Datura – or is it Brugmansia – I can’t tell the difference, grows on the river banks in Munnar, the town in South India on which I based my fictional town of Mudoorayam in Kurinji Flowers.
Here is Ginny, the main character, when she first sees these plants while painting outside the temple above the town.
“Drawing forces me to look beyond the first superficial impression and really see a place for what it is. The way light and shadow falls, the pattern of colours, the interplay of shapes. Even the most mundane things present themselves with a special beauty when you really look at them. As I drew, I found a kind of charm in the scruffy, little town that had tried to squeeze itself tightly into the space between the rivers, but had been forced to overflow in a haphazard sprawl. Everywhere on the riverbanks and the roadsides were long, white, trumpet-shaped flowers, hanging in clusters, the whiteness of the flowers brilliant against the green foliage.
I burrowed in the depths of my bag for my little tin paint palette and began to paint the muddy river and its banks festooned with litter and flowers. Hector had fallen asleep in the sunshine, his panama hat over his face. He was one of the few white men I knew in India who refused to wear a solar topi. He woke and looked over my shoulder at my work.
‘Mmm—you’re actually not that bad at it.’
‘You don’t have to sound so surprised.’
‘I’m not surprised, Mrs T. And I did say you’re not bad. Which is not quite the same as saying you’re good.’
I jabbed the paintbrush in his arm.
‘Why are you always attacking me, woman? Slapping my face and stabbing me with sharp instruments. You’re dangerous company.’
‘Well, stop giving me cause, you beast. Tell me what those white flowers are, Mr Know-It-All.’
‘Datura. Or angels’ trumpets to badly educated philistines like you. They grow everywhere around here. Don’t try to eat them, darling. They’re highly poisonous.’
‘I’ll bear that in mind.’ I put a dab of paint on the tip of his nose.”
You can buy a copy of Kurinji Flowers here