These stunningly adorable flowers have a very interesting fact: in Bengali they have two general names depending on whether they are on the branches or on the earth. This is probably because the fallen flowers have a distinct beauty and also because with these flowers, it is actually much more common to find them scattered on the floor than up on the trees. The flower is called ‘shiuli’ when it’s fallen and ‘shefali’ when it’s on the plant. Both the names, especially together, are sweet and romantic, and appear in an olden Bengali song that I really like.
This flower having two names reflects the wonderful and various characters born from it: those corresponding to the sun, snow, and stars. When they’re abloom on the trees at night, they look like happy, creamy stars against the sky, glowing with lunar warmth. When they fall they are like petaled, cartwheeling snowflakes, as sweet as vanilla frosting. And when the flowers are upside-down, they are like fragments of an exploded sun – their centres like sweet little orange straws, reminiscent of a blackbird’s beak, and the petals the softened white of heaven.
A handful of shiuli gathered in the morning yields a scent fresh and crisp, and reminds me of golden leaves, dewy grass, and autumn rain. Walking out to my grandfather’s garden in the misty mornings of Bengal, to find these magical flowers scattered on the brown-sugar soil, is definitely something I miss.