Everyone Needs A Social Climber (Sometimes)
When I was a kid, my parents' garden at 3 Dumayne Avenue in Calcutta (now Kolkata) was full of flowers. There was an amazing variety and the aroma and sea of colours suffused every corner of the huge property we were lucky to live on.
But for some reason I don't think we ever grew orchids, although I remember being aware of the plants. I also seem to recollect seeing them grown in pots at the annual flower show at the Horticultural Gardens.
When I was eleven years old, we travelled to Bangkok and Singapore and I remember the airline staff giving my mother a beautiful pink-and-purple orchid which she proudly pinned to her dress.
At boarding school in St Joseph's College, North Point, Darjeeling, in the foothills of the Himalayas, I was once a member of an authorised group of schoolboys who were given once-a-year permission to trek to nearby Lebong, set up camp overnight and spent about 24 hours examining local flora.
We also had special permission to carefully and responsibly (and what important caveats they were, both then and now) take certain plant specimens back to the school greenhouse.
I was thirteen when our group spotted a splendid orchid high up a tree. Among our number we had basic tree-climbers (me), talented tree-climbers (about ten) and supremely gifted rock-climbers (about three) but not one of us could get to the branch that held the orchid.
After about half an hour a "kancha" (a Nepali word for "little boy") came whistling down the hillside. We looked at each other just like cartoon characters do when they are endowed with sudden inspiration.
Our leader had a quick word with the lad, who would not have been more than about eight years old. He nodded, eager to prove his skill. And when our leader added the inducement of a handful of boiled sweets, the kancha could not have approached his task with more zeal.
In less time than it would take you to read this post, he had climbed the tree, grabbed the orchid, come down safely, accepted his reward and gone whistling on his merry way.
Visit Luiz Santilli Jr for the home of Today's Flowers.