonChampa, the golden-yellow flower and the most fragrant one on Planet Earth I remember of physicist Richard Feynman.

I was introduced to Champa very recently. Some five years back I chanced upon it with a phoolwali bai and picked up two pieces for Rs 5 at the insistence of my wife. A fiver for such pieces of flowers, I felt cheated.

‘That’s Chaphaa,’ said my knowledgeable wife pronouncing it like Marathis do.

Returning home I placed it at the family altar. And soon our home was enveloped in its sweet fragrance as if tens of incense sticks were lighted.  That’s beauty of Champa.

Champa made me realise how ignorant I was of this gift of Mother Nature.

To quote Feynman: I mean the average person, the great majority of people, the enormous majority of people – are woefully, pitifully, absolutely ignorant of the science of the world that they live in, and they can stay that way … And an interesting question of the relation of science to modern society is just that – why is it possible for people to stay so woefully ignorant and yet reasonably happy in modern society when so much knowledge is unavailable to them?

So enamoured I was with Champa that I planted two SonChampa plants, close to the collapsible gate. SonChampa flowers are golden-yellow in colour. Moment someone stepped into my farm he or she be greeted by its fragrance.

Sonchampa flowers are not very showy with few narrow golden yellow petals with an extremely heady fragrance. On a warm humid night, the scent can easily be enjoyed several away. Champa flowers are used to make the world’s most expensive perfume ‘Joy’ in America.

This Sunday I bought a dozen flowers of Champa home travelling in the local from Badlapur while my fellow passengers enjoyed its fragrance, unknown that it originated from my bag of vegetables.

So captivated was Rabindranath Tagore by its fragrance that he dedicated a poem to the flower.

Supposing I became a champa flower, just for fun, and

grew on a branch high up that tree, and shook in the wind with

laughter and danced upon the newly budded leaves, would you know

me, mother?

You would call, “Baby, where are you?” and I should laugh to

myself and keep quite quiet.

I should slyly open my petals and watch you at your work.

When after your bath, with wet hair spread on your shoulders, you

walked through the shadow of the champa tree to the

little court where you say your prayers, you would notice the

scent of the flower, but not know that it came from me.

When after the midday meal you sat at the window reading

Ramayana, and the tree’s shadow fell over your hair and

your lap, I should fling my wee little shadow on to the page of

your book, just where you were reading.

But would you guess that it was the tiny shadow of your little


When in the evening you went to the cow-shed with the lighted

lamp in your hand, I should suddenly drop on to the earth again

and be your own baby once more, and beg you to tell me a story.

“Where have you been, you naughty child?”

“I won’t tell you, mother.” That’s what you and I would say


The Champa Flower


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