What do you usually say when someone asks you about your favourite colour? Is your answer visceral, immediate, or almost never pre-meditated? Well, mine has never been. It has always felt somewhat conjured as if from childhood, I knew the atavistic connections one could build with the colour you choose. It would change daily. On grey monsoon days, it would be yellow; on hot summer days, it would be the calm of blue, reds and plums during winters, and never a pink, lord no! On days that I would want to hold my plump body at a distance, it would, of course, be black. Strangely enough, I have been surrounded by people who have been certain of their favourite colour and have usually stuck to a primary shade through different phases of life while I have meandered through it, somewhat stealthily, I think.
But then, in my heart of hearts, I have always been attracted to the colours of nature. Possibly that is why I have flitted through the blue-greys of the seas at Puri or the majestic green of the Western Ghats in rains and the hills of North Bengal, lush in the spring vegetation; or the burnt yellow and amber tones of the trees in North Sikkim in fall.
However, during the lockdown period following the COVID-19 pandemic, I discovered my perennial love for green.
Lockdown wasn’t a difficult time for me. It taught me the value of life and the little pleasures that surround me every day. I would see the restless dwelling in my husband’s eyes, who, although somewhat lazy, is an avid traveller. A year and a half of no travelling was getting to his poor nerves. But not me. Probably because I am a woman, or regardless of my gender and just as a person, I have always thought of myself as water. Although, I am a fire sign if you believe in those things- with an innate ability to fit anywhere, in anything, burst out and cause havoc when pushed, but stable. Is that somewhat vain? But that is always the image I have of myself and it isn’t without its pleasure. To return from my rambling digression, late in December 2020, I started walking during lockdown in the evenings, a habit that has since continued. The destination, if you were to ask me, is the same route every day- the Patuli nursery in south Kolkata, a fifteen-minute walk from my home. It isn’t the only possible walking trail, of course not, but for me, the wide, open roads, where the sky turns pink and orange for those who are interested; where trees and beautiful plants stand in a gorgeous array swaying gently in the evening winds are convincing.
This ritual has been strangely therapeutic and addictive. The feel of damp and warm soil in my hands, the striking conversations with the nursery owners with their welcoming smiles of uncertain familiarity, discussions on plants leading to a peek into their lives, sipping tea from earthy terracotta cups are a daily gift to myself, something I do by myself for myself.
I have noticed that the daily visits to the plant nurseries with the meditative green and sudden splashes of bright and fluorescent colours, that have slowly, over the course of these two years, made their way into my home, have made me a better, calmer person, more attuned to my own needs and that of others. I don’t hurry anymore. I don’t feel compelled to wake up to an alarm and run to my college to take classes. I sleep well, my mind rested, brimming with creative energy, my days filled with possibilities of discovering new life in my own urban jungle, where ants move from one pot to another, earthworms suddenly peek, pollinator bees hover over the flowers, a fascinating, shared ecosystem where everyone has everything, nothing is lacking, nothing is fought over, where the colour green pops out and grabs life by its collar, every single day.
I like returning home- a haven, framed, held and embraced by the green.
Rituparna Mukherjee is a faculty of English and Communication Studies at Jogamaya Devi College, under the University of Calcutta. She is currently pursuing Doctoral degree in Gendered Mobilities in west African and Afro-Diasporic Literature at IIIT Bhubaneswar. Her areas of interest include African and Indian literature and Post-colonial and Feminist theories. She works as an ELT consultant, translator and ESL author outside of her work and research schedule. She can be found on Instagram at @ritumukherjee10