Trees at Sanskriti


Chris Mooney-Singh is a visiting research scholar at Monash University in Melbourne Australia. During his residency at Sanskriti Kendra, New Delhi he dedicated one of his works to the Trees of Delhi found in and around the Kendra premises.


New Year, Delhi Winter

The falling pipal leaf
is a page turned in a book
I can’t decipher.

Peaked at the prow
it is also a ferryman’s boat
cast on the lotus pond.

I would get in that craft
and rock its green ribs
and sail forward, but

I see the pond keeps it
knocking gently beside
a new lotus, as pink at the core

as a girl ready for marriage:
”Don’t go, don’t leave me.
I have not had enough

green touches from you.
Who will I end up with?”
Like the heart-shaped leaf

that tapers to a nib
I am sitting here poised,
in winter sunlight, yet

what to say to this
just-opening bud about
how the petals tend to fall?
I hold out hope beneath
this tree of green hearts,
but what to say, what to write?

Chris Mooney-Singh
29th December 2010



Ashok Tree

I walk evergreen avenues
of serrated ashok leaves,
relaxed as droopy fingers,

then look up at your trunks
straight as telegraph poles.
Yes, it’s no wonder Buddhists,

Jains and Hindus revere
what is tall and strong,
without complication.

And beneath one of you
Prince Mahavir renounced
all at Vishaili. Meanwhile,

you heal the wombs
and disorders of women,
taking away dark thoughts

of depression, even suicide,
replacing them with dreams of
topiary and emerald lawns.

Yet, do you work as well
for men? I am reminded
of India’s greatest Ashoka

who lost his will to fight
on the blood field with Kalinga
seeing then, the penury

of a life without peace
wisdom and compassion
Are you exclusive

to the female sex, ashok tree?
because we, minor Ashokas
have lost the feminine balance

in ourselves, smothered
inside cities of confliction
Stunned, taken aback

by the chill of winter,
I am awakened by the smell
of fresh bark and elegant

down-hang of serrated green
palpinnate leaves, Yes,
I am in awe of you –
tree of no earthly sorrows
under which, once upon a time
Lord Buddha was born.

Chris Mooney-Singh
Dec-Jan 2010-11



Champa Grove

Dear sisters, don’t worry.
This is not your time.
Winter has stripped you
naked to the knuckles –

ugly fat digits nail-bitten
right down to the ends.
Winter has left you
with a leprous look.

You did not see it coming;
you were too busy dancing
into the rush of boyfriends
bee-buzzing your ears.

Yet, nothing really lasts,
not even such neglect
at the end of the estate
where your champa grove

hides winter’s last mice
and an old yellow cur
hunts and hunts them under
your grey stunted trunks.

Party time will come again
The white buds will pop
through your straining fists
like a magician’s trick

of silk handkerchiefs,
unfolding yellow, the colour
of egg-yolks. Again, you will
be the dancing queens

in the bloom of womanhood
when honey-lust moves
in pollen swirls among you
and frangipani will make

you fragrant again – full of Joy,
the most expensive scent
packaged for the shelf
in New York and Paris.

Beauty is a hoax played
on youth by an old crone.
Better to know the chill.
Feel its full cold blast.
We have no other way
to find a lasting escape
from the season of Ugly,
dear sisters of the champa.

Chris Mooney-Singh
Dec-Jan 2010-11



Jamun Tree

You are not in the mood
to talk today, despite
your commanding height,
your thick tough trunk
good for railway sleepers,
your windbreak stance
at the side of the garden.

Is it the winter fog,
or those irate peacocks
screeching off after leaving
dog-like droppings
at your feet? It seems
you would prefer
we show decorum..

Grouch of an old maid
you have been living
with the family
far too long. So we tiptoe by,
as if past a room
smelling of underpants
and old brassieres
drying on a radiator.
What can we say about the old
we’re taught to respect?

Is it because this is
the cold dark time when
you feel fruitless
before your purple bullets,
astringent as soap,
the size of olives
have yet to plump up
the thin ends of your twigs?

It’s said you helped
Lord Rama survive
14 years in the jungle,
that you’re the colour
of Lord Krishna’s skin;
and a cure for sour turns
of the liver and even
diabetes. Yes, you are the tree

of medicines, yet not lauded
like the pipal or banyan
those reigning patriarchs,
noted for sheltering philosophers.

No jamun, you are
a sour old gripe in the midst
of winter, luring some upward
to shake free your raining fruits,
men willing to be boy-rustlers again,
to climb all over an old maid’s limbs.

Yes tongues will be stained
to complicent purple
and gums dyed in the colour of love.
You are not helpless,
branding your chosen
and can tell them off:

“Hey! don’t you forget
what I gave to you
from boyhood to manhood,
what I taught in the darkness
underneath the moon.
What I fed you on,
what I led you towards in knowledge
of the fruit of your loins.

Don’t play with me, boy,
I will expose those deeds
hidden in the secret garden
of the family hermitage.
Let’s not pretend
we are so innocent
and let’s also be frank.
I remind you again
through the purple stain of your theft.
Don’t forget who I am.”

Chris Mooney-Singh
Sanskriti Kendra,
Dec-Jan 2010-11


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