My uneventful morning drives reach their first decisive turn at a T Point, which I call the tree point, because a tree stands there. It is decisive, precisely because I have to take either a left or a right turn, because going straight is not much of an option as the tree stood exactly there. I always took the left turn. In case you wonder, whether I can take right, yes I can but only to reach a dead-end. So left is definitely right here, if only, turn wise.
The tree at tree point is rooted just beyond the road that ran perpendicular to the direction of my current travel, which is west. There existed a few awkward moments everyday when we, me and the tree, passed each other. The perceived awkwardness is down to simple fact that two living things that came across each other so often remained resolutely unfriendly, exemplified in part by lack of formal handshakes. In real, there is no awkwardness as there were no meetings, our meeting point or non meeting point to be accurate is just a desolate spot except for the existence of the tree forever and for my passing presence for a few moments of each day.
Today, from a distance, things seemed to change at tree point. It wasn’t desolate. I noticed a small crowd and sensed that something is amiss. But what’s missing is the tree, that very tree that made the T as tree point. It wasn’t exactly missing; it fell on the road just some moments ago, being cut. The men cutting the tree are getting ready for their final blows to separate the tree from the stump. In the plot just beyond where the tree once stood alive, one could see few men digging. You know immediately that a building is coming up. One more step towards grey world, I chuckled to myself. As I drove past rubbernecking at the fallen tree, I chuckled at my own thought – “will there now be a funeral for the tree!”
For some unknown reason, hours after I saw it, the image of fallen tree popped up in my mind. I dealt with the thought just as one deals with an irritating pop up on computer screen. But the image came back to me at regular intervals, like a spam mail appearing in inbox declaring me as the winner of multimillion dollar lottery. Against my wish, thoughts of the tree started flooding in.
The daily afternoon WhatsApp update of unhappy events in the area by self-appointed reporters included a power cut, a missing puppy and a car crash. Evidently the tree did not inconvenience any, drooled over any or didn’t make any dent. There wasn’t a forwarded message about it from any of the multiple WhatsApp groups. Understandable, the tree was never a celebrity nor did it crash on a celebrity.
As the evening shadows lengthened, on my way back home, I passed by the tree point or tree less point to be precise. The tree still lay by the side of the road and a young couple is walking past it. Probably, they first met under the tree. The boy’s eyes might have met the girl’s eyes precisely at the moment some flowers fell from the tree and the boy fell for the girl. The couple, however, walked away holding hands, past the tree, unperturbed. Perhaps fallen trees won’t exactly evoke romantic vibes.
Facebook didn’t have pictures of the fallen tree. No one posted a selfie with the fallen tree. I should have posted it. It would have been a novelty. I would have captioned it “mourning the death of tree @ 8 am today”.
Twitter was silent, just like the fallen tree. Is twitter down? Is it hacked? But it’s the tree that got hacked, blow-by-blow.
The prime time news panel discussion didn’t have time for the fallen tree. May be they understood, ironically, this one time, that no amount of shouting can bring back life of the tree. Did anyone say tripped trees make higher TRPs? This is news which the nation didn’t want to know.
There was no candle light vigil. True, the tree is not one of the multitudes of victims in a massacre or a poor innocent man executed due to lack services of legal eagles. The tree though shared a common story with them. Its life ended, as abruptly as theirs.
At bed time the familiar childhood dread of the dead returned. That haunting picture of a ghost sitting on a tree branch flashed before my eyes. But, It’s a tree and not a human that died today. Will trees become ghosts?!! Will they haunt their killers? Will they exact vengeance on the people who simply drive by as they are being killed?
While asleep, I had nightmares of up rooted trees floating in the air chasing after me across vast empty areas of deforested land. In another dream that followed, I was summoned to a court in heaven. This heaven didn’t resemble the heaven I imagined. An impressively tall gate covered by enormous green creepers opened into a large but dimly lit hall. It seemed like the walls of hall were made by tree standing side by side. Wild creepers made the roof of the hall. There was a large gathering but there were no men. This is a gathering of trees, plants and bushes. It’s the courtyard of kingdom of plants.
A voice roared…”you are declared guilty for the deliberate act of not protecting a tree today. This by the standards of this court is tantamount to willful participation in its murder. Therefore, you are condemned not to find any tree shade whatsoever for the rest of your life”. Immediately every single green thing of the court vanished and I involuntarily covered my eyes with my hands as blinding light from a thousand suns hit me.
Waking up next morning, I went straight to the balcony hoping that the morning breeze will blow away any lingering memories of the tree. A patch of lush green just enough for parking a car unexpectedly caught my attention. That’s the “green area” for which I had to shell thousands of rupees, during the purchase my house as preferential location charges or PLC. Hundreds of thousands of families whose houses came up on farmlands or mangroves have a similar experience.
Is it fate or simply poetic justice?