Chandan Tiwari, the chronicler of trees, explains that Springtime in the capital is not just a visual delight but also an olfactory pleasure
The city is in full bloom heralding the arrival of spring. As the air gets warmer, vibrant colours of flowers and varied trees of green fill the landscape with unbound joy.
And one of the best people to witness Delhi in full bloom is Chandan Tewari, a lawyer by profession, but a nature lover by temperament. He loves verdure, and like any lover, wants to know all about them, and wants to share all the rich and varied information about the vegetation in Delhi.
This romance with nature has changed his life. He leaves very early from his house, lives in New Friends colony, and walks for hours before arriving at office. After work, he walks again, passing through various parks, enjoying the company of trees. Sometimes, he walks with people who share similar passions and enthralls them with his knowledge about trees, all of them are unique individuals, though fairly predictable, and all contribute in their own quintessential and essential way to the majesty of nature. If you are in the good company of nature, you are never alone. Perhaps, that’s the reason Chandan enjoys his solitude. His wife and a young daughter are still in Varanasi and will join him soon.
One of the nicest ways to experience Delhi’s spring is to accompany Chandan for long walks in the park. To him spring—as the very name suggests—is “the celebration time for nature as it springs out of suppression, flowering in full bloom, blossoming in bright colours. Nearly 90% of plants are in full bloom.”
He enjoys and participates in the celebration of nature with all his faculties, not just the sight of new leaves, or the fluorescent bright flowers, but also the smell, and the energy of the season.
To him, sight is just a small part of the experience, olfactory sensations are what enthrall him. “You’re walking, and suddenly you stop as if someone is beseeching, it’s a crisp new fragrance, a very captivating one, and you enquire about it, where’s it coming from, and soon you get to know,” he explains, as if he’s found an old lost friend or made an acquaintance with someone new who has the promise to be a lifelong friend.
There are many trees and plants that have dazzling flowers but no smell, they are not amongst Chandan’s favorites like bougainvillea—its bright flowers in varied colours brighten the streets of Delhi and Noida and the rest of the NCR.
Chandan talks about trees with much relish as if describing a lover, like Semal; Chamrod; Pink and Yellow trumpet; Palash—also called Flame of the Forest as its bright flowers make seem like a forest is engulfed in flames; Sita Ashok (the tree under which Sita sat when she was held captive by Ravan), Kausam—the city of Kaushambi in UP is named after these trees as are very common there. He recommends boiling Palash flowers to make tea–it has great medicinal properties.
Lately, he has been visiting, or rather surveying parks and green belts in Delhi. He has been to twenty such parks and will keep visiting new ones. It feels like a homecoming to Chandan. He looks at the green patches on a Google map and plans a trip. The list is long Jahanpanah Forest, Khelgaon Park, Nehru Park, Lodi Park, Raj Ghat, Red Fort park, Hudco Park behind Ansal Plaza and various parts of the Delhi Ridge.
His favorite is Sunder Nursery. “I know each and every tree there,” he says as if Sunder Nursery is the old family house. “Delhi ke pairo ka baap hai Sunder Nursery (Sunder nursery is the father of all other parks in Delhi,” he says and explains “you find trees here that are nowhere to be seen in Delhi. New trees were first planted here to see if they can adapt to Delhi’s tropical climate.” He lists a few, like Satin Leaf Fig, Australian Almond.
Because Sunder Nursery is crowded these days, he stopped going there, particularly on the weekends.
“I do it out of pleasure,” he says and has an Instagram account by the name “Delhi trees” that has thousands of followers. Otherwise, a shy person he doesn’t like to be photographed, spends hours walking the parks of Delhi, often wonders “how the earth, the mud is transformed into every goddamn imaginable thing. We also came from the earth,” he reiterates. Something so commonplace yet remains an enduring mystery. But he doesn’t claim to have unraveled the mystery, rather enjoys the process, and cherishes the time he spends with trees.