She was in pre- school and her bus used to drop her in front of a house that had bougainvillea clusters hanging over its boundary walls. Once she had asked Hari Singh what those vines were and he had said ‘Boe-gun-villa’, taking her schoolbag on his shoulder and opening his big, black umbrella. That evening she had told her mother that they should grow bougainvillea and her mother had said that it was useless and spiky and would trample over everything else in the garden. Their house also had high boundary walls, but those were covered with night blossoming star jasmine, small white flowers that were nothing like the flourishing pink flowers of bougainvillea.
As the summer receded, the bougainvillea clusters grew denser and tiny pale flowers appeared inside the pink bracts. Whenever Hari Singh was late, he found her gazing at the vines, absorbed in the flood of pink against the bright, rain washed green. The flowers were high up, out of her reach, and Hari Singh’s too. The ones that lay dropped on the road were dirty and dead.
Eventually, she succeeded in making Hari Singh ask the guard’s permission and take a small cutting of the vine from the garden of the house. She smiled and thanked the guard who had a Super Mario moustache. As she eagerly took the brier from Hari Singh, a thorn pricked her finger. She winced briefly. Holding it more carefully, she gently touched the pink flowers and found that they were paper thin, and the pale ones inside them were very frail, too. They had no fragrance, unlike the star jasmine at home, and, somehow, the three flowers on the twig did not look as pretty as the loaded bunches above. Her finger tip began to hurt. Home was fifteen minutes away, and walking, she occasionally looked at the flowers. By the time they reached back, the flowers were droopy. She filled a glass with water and put the branchlet inside it. She checked it every hour but the flowers only drooped more.
Later in the evening she chucked the twig in the trash can and threw the water in the kitchen sink, the jasmine outside began to blossom, its aroma filling the house through the open windows.