Raat ki Rani
April 29, 2009
My favorite Indian flower is raat ki rani: queen of the night. Its scientific name is Cestrum Nocturnum.
Its flowers, small and white, open up only at night, and only for a few weeks – at the beginning and the end of summer.
Its smell is unlike anything else. Heady but subtle, fresh but sensual, feminine, exotic, mysterious, intoxicating.
If you ever walk by a bush of raat ki rani, you stop in your tracks. A bit like in the Axe ads. It smells like jasmine, but with something else. Or, should I say, something less. It’s lighter, sweeter, more delicate. It’s deadlier too.
There was one outside the first place I lived in, here in Jaipur. Then I moved, and just like I missed being woken up by peacocks, I missed the heady scent of raat ki rani. Until I moved into this new flat. My building looks rather dull – a new construction in typical Indian tastelessness. But outside, creeping over the wall from the neighbour’s lush garden, is a bush of raat ki rani.
My friend Ruby, lovely blonde African girl, put some in my hair when she and her mum stayed with me. And my auto-rickshaw, knowing I love it, is adamant he will get me pots and pots of raat ki rani for my balcony.
Then truly, my evenings would be pure bliss: sunset on Moti Dungri and the scent of raat ki rani.