Seeing my mother buy garlands of white, beli blossoms on summer evenings was a common affair. She would neatly warp the strands of white around her hair bun or pin them within her locks in a floral braid. The beli flowers bought at dusk would have the tender petals lying dormant, but 'wake' up from what seemed like their eternal sleep as the night progressed.
The snowy corolla added volume to my mother's braided hair, covering most of it with a snaking, white, perfumed streak. I was fascinated; its charm lingering still.
I cannot say with certainty the English name for 'beli phul' -- the fragrant blossom grown in the Indian subcontinent, which, as I learned today, is also the national flower of Indonesia. In all possibility it is Arabian Jasmine.
But a flower by any other name would smell as sweet. With a maddening fragrance that can arouse the most sensual experience it is a common flower worn by women during the Asian summer.
Humayun Ahmed paid his ode to the flower 'beli' in his unforgettable, psychological thriller “Debi” where the protagonist Ranu would hallucinate the company of an imaginary deity whose presence would be preceded by the strong fragrance of beli.
In fact, beli is commonly used to adorn Hindu deities and also used in worship of Buddha.
Yet, it is possibly in the adoration of the feminine form that beli is widely connoted for. The quintessential Bengali belle wears her beli in style, exuding her charm as she walks by, mesmerising everyone around her. The white shade of the beli makes it alluring, adding a notion of purity for all its wearers.
Summer brings in a riot of fragrant, white flowers. For those who romance the seasons, cherish these seasonal offerings with awe. So the next time you encounter a girl selling beli garlands in the traffic stoplights, call her, give her a five taka note and choose a floral lock. It will not only fill the hearts of your loved ones with joy but also draw its fragrant spell on your entire day.