…..'A sense of humour lends you poise, it gives you balance and it helps you to bend without breaking'…..

(HH Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda)

Trees Aflame

"What is it my lovely, why the tear?"

"Oh mother, look at the trees over there by the water.  The sun just now upon those petals causes them to look like flames!"

"That is true, but are you trying to put the fire out with your eyes then?"

Ginny laughed sweetly.  "No, silly, I was only caught by the beauty.  Somehow it moved me.  Can't really tell you why."

Her mother watched Ginny's face for a moment then turned away into the hotel room.  They had come to Mumbai at her daughter's insistence but she wasn't sure why she had agreed.  It was just another city as far as she could see.  All cities had their charms but heaven alone knew what this one was going to present.

Ginny burst into movement suddenly and grabbing her bag and sun-specs, then her mother by the arm, they set off into the hot and humid day.  The hotel had arranged a day-hire vehicle with driver for them and it was waiting downstairs.  The driver was Aravind and Ginny was organised ,giving him due instruction.

First, to the old city.  From there, they wound their way back up the peninsula, visiting places of interesting architecture and good views.  At this stage Ginny didn't want to go inside museums and galleries.  That would come, but first the idea was to get orientated.

Wherever they travelled, this is what she did.  Mother went along with it all because she had no particular preference herself.  Father had been the organiser and mother had learned early in marriage that it was not worth arguing the point.  After a few years she really didn't worry and this made life very easy indeed.   So when her only daughter turned out to be more like father, the relationship managed well - especially after his passing.  Ginny became protective of her and sacrificed many a social connection to ensure her mother's wellbeing and companionship.

She was proud of her girl, a successful physician in a large Sydney practice, but she did worry that perhaps she was a tad overworked.  Could it be that she was avoiding the dating game? Mother never brought the subject up.  That happened only once and a lesson was learned!  "Besides", Ginny had said, "I'll know him when I see him."

For this romantic notion, father had to be blamed.  He doted on his daughter and had always said to her that when she met her man, she'd know it directly.  She was special and needed someone strong yet yielding.

The evening after this first outing, having refreshed, they decided to take a walk down by the waterside under the trees of flame.  Ginny was besotted with them, thought mother.  It was one thing to enjoy nature's gifts, but there was something about these trees that had completely entranced the girl.  There was a newish path laid along the shoreline, which made walking easier.   As many of the red and orange petals as Ginny could find, she gathered up into a plastic bag she had brought with her.

"Are those for tonight's puja?"  

The deep, smooth voice startled them.  The man must have been following them.  Mother instinctively clutched her handbag. The altogether too-good-looking fellow observed this and continued, "Oh forgive me, that was much too abrupt and I had no intention to scare you, amma."  His English was impeccable, with minimal accent, and his clothes were of the smart-casual, Western style.  It was a bit confusing and she looked over at Ginny for guidance.  Her daughter, though, seemed dumbstruck.  There was a look in her eye that mother had never thought to see… oh good Lord, not him!!!  Clearly Ginny was, for once, without voice, so mother found hers.

"That's okay young man, but a bit rude without introduction."

"I agree.  My name is Kunal Singhania.  I am staying in the hotel and had not intended to follow you as such, but we were on the same trail it seems."  His smile was electric.  Even mother could appreciate that.

Ginny came back into the moment.  "I'm Virginia Belton and this is my mother, Alicia…. What's puja?"  Mother shuddered inside.  That was Ginny's style.  In with both feet.

"Personal worship of the Lord - in whichever form you care to view him.  Hmm, am I correct in picking an Australian accent?"

"You are."

"That's incredible.  I just arrived from Sydney yesterday myself.  I am a veterinarian and have come to promote a drive for neutering street dogs here in Mumbai."

Mother's eyes rolled sideways to the water.  After medicine, Ginny's other great love was animals - especially dogs.  Sure enough, Ginny became energized and the two young folk proceeded to walk the path, apparently forgetting mother.  A few moments later, Ginny looked round and asked "aren't you coming mum?"  Mother shrugged and followed, keeping a yard or two behind.  Listening to their light yet meaningful conversation, even mother had to admit they seemed to 'click' - wasn't that what  the younger generation called it?  Kunal then surprised them further by offering to buy them dinner and introduce them to Mumbai society, rather than the tourist viewing they would otherwise do.

As always, mother went with the flow.  Oh and how did it flow!  She was amazed at how alive she felt.  Mumbai certainly had something about it that she had not expected. The people were cultured, kind, colourful.  Yes there was the argy-bargy and the noise and smell and the heat and the dust and….  But the magic of Mumbai grabbed her.

What is more, it grabbed Ginny.  Kunal grabbed Ginny.  Mother could see it .  What was amazing was that she could see the match.  Even more than that, she had no objection to it.  How could she?  Her daughter was glowing, not just from obvious attraction, but from the enjoyment of learning India. 

Then came their final evening.  The three of them stood again beneath the flame trees looking up at the fading sunlight resting upon the glorious petals.  Kunal came up to mother and held her hand earnestly.

"Amma-ji, I think you know how I feel about your daughter.  Could I ask you to meet with my parents in Sydney.  If you are in agreement, it would be my great honour to take her as my wife."

Ginny's eyes popped and her mouth dropped. "Hey you, don't you think you should ask me first?"

"Why?  Are you going to refuse?"  

It was  firmly said, yet with a lightness of intent that might, in the view of her late husband, have been considered yielding.

Mother smiled.  Oh yes.  He would do.

`  © Yamini Ali MacLean   


  1. Oh you old romantic. The good looking vet on a mercy mission to the dogs of Mumbai. How perfect.
    Cheers! Gail.

  2. Funny sometimes the oddest people get together and form unbreakable bonds.

  3. Maybe you should put together a book of stories!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  4. that's great and I felt young again while reading :o)

  5. I remember lying in bed when working in England. It was autumn and it was raining. The lights were on outside the kitchen and when I looked outside I saw gold fluttering down from the sky. All the leaves that were falling were wet from the rain and then lit by the light. That is still a magical memory.


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