The vigil started at sunset. The four of us – two of the cousins, Paul and Johnny, my brother Jacob, and I – sat on the front veranda, Thekkanattu Parayil., Olavipe, glancing often at a lone plant on the courtyard with great anticipation.
We were waiting for the first bud of the night-blooming Cerus plant to open. It is a rare plant that flowers once in twelve months and only around midnight. The blooms are on the leaves and survive only for a few hours.
The flower is generally known as Nishagandhi in
I had taken the following photo of the bud two days earlier:
The boy who was attending to us would inspect it at regular intervals to see if it had started opening. At about 8.30 pm he gave us the good news. Then I took a series of pictures:
At full bloom the queen looks stunning. The Japanese name for the flower is so appropriate – Gekka Bijin, which means ‘Beautiful Woman Under the Moon’. There was an exotic fragrance as though she was wearing a subtle perfume.
At her moment of glory the queen didn’t know that her life was only for a few short hours. By morning it was like what Omar Khayyam said in the Rubaiyat: ‘Like dew upon the desert’s dusty face lighting an hour or two is gone’. Here is the picture:
But the cycle does not end. In the photo you can see a small bud on the leaf on the right.
Life goes on.
Click on photos to enlarge. Copyright reserved.Also see: Gardening: More photos of Kerala flowers