I met the ruby red frangipanis for the first time when I joined 247 last year. I’d only ever met the white with yellow centers champa flowers before this, the White Frangipani Plumeria alba. This is a central courtyard where my manager and I’d have our meetings. Let’s not sit in stuffy meeting rooms, I’d plead. And so it was that conversations, one-on-one’s as they’re known in the corporate world would happen here.
Wikipedia tells me that Frangipane/frangipani is derived from frangere il pane (Italian for “break the bread”), from which the noble Frangipani family of Rome derived its name in the 11th century. It is said a certain Frangipane was perfumer to Louis XIII of France, hence the common name Frangipani. Plumeria on the other hand is named in honor of the seventeenth-century French botanist Charles Plumier, who traveled to the New World documenting many plant and animal species.
I don’t visit the frangipani anymore but walking back from lunch today I noticed the tree reaching out to hug the sky - arms all tangled, ruby-red clawed.
As a ten year old I wanted to be a gardener, florist, botanist in that order. I spent endless hours in my Grandma’s garden attempting to eat, grow and befriend everything that would make even a feeble attempt to find root in the red Mangalorean soil. There were begonias to taste, veggies and flowers to grow - carrots (very unsuccessful) to sweet potatoes (moderately successful) to button roses (wildly successful) - and trees to befriend.
I find unbound joy when working with my hands, moulding and shaping things and then seeing the efforts bear fruit. Remembering that led me to rekindle my love for gardening last year by starting my own li’l organic veggie garden. Anything I find in my kitchen finds soil in my garden and then my undivided attention and smothering love as I cajole ‘em all to come out and see the sun.
A couple of weeks ago I was out for lunch at Fatty Bao with a few colleagues. One of them pointed to a tree and remarked how round the Jackfruits so high on those tree were. Only those were Breadfruit. That led to a round of a ‘Name the Trees’ and I was left thinking how long it’s been since I looked around with wonder. I’m the one who calls out names of trees when driving down roads (Hey, look African Tulip!) and picks up seedpods to touch. Where did that unbridled curiosity go?
I spent the weekend reading about trees in Bangalore. That’s when I learned that the Flame of the Forest and Gulmohur are not the same trees. The tall noise reduction tree I’ve called the Ashoka Tree is actually the Fake Ashoka Tree! Despite spending many evenings walking under them, I still can’t tell the Albizia Saman from the Albizia Julibrissin.
This is my attempt to fix all that.