My first attempt at trying to grow plants was when we stopped by at this large nursery on our way back from Karjat. It was close to December and poinsettias were in bloom. Poinsettias, as you know, are those pretty Christmassy plants that are green with red flowers on top. So I came home armed with two pretty poinsettias in their respective pots. Perfect for Christmas, I thought, pleased with my advance planning. The next morning however presented quite another picture.

My kittens, Caesar and Cleo had been busy through the night. Being methodical creatures, they had done extensive research on the new, different smelling entrants to the household. The pots were broken. The mud strewn around the large balcony. Clumps of brown mud had tiny little tell-tale paw prints on them. Every bit of the former poinsettias had been pulled apart. Each leaf had been separated from every other leaf and stem. And the whole floor had the much-wanted Christmassy feel of red and green, though two months too early. The kittens looked with sufficient satisfaction at the work they had done and my admonishing them did not seem to have much effect. My poinsettias gone, my red and green Christmas remained simply on paper, and I postponed my greening efforts till when the kittens were a little older.

Some time later, someone gifted us a bonsai plant. It was an adeneum beautifully planted in a flat blue ceramic pot. With it came care instructions. Perfect, I thought, the perfect way to develop my green thumb. In sheer enthusiasm I went out a bought a book on bonsai. And read whatever I could on it. I read and re-read the chapters which talked about snipping the roots from time to time. I read about putting wires around the branches to train them to grow in a particular direction. I read that a bonsai would be slow growing but I waited impatiently and checked anxiously every morning to see if the little tree had grown even just a little.
And every morning I itched to do something to the bonsai so that I could finally claim that I can grow plants. But the bonsai stubbornly refused to show any signs of growth. It remained little, stunted and disappointing.

Then one day I came home and found the pot cracked, the bonsai leaning dangerously out of it and mud strewn all around the table. Breathlessly my son came running to me with a cricket bat in his hand. “The ball hit it” he proclaimed, absolving himself of the blame immediately. (There did not seem much difference between him and my errant kittens in terms of remorse.)

Looking at this setback as an opportunity I decided to put my ‘rooting’ skills to test. A new pot, additional mud, some scissors and I clumsily started. Toiled. Finished. And failed. In a few days, the leaves fell off the tree (no, it was not autumn) and the bonsai bid us a sad farewell. This time I decided to wait even more. Till I learnt how to look after plants. For the time being, I decided to concentrate on the children and the cats.

Then last year during my stay in the US I helped my sister plant some bulbs. The ground was beginning to harden with the frost and we dug shallow little holes on a cold winter day and planted the bulbs. They would bloom in spring, she told me. Spring seemed a long time coming. But somehow I got no news about my bulbs. A bit disappointed, I let it be. I would have to admit to myself that no green thumb was happening. Till finally one day I mustered up the courage to ask my sister. And she said, yes, the tulips bloomed and looked gorgeous all through spring. And then she sent me a picture in the mail. Yes, I said, punching the air with a fist. I do have it in me. (At least, I have a sister who has a green thumb!)

From time to time, I examine my thumb. It still remains depressingly brown, somehow reminding me of parched earth. But once in a way, I see a glimmer of a green vein under the skin and I feel happy… I am getting there.