Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Sunflower is mine in a way

"You may know that the peony is Jeannin's, the hollyhock belongs to Quost, but the sunflower is mine in a way."
Vincent van Gogh (to Theo)Letter 573, 22 or 23 January 1889

It's easy to see what captured Vincent's imagination. It's definitely captured mine - these huge, bright yellow blobs of delight.

I guess my love affair with the sunflower began in childhood, somewhere in remote parts of Assam, where they grew wild, and untamed. My mother snobbishly dismissed them as large, unkempt and weed like. Soon more genteel flowers such as gladioli, orchids and cutesy little pansy beds replaced the sunflowers in our garden.

Then the years went by, and i definitely had no time to stop and smell the rosebuds, or see sunflowers. Till one christmas after i was married, and santa appeared with a little blue vw bug, with a bright yellow sunflower in the bud vase. This was the start of my love affair with the sunflowers again - sometimes it aggravated my sensitive nose and eyes, but there was no replacing the flower! When i said goodbye to Buggie, i left a large flower there for him in the bud vase. The dealer asked if I wanted to take the flower, but my expression stopped him hastily in his tracks, and he looked at my friends, as if to rescue him.

Turns out, Sunflowers get their name because they always face the sun - turning their flowers to track the sun's movement across the sky- a phenomenon known as heliotropis. Just like so many of us, constantly searching for light.

But i think my obsession truly started, three summers ago, when i first saw the Dutch sunflowers. Like everything in this mutant land, they were absolutely gigantic! Way taller than me, the flowers are larger than my well-rounded face! I stared in shock, felt like i was in 'Honey, i shrunk the kids'! I implored B to take lots of pictures, the result? Back in Delhi, i had curious people ask me , 'Didn't you go to Holland, where are the tulips?'.

This year, i patiently waited from spring through to summer. The hyacinths came and went, as did the easter lilies, azaleas, freesia, crocuses, and tulips. Plenty of tulips. Including an unattractive one called Aishwarya. Followed by roses. Here they were at last. My bit of sunshine.

Suddenly i didn't feel daylight deprived on rainy days. There were sunflowers everywhere. In the market. The shop windows. On my deck. In vases around the house. On my coffee mugs. Aprons. Everywhere. From Den Bosch to Brugge. We had friends and family visit, who insisted on touching and feeling them to make sure they were in fact, real!

I have been convincing myself they are real as well. Not a figment of magic mushroom induced fantasy. They are so shiny, so happy, so yellow, and people like. Ok, so i sound a trifle obsessed. But recently on yet another visit to the Van Gogh museum, it struck me; i wasn't the only one with a touch of the sun (flowers).

Meet me in Noord Brabant, and you'll see what inspired the master. Pieces of incandescent light, disguised as the rustic, simple sunflower.

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