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Posted at: Jun 9, 2018, 12:26 AM; last updated: Jun 9, 2018, 12:26 AM (IST)VIGNETTES

A week amidst flowers with students at best

Due to water woes, Shimla Summer Festival was postponed this year

Shriniwas Joshi

Flower Show and Flower Festival are the babies of the Shimla Amateur Garden and Environment Society (SAGES) and are held every year in May-June. The former is a show open for all and there is competition among the participants, the latter one is a festival in which school students show their creativity through flowers, fruits and vegetables. These shows are forerunners of Shimla Summer Festival but, due to water woes, the Summer Festival was postponed this year. If I unlock my memory bank, I find that the festival in Shimla started in the late 1960s after the merger of the town in Himachal Pradesh. Television then was not an every household item. Only the stage used to satiate the cultural hunger of the people. Law and order conditions were better and so the families from the peripheries did not mind walking back in dark after seeing their favourites live on the stage. The programmes were dainty, the festival used to open with a classical dance from a reputed artist -- Yamini Krishnamurthy, Uma Sharma, Sanyukta Panigrahi -- top dancers of the era. If it rained on a particular evening, the programme was held in the hall, presently the roller- skating rink in Regal building. The present-day festival is a hocus pocus and Shimlaites stay away from it. The festival is held regularly but, I reckon, was cancelled due to the agitation of the non-gazetted employees in 1970 and then in 1977 because of the Assembly polls. And now it has happened in 2018. 

The Flower Show and the Festival were, however, held. This year there were 68 participants in the Flower Show who brought 110 entries for competition besides these, there were 300 non-competitive entries put up by the various government departments. Durlab Singh Puri, one of the four judges, told me that if the flower show was to be gauged by the number of participants, it was dismal because the number of participants had decreased. Quality-wise, it had improved because some new varieties of flowers and foliage were seen in the flower show. The visitor’s book is also one of the measures to assess the worth of the Show. Only one called it ‘deplorable exhibition’ while the remaining 500 had appreciated it. Vineet Chowdhry, the Chief Secretary of the state government, called it ‘jewel in the crown of Shimla’, Amritpal Singh of Mansa (Punjab) called it ‘nectar to the eyes’ and the Chief Guest, BK Aggarwal, Additional Chief Secretary to the Government said, ‘in today’s world when all the open spaces are being converted into concrete jungle, home gardening is the only way to be in touch with earth.’ A respected person of Shimla society, Vishwa Nath Sood writes: “Shimla is reeling under water scarcity, but I’m willing to part with 50% of water stored by me for the lovely plants and flowers.” 

Every year the best exhibit of the show is selected by the judges and this year their votes fell on a Rex Begonia plant. The first person to document the discovery of begonia was a Franciscan monk, Charles Plumier, who found fibrous begonias in Brazil in 1690. He was on a search for medicinal plants and named the plant after his favourite botanist, Michael Begon, the governor of Haiti. Do you know that it was the first time that a plant was named to honour another botanist? Later it became a tradition. The selected best exhibit of the show was a foliage plant and the foliage in begonias has jaw-dropping coloration that is why these are also called painted-leaf or fancy-leaf begonias. Begonia has also produced romantic waves among the poets. Therese writes:"honeysuckle breath/ begonia lips/ lavender touch/ tulip genes/ for the girl of the garden.” 

Flower Festival following the Flower Show started with 22 schools comprising 214 students. They did excellent work in flower arrangement, Rangoli with flower petals, vase-making from discarded things, photography on nature, toys with fruit and vegetables and identification of the flowers. Lisa Pugh of UK and hundreds of others from within and outside Shimla appreciated the creativity of schoolchildren. The differently able children from Arushi School also participated in the festival this year and made vases from the waste material. Whereas the other activities reflect the creativity of the students, identification of flowers is the test of their knowledge.

This year Laureate Public School, Bharari, Auckland House School, St Thomas School, Blue Bells, Dhalli, and Chhota Shimla School lifted the flag for this event. Rupali Thakur, Director, Language and Culture, as Chief Guest, rightly said that creativity was an area in which younger people were more active than the elder ones, since the younger ones had an endearing habit of always questioning past wisdom and authority. She distributed the gift of books and certificates to all participants and appreciated SAGES for providing a platform to the children to showcase their abilities. 


Begonia! I love you. Please do not break my heart, I have only one. Break my bones instead, I have 206.


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