Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Gul-e-Abbas the Fragrance of Memories

It was a familiar fragrance from childhood which made me go crawling on my knees to see first and then take a series of shots so that i could fondly blog about it. Talk of another flower from childhood days. That which we as kids knew as Four O' Clock.
This happened the day i went chasing Mr Whoo Hoo, The Yellow Footed Pigeon. i was focusing hard on my Pigeon as he sat on the high branches of the sparse Rain Tree. Sparse in foliage because it was sprouting new leaves and thankfully looked less dense aiding me thus to see my Pigeon singled out but more than seeing i was hoping and wishing all that while for the Pigeon to produce some of it's sounds so that i could record it. Well the sound didn't emanate instead Mr Whoo Hoo took off to be with his mate in another dense Banyan tree nearby from which faint sounds did emerge but not of the courting call sounding whoo hoo instead of the turbulence in the branches and some faint rustling of the leaves.
Perhaps my concentration to hear and see had made me more sensitive and alert to the smells emanating from the surroundings too. Thus i had to revert my point of focus to the ground below and crawl to reach to find the source from where that faint floral but familiar fragrance was emerging and boy! was i glad to see the flower from my memories, the seeds of which resembled black pepper and we collected as many as we could because it would be there so evident and beckoning with promises to keep.  i was seeing Four O' Clock ...
Gul-e-Bas sounds Urdu and maybe it is Urdu but that's what it is also called in my own mother tongue Hindi too excepting for a 'a' in between and so the gardeners if you ask them the name of the flower they might say something which makes it sound like some kind of bamboo instead.' Gulabaans' that's how they pronounce it the tailing baans actually meaning bamboo. Gul means flower. Gulabaans should then mean bamboo flower then. Sounds misleading...not unless one knows the difference between the common and the vernacular. Local dialects tend to make the names sound like that and i should know better now for i have been in Delhi long enough to know that pierce means Pears and parak means Park. 
 Mirabilis jalapa or Gul-e-Abbas. Mirabilis latin for wonderful and Jalapa is a place name. This plant is said to have been exported from Peruvian Andes in 1540. Jalapa is in Central ( North America).
 About it getting it's name as Gul-e-Abbas," Mirabilis Jalapa belongs to the family Nyctaginaceae. It is cultivated in West Indies and India. It has five varieties. Red and yellow flowers were introduced from the West Indies in 1596. Shortly afterwards it was introduced to Persia in the reign of Shah Abbas and was named Gul-e-Abbas."

i have always loved the fragrance of this flower not to miss the special characteristics that kept me fascinated even when i was a kid. For one thing the bush looks lush and does not grow very tall. i could reach out to touch the lovely shapely foliage and pick the seeds when they were mature. But the best was when we played around it we would get the whiff of the beautiful fragrance that emanated from the flowers which blossomed only after post afternoons which was after four o clock. By that time we were back from school and would have already congregated for our games, called out to each other, dragged the reluctant ones out to complete the teams. To play Seven Stones, Hide and Seek, Color Color What Color Do You Choose, Ringa Ringa Roses... All of the games played in the free beautiful outdoors where Gul-e-Abbas along with others grew perhaps planted or maybe growing by themselves who knows because then we were not that caring about who was planting or growing what or how things were growing or why/how flowers were blooming because those were the Hide and Seek and 'PITTO' (Seven Stones) days.
 But it sure is a miracle how the fragrance, the flower, the game, the things we did with the flower and the seeds along with the games, the typical characteristic of the flower, all seem to be woven like a pattern and if the pattern could be given a name then Nostalgia should be it . True it is what Jean Paul Guerlain the master perfumer said about fragrances then, " Perfume is the most intense form of memory."
i don't seem to know of many flowers the name of which carries it's attributes in it. This is one such. Most flowers are either named after the Botanists/ Explorers who have discovered it. But this flower derives it's name from the special characteristic that it possesses
The Turkish call it aksam sefasi which means evening pleasure.
 The French have given it Belle de Nuit and in Netherlands it is known as Nachtschone both meaning beauty of the night. Even in Hebrew it is known as Lilanit Rav-Gonit meaning queen of the night.
Much of our own regional names are also likewise. In Kerala it is known as Naalmani Poovu meaning four o' clock flower. The Assamese calling it Godhuli phool, the Bengalis calling it Sandhyamaloti, the Maithilis from Bihar calling it Sanjhaphool all basically meaning the same as already mentioned before.
What i had not known about the flower is that it is not so much the time but the drop in temperature which is important for it's blooming that is why it blooms in post afternoons. There are other interesting features too which thanks to my temperament and my leisure i have just learnt.
Although i can't claim to have seen that bush yet but the same bush may have flowers of different colors in it. There are small trumpet shaped sweetly scented flowers in solid colors of red , pink, yellow, white , purple/lilac, orange that open in the late afternoon with a lovely and pleasing evening fragrance.
Then there are also those which are striped, splashed and mottled in bright cheery colors of yellow and pink or pink and white. And probably there are even more combinations that i wouldn't know.
But i have seen these colorful ones only in pictures. Wonder why they are not doing the rounds of the Indian Plant Nurseries. i have only seen the pink ones here in Delhi. Haven't been fortunate enough to spot a yellow or a white even.

