The tree

When I happened to step into the balcony of my flat in the morning after a night of torrential rain accompanied as it was with a vicious gale, the first thing I noticed was a bit of a void in the direction of my line of sight which normally did not intersect with a part of the balcony and a good part of the terrace of the two-story house in the neighbouring bungalow society right outside the boundary wall enclosing ours. By then I realised that a stout and big branch at the upper flights on the right side of the Krishnachura (‘Royal Poinciana’) tree I am used to seeing from my balcony was no more, being substantially broken down from the main stem and was precariously dangling above and across the boundary wall with a medley of sub-branches, leaves and flowers further threatening to go where gravity would pull them to. And that meant on top of a lot of spanking cars parked on either side of that wall.

Three things bothered me, in no particular order. Both my neighbours in the opposite two-story house and I would forego a part of the privacy (without having to pay any premium for this privilege) naturally provided by the leafy branches of the tree. The latter, which had a symmetrical expanse as it diverged upwards, well nigh lost it, much like a human shorn of an arm from the shoulder. A cuckoo that used to station itself on some branches and from the leafy incognito issued its unrelenting calls since early morning fell silent, probably confused by the mayhem had gone to a safer abode.

By mid morning there was a flurry of activities on both sides of the wall involving responsible men and a few concerned women, watchmen, safaiwallahs and later one or two babus in grey safari suits from the municipal corporation in-charge of the garden department. They paced up and down the sidewalk, looked up the tree and estimated its broken segments, furiously argued among themselves. An hour later, a thin agile young man armed with a chopper climbed up the tree and bracing himself at a convenient junction on the stem, methodically chipped at the sides of the broken branch before chopping it off close to the corresponding Y-joint, the huge panoply of branches and leaves and flowers being caught hold of and drawn safely down by two more workers from the department standing below. Some further pruning later those workers pulled the remains of the tree, much like an animal carcass, across and out of the colony on to the main road en route to its designated transit area of the municipal ward awaiting further denudation and decapitation towards an appropriate utilitarian end.

Presently, the reasonable and the practical men and women from our colonies, having successfully resolved the fall out of an act of god went their ways. Safaiwallahs got busy with their daily chores. Babus sped away on their two wheelers. Then the tree was left alone to reflect on its bruises and cuts. The places where the chopper had amputated the branches were looking white in the rising sun, bright and raw.

Perhaps in time the injured stem will be washed by rain of any memory of a presence and tanned by sun, collect grime and look like the others. Hopefully, its fecundity would serve the tree well and it might shoot out new arms thereabouts or elsewhere and grow leaves on them and again aspire for the sky, no less, and fill the void in the direction of my line of vision. When the air will rise, the tree will slowly allow its bruised hope to flow up and down the sinews of the branches for them to be swayed, with leaves aflutter and flowers aflame. In time the pint-sized birds will think nothing of their busy flitting across the branches and resume their preferential perch on the lightest among these dangerously tempting gravity. And the cuckoo will be back to pull me out of my slumber with amazing persistence. May be the tree will survive. And so will all those that animate nature.

Perhaps there would be no need to be despondent about this act of god or its human follow up. But I am not sure if nature would be always so resilient or forgiving.

(This is a slightly modified version of a post published in another blog of mine sometime back)



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