Is That Stealing?

February 14, 2013

The thing with plants is, they grow slowly. And the thing with me is, I’m short on patience. When I want something, I want it now. Right now. Not six months later and definitely not six years later. I’m all about instant gratification and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

I think those builders and developers who put the trees in place before they have the roads tarred, or even those somewhat despicable ones who lay down brilliant, emerald-green slabs of Mexican grass outside a barely constructed apartment and surround it with obscenely colourful flowers… have the right idea. Nothing makes an ugly building more appealing than being surrounded or set off by fresh, vibrant greenery.

Ok, ok, ours is not an ugly building. Even I’ve grown to be quite fond of the rustic simplicity of an all-brick exterior. Still, there’s no denying that it is dull, even if in a slightly pretty way. But the very fact that it is a little “rustic” means it looks even more suited to be nestled in greenery. I’ve seen other, older mud-brick buildings where plants have had a chance to make their presence felt and the effect is really quite nice.

Now grass is all very well, and it is beginning to look like a nice expanse of green, but it tends to stay on the ground and not quite dominate the environment. So here come the bougs. Did I mention I love bougs? Only half a dozen times or so, I guess. So our three baby bougs have been lined up along the front boundary wall and instructed to grow over it and cover it with a zillion flowers in half a dozen colours. Doesn’t help that we have planted only two colours – standard purple-pink, and white. I planted an orange one this Monday, but it’s looking pretty dead. Must be the rock foundation of the wall that it doesn’t like. The other three babies are fluctuating between various stages from drooping and shedding leaves to perking up and growing flowers. I’m watching them carefully, but they seem impervious to all that and continue to fluctuate according to their own whims and fancies.

Meanwhile, the house next door is lying vacant. The rumour mill has it that it has been vacant for years due to some tragedy. It’s not haunted, though, and there is a caretaker and occasionally someone drops in to spend a night or at least a few hours. This caretaker is an elderly gentleman and he seems to be the hardworking sort. Though I often see him sitting in the late afternoon sun and reading a newspaper, or chatting with the driver next door, I also often see him clearing out the yard, stockpiling dry leaves, and so on. There is no grass on that side of the fence, but you know the saying – the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. In this instance, it’s not the grass so much as the boug and it’s not just greener – it’s bigger, thornier, flowerier, and greener. It’s tall and wild and untamed. There’s this huge branch that shoots ten feet into the air before looping down under its own weight and it’s still growing, with arms springing out at regular intervals, covered in bright pink “flowers”. (Actually, I believe, the bright pink part of a boug is also leaves, not flowers; the flowers are the tiny white things inside. But it’s just easier to refer to the bright pink parts as flowers.)

Now see – nobody lives in that house except the caretaker… and what does he care? And on the other hand, here am I, just waiting for some colour to invade my world. And we share the wall and it’s a hole-y wall anyway – I mean, it’s this slightly ornate wall that has these curvy little pillars. And it’s their wall, I’m not even laying claim to the wall. All I want is the boug.

So, I armed myself with a rejected length of water pipe, which happened to have a convenient arrangement of bends (and was recently pressed into service to recover the showerhead thingy from the gray water tank, remember?) and I went up to the wall and reached over it and pulled the tall, straggly, untamed branch over. It was, of course, tangled up with various other thorny offshoots, but, ignoring a few scratches on my arm, I managed to disengage it and pull it across the wall and then thread several of its arms through the curvy little pillars of the wall, ensuring that at least some of the flowering parts were facing our side. With some luck, when the next monsoon arrives (and it’s true that it’s still several months away, but that’s not too bad) this handsome fellow will claim the entire wall and declare it home.

The best part is, the roots are still in our neighbour’s house and the caretaker gets to water the plant. I’m sure he will keep doing that, he doesn’t seem to be a mean and nasty kind of guy. While we get to enjoy the fruits – or at least the flowers – of his labour.

Here’s a picture of my baby boug and another one of my neighbour’s boug. Can you even tell which one is which?


Yeah, so this is obviously not stealing. All I’ve done is to help our neighbor manage his plants by taking his own boug and training it to climb over his own wall. That’s just good neighbourliness.
But… this same neighbor has a mango tree that overhangs our balcony and a guava tree that sort of reaches into our airspace. Both trees are laden with fruit – tiny, still raw, but holding out the promise of plenty.


So now, when this fruit ripens, if we help ourselves to a little… that’s still not stealing, is it?

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