Thanks to the internet i know now that an individual flower is also splashed with different colors on its petals. The above two images thus are the ones borrowed from the internet and the first thing i did after i discovered about these was to go to my local nursery to show them this Gulabaans. Although they have promised to get me a plant or two i know from experience is that theirs unlike my Gul e Abbas is a promise that is not for keeps. But i shall keep hoping. It makes me happy to hope.

 Flowers usually open from late afternoon onward hence the Four O' Clock name. Then the sweet pleasing fragrance that it produces lasts throughout night when finally the flowers close for good in the morning. New flowers open the following day once again during post afternoon.
We were fascinated with the plant for it's seeds which resembled black pepper. Hardly noticed the seeds when they were not mature and still greenish yellow. But a fully mature seed cannot be missed by anyone. Another good quality about this plant which self seeds.
Although this picture which is borrowed from the internet it is cent per cent true to my memories for i know i had collected many of these and sown all the pepper looking wrinkled, spherical but not exactly round seeds i had collected to have the pleasantly fragrant flowers of my own and had them too. Now i am crawling once again on my knees to collect some of these spherical, wrinkled, pepper looking black seeds and i can see none. Maybe i'll have to keep coming and watch out for the flowers and the seeds...

 Well that sort of sums up all i had to share about my fragrance of memories but just before quitting i checked the internet to see if anyone had composed a poetry on this flower that has remained with me since childhood along with all all the outdoor the games associated with it. Did i find it. Yes not one but two and i would love to have them here right here on this post on that flower from childhood called Four O' Clock.

Southern Spring
James Donahoe

I will borrow
a bow saw
to trim the yews
that run my yard,
and soon
I will hunt stakes

to brace my plants,
but now
I must sit
in the shade
and watch
the four-o’clocks grow.

Four O' Clock Flowers
Jean Gorney

As the afternoon wanes, 
Before the sun goes to sleep 
Flowers from my Four O’clocks 
I then begin to reap. 

As they come to full bloom, 
and I string them into a lei, 
I think what a wonderful way 
to end up a sunshining day. 


  1. I am not sure what has happened to the comment, Please tell me it has come over :( .. I wrote a big one

  2. anyway I shall type again :)

    right that was a great post and lots of info, I am not sure but I have a similar flower in my garden , I am very bad with names hardly know any of the names..

    When i go out and about on my walks etc, I keep a look out for any flowers growing wild, so i can pluck the dead flower which usually has the seeds and sow them when i come back home.. it saves a lot of money

    now i am not a miser but if you see the prices here for one flower it is usually 5 to 6 pounds , and if you buy half a dozen you need a LOAN for that .. so this helps .. also after the season I make sure to collect all the seeds for next time :)

    hey hey maybe you can go back and find the seeds and post me he he he he :)

    the colors of the flowers oh my god they are beautiful .. and what lovely poems for the FOUR O'Clocks ... I wonder why they are called that .. or have i just not read the post properly ...


    1. Dear dear Bikram thanx for being prompt and so kind too. Your comment decorates my page and makes me feel so happy. As cheery as when i see the bright flowers that decorate my blogs. But ur comment sure does give it all. Seems like u were in a hurry and miss it. No offence taken no offence intended. let me do the honors. It would rather please me to repeat it again. The flowers are called Four O' Clocks because it only starts blooming in late afternoons unlike most flowers that bloom in the mornings. Although mostly seen blooming after 4 the time is not so significant as the drop in the heat or the temperature that is suitable for it's blooming. It blooms in summers but only the plant knows how much of it is required so generally after 4 in the evenings or post afternoons so the flowers gets it's name Four O' Clock. :) :) :)
      And Bikram i have been going there everyday...not one seed could i find yet...if and when i do...i will keep for you too i promise. And hey my promise is for keeps...just wait and see...you just wish that i find at least a couple...
      Also Bikram although i did not feel happy about Brazil being obliterated yet Germany...remember what i had wished for...remember what i had said about Germany's tactical game playing...man...they did it...

    2. it was sad to watch brazil embarrassed like that .. tonight I hope argentina win as I would love to see the finals.. and MESSY scoring the winning goal..

