We recently said RIP to the seventh indoor plant in two years, and I am depressed. Not just because we have lost another green friend to what now seems to be developing into a civil strife between my plants and me, but because they simply don’t understand how it feels to have someone slight you when you go to such great lengths to tend them, as if they were babies. They are ungrateful, I lamented, when the latest piece of our live indoor décor wilted and died. We felt betrayed yet again, like parents with defiant children.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the way we are keeping them and we must seek expert advice on how to raise plants inside the house, I suggested. So we went to the plant counsellor, who is the guy at the shop that we get our indoor stuff from. Like a tough, uncompromising customer, I complained that his plants had high mortality rates and that I wanted each of my horticultural disasters to be accounted for and replaced.

He listened patiently to my rants, asked me questions like a shrink does his patient, and finally declared, “You are not keeping them in the best of conditions.”

I was mortified. I had even poked the pot mix frequently to check the moisture content. What more did I have to do? He said that I needed to keep the air-conditioner on, if not all day long, at least to keep the interiors cool enough for them to survive.

That’s the beginning of this on-going battle between my plants and me. My metabolism doesn’t allow keeping the coolers on for more than 10 minutes. I shiver, my teeth chatter and my limbs go numb. Imagine me opening the door to someone, wearing sweaters, mittens and a monkey cap in the peak of summer! I must either allow myself to be scrutinised suspiciously or be ready to narrate my plant story if they would care to stop and listen.

“I can’t keep the AC on for long,” I said. The plant counsellor nodded and looked at my husband. “In that case, it’s your choice. Either she or the plants stay.” That’s what he meant to say, I could see it on his face.

We women have ways to read the malicious thoughts of men. My man nodded in reply as if to say, “I will chew it over, buddy, and take a final call.”

I was glad that he wasn’t impulsive enough to call it quits with me at a plant store. There are decent ways of doing it, after all.

As we drove back home, I thought of the garden in our house in India. Lush and left to the care of nature, it’s a weed-ridden little yard tended by the elements. The greatest service that we do to the plants is water them in summer, and prune them out of our path when they grow over. They weather all seasons and all conditions. They don’t demand to have the soil tilled and turned.

I wish I could carry a bag of the rich earth with me to give my plants here a feel of home and habitat. I remembered how I don’t find time to go around, looking and checking on them during my vacations. I felt guilty about taking them for granted, and I compared them with the spoilt brats back here that died for no reason.

Meanwhile, my husband might have considered the gardener’s choice between keeping me and the plants. But I know, for all his secret desire to get me a one-way ticket to Mars, he will keep me, because plants can’t cook and keep house.

Courtesy Khaleej Times.