Just when everyone was trying to put the pandemic nightmare behind, the Agri-Horticultural Society of India (AHSI) has dashed all hopes of nature lovers enjoying Kolkata’s much-loved heritage flower shows after three long years.
Avishek Shah, the administrator of the 800-plus-member-strong Facebook group — Agri Horticultural Society, Alipore, Kolkata, confirmed the news in a post on January 23 that the flower show at Agri-Horticultural Garden, Alipore, has been cancelled for 2023.
For years, the flower shows have been a must-visit on the social calendar of every nature lover in Kolkata. The flower shows could not be held for two years because of the pandemic and regular visitors had been hoping that their go-to winter event would be back in all glory this year.
AHSI was set up in 1820 and the flower show was started as a promotional event to motivate growers and farmers
AHSI officials announced in the beginning of the year that the flower show that could not be held for the past two years because of COVID-induced lockdowns would be held in the first week of February 2023. However, on being contacted, the officials refrained from clarifying why the show has been called off once again.
“AHSI was set up in 1820 and the flower show was started as a promotional event to motivate growers and farmers to grow good seedlings and quality saplings. The event slowly scaled and became the glamorous flower show that we know of today. We celebrated the bi-centenary year in 2020 with a grand show and then, Covid struck,” said Anupama Mitra, former director of AHSI and now horticulture consultant for Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority, to know the crisis revolving around the heritage flower show.
Explaining the probable reason behind the cancellation of the flower show for the third year, Mitra who was the director at AHSI till 2021, said the council has been facing a funds crisis. “Flower shows require huge financing and since it is a promotional event, there is no profit for AHSI from it. The present council needs to work on that front to make the show happen again.”
William Carey, a missionary, founded AHSI on Alipore Road in 1820. Sprawled across 21 acres, it has flower gardens, greenhouses, a research laboratory, a cactus house, a library, a children’s park and a training centre for horticulture studies.
AHSI held two shows every year — the Winter Flower Show in January and the Annual Flower Show in February. In 2020, to celebrate 200 years of AHSI, a consolidated mega flower show was held in February.
Atin Bose, a flower grower from Khardah in North 24-Parganas, has been a judge at the AHSI flower shows for the past 24 years besides being a participant in other horticulture shows for 35 years. “The heritage flower show at AHSI brings together various rare and unique plants on one platform. Not only participants, visitors, too, wait for this show,” he said.
Mitra shared how the cancellation of the flower show has aggrieved the horticulture community of growers and horticulturists. “Many other flower shows are held in the city now but those aren’t as grand as the AHSI shows.”
AHSI held two shows every year — the Winter Flower Show in January and the Annual Flower Show in February
Amar Modok, another flower grower who took part with his chrysanthemums and winter flowers in the exhibition every year till 2020, had attended the meeting held by AHSI for conducting the 2023 flower show. “The society is facing a financial crisis. Payments are pending from the 2020 show is what I gathered from the last meeting I attended,” he said.
Regular visitors, too, are crestfallen. “I have been visiting the flower show since I was a child. I was eagerly waiting for this year’s show so as to take my daughter who turned 10 recently and has started taking interest in plants. It is sad that it has been cancelled this year, too. Hope it’s held in 2024,” said Sarbani Ghosh.