      Germany were VERY very good for sure ... and yes when they scored the 4th goal I did remember what you had said .. but 7 was too much , they could have scored more if they wanted to ..

      and yesssssssssssssss i hope you find the seeds :)

    3. Dear Bikram, so Argentina it is and Messi did but so did the other penalty shooters. But I feel sad for my Netherlands. They were consistent but I guess it was meant to be. Now let's see 13th who gets the World Cup. I am too humbled to say anything now because I haven been seeing sort of clash of Titans happening out there. What happened the other day with Brazil was just so unfortunate and I am still perplexed. Yesss 7 is just too much.
      Yeah the seeds...I go there whenever I can but as yet have not found any. But I will I'm sure. Thanks for taking time out and talking to me. Best wishes for 13th...May the one that deserves it take away the trophy and the title and the glory and all that comes along with the glory. Cheers !

    4. yesssssssssssss argentina won ... now waiting for Sunday ...

      Messi is no doubt the best player if only they give him a bit more space .. each time he has the ball 2 or 3 players pounce on him ..

      I really admire his character because he gets hit , pushed , pulled and yet doesnot retaliate majority of times.. doesnot take the silly dives to win a penalty .. a proper player while man other strikers are CHEATERS.. in my book

  3. the flower pictures as usual looks excellent with great details and contrast :)

  4. I love all your fragrance of memories with such wow pictures!
    Chasing Mr. Whoo Hoo sounds like a lot of fun!

    Just 1 suggestion- Please do submit this post as an entry for the ongoing IndiBlogger #InspireAFragrance contest! It is tailor-made. In fact, when I read this, I thought you have finally written a contest entry! :)
    Best wishes, Shivani :)

    1. Anita dear friend...I have a theory...don't know if u can understand my theory. There are two kinds of people in the world. One who just do for the sake and fun of doing things. Then there is the other which apart from doing also does other things. Like takes part in contests. Okay I belong to the former. Although I know by participating I might only gain...perhaps followers...maybe more comments in my comment box. But hey I also belong to that category who is not dishing for fishing for more. If it comes as it comes I am happy. If it doesn't I am okay. Makes no difference. Maybe I don't blog for recognition. I just do. Hope I am not putting u off. And one confession though...once upon a time when I was fairly new and my follow list looked empty I did participate in one contest hoping it would get me some followers. But it did not happen as I had presumed. It happened quite the other way....something like finding out someone to speak to in an overcrowded rock concert. Hope u can understand what I meant. U r my latest dear Anita my 40th...without contest. Proves my point. QED....hahaha.
      Love and hugzzzzzzz.

    2. I get your views, Shivani! I understand that we should do what we are comfortable with :)
      When I started Blogging, 1 of my friends had said- "Write for yourself. Then, people will follow". I won a few grand prizes in contests, but my Follower count didn't increase because of that... It did based on normal posts written for non-contest prompts. After I wrote 1 particular poem, I had an additional 10 Followers in 1 day as everyone loved it so much!

      I am huge Contest-Junkie. Winning makes me happy :) Even if I don't win, that happens about 70% of the times, many people read and comment & those are my prizes :)
      Yes, I like writing what I want & these days don't take part in all contests that come my way. If the topic is nice & I have something to share, I write whether contest or no contest.
      The recent IndiSpire endeavour is good where IndiBloggers suggest topics to write about. Many readers read those posts. 2 of my IndiSpire posts- On Virginity & About Life before & After IndiBlogger - are amongst my most popular :)

      Request- when you have time, please do read my most popular posts! Many are posts on Movies, but I do know that you'll like them :)

      Lots of Love & hugs to you too :)

  5. @ Anita sweet loving girl I take ur suggestion to heart and if not now but when I feel strongly about participating myself then surely I will. Till then I am really happy with my limited few with whom I can genuinely remain sincere. There is a philosophy that I am working on imbibing...bringing it on me...Santosho hee Nandanam....meaning having satisfaction with what you have instead of pining for more and more. Maybe without even realizing it has surfaced in my indifference on all the mail alerts I get about the contests. :)

    1. That's absolutely fine & justifies, Shivani.
      What matters is, we must be true to our values & beliefs :)
      Contentment is a great philosophy.

      But, my prime intention of requesting you to participate in the contest was-
      1. Your post matched the contest topic/requirement (& you can simply submit it & don't have to force yourself to write specifically for the contest!)
      2. Your posts are so detailed & have such nice pics that they are a treat & deserve more readership.

      I have found that my contest posts are read by more people than my normal posts...
      But, I enjoy writing for both :)

      I wrote a HUGE comment above & I have copied the text & saved it in my Word file. Will use it when I write about my Blogging story :)

      Say blessed! :)