The Mango Tree
The Mango Tree6 mins 299 6 mins 299
It was a hot summer evening in 2002 as I sat contemplating on the patio of my rented room in small town Gondia, during the third year of my engineering course. It had already been a year since I had been expelled from the college hostel for creating a history of sorts – I was the first student in the roughly twenty years of existence of our college, to have fired a bullet inside the hostel campus (in hindsight though, I can’t stop laughing upon myself, because this incident looks more like an incident of juvenile exuberance fuelled by the uncontrolled surge of adrenaline and other similar hormones during our late teens. I am sure each one of us would have gone through this stage in their respective lives)! More on this in another post.
The third-year exams were over and soon everyone would be crowding every available inch of the trains moving out of the Gondia junction towards the expansive and remotest corners of our India! Only to come back after a couple of months with sweet memories as well as homemade snacks and sweetmeats overwhelming the senses with the fresh and myriad aromas of home. Clearly visible, was that unmistakable touch of a mother’s love which oozes out of the dishes made with utmost love and care for a part of themselves which would be separating from her for months on end with rarely as much as a phone call every weekend to reconnect. That too, if one was lucky enough to be in their rooms or near the landline kept outside the warden’s quarters, jostling with dozens of others expecting that golden call from their near and dear ones.
Here, on my patio, I sat alone in a dilemma contemplating about the sequence of events that had started defining not only my character but also my thought process, ideologies and overall outlook towards life and the various shenanigans that accompanied it. The thought of not going home and staying alone for a couple of months was killing me whereas the decision to go home, was equally (if not more) painful!
It was during my first year in college, that during a visit home, I had found it – one of the most beautiful and sweet things that I had ever experienced in my seventeen years of life. It was the stone (seed) of a Dussehari mango, one of the most delicious fruits which I had ever eaten. I had made a decision even before I had finished eating the mango. This has to be shared with everyone around me! Although I had gulped it up completely without as much as raising my eyebrows while at it, I decided to plant it in my veranda and nurturing it with all the care that fruit of its stature deserved. Within a month it had grown up to around two feet in height with a bushy appearance and lush green leaves. I openly took pride in this achievement and boasted about it to my friends back home. Somehow saving someone’s life or being the reason behind the creation of a life form (be it humans, animals or plants) gave me a strange high, full of bliss and inner peace which can’t be explained in mere words.
Before leaving for my college, I had managed to extract commitments from both of my sisters to tend to the plant with the utmost care and attention. As soon as I reached college, I followed up on it regularly over phone calls and ensured I updated with the minutest of progress. A year had passed by.
It was that time of the year when everyone goes home after the annual exams. My second year’s exams were over and I couldn’t wait for the time to reach home and have a look at my tree with my own eyes. Even if that meant traveling in the general compartment of Indian railways due to non-availability of reserved seats. The motivation was such that even the sixteen-hour journey in one of the most claustrophobic environments (people who have ever travelled in a general compartment of Indian railways will understand what I am talking about) couldn’t deter me from anxiously counting the hours and minutes before I was reconnected with my creation – the mango tree.
My happiness knew no bounds when I reached home. Lo and behold – the mango tree had grown up to be a handsome and bushy hunk of a tree, five feet in height and birds and insects of all hues and sizes calling it their playground. Two months had passed away in a jiffy! Soon I found myself standing in the railway platform waving goodbye to my scores of friends, my relatives, brothers, sisters and parents. Travelling back to college used to be an elaborate affair those days and would end with me boarding the train and my friends trying hard to catch that last glimpse of me waving goodbye while desperately trying to fight their tears. How melodramatic, one would wonder!
The sheer number of people coming to see me off could easily rival that of any local Neta worth his salt being given farewell by his hangers on! Interestingly, during one such event as I climbed into a compartment full of young army recruits, they couldn’t resist surrounding me as the train started chugging out of the station and started enquiring about which frontier or advanced post was I posted! My short hair, along with the teary-eyed friends and my sobbing mom were definitely the factors behind the thoughts in the minds of those young recruits - that I was on some sort of mission impossible and might not return alive!
I was in the middle of the third year of my course and it was already six months since I had visited home when it all started. My parents and sisters had desperately called me up one evening and explained how the tree that I had planted had resulted in huge cracks in the concrete flooring of the verandah adjoining it. Although it was growing up so aggressively, there were no signs of flowering or bearing fruits even after a full two and a half years. They had decided to cut it off!
Before I could request them to hold on so that I can travel back and look at the situation myself, the call was disconnected. It was not before a week that I finally reached home and rushed to my verandah. To my horror, there was just emptiness, a void and what looked like a dead stump, in the place where once stood a magnificent creation about which I was so proud! Heartbroken, and without speaking to anyone, I returned back to college the very next day – without the regular fanfare to which I was accustomed.
Here I was, six months after that horrible incident, contemplating whether to go home or not. Unknown to me, streaks of tears had already rolled down my cheeks and that area had turned sticky after drying out within minutes due to the ongoing summer. During these last six months I couldn’t gather the courage to even call my family, and, I’m sure they too were fighting the same conundrum!
After a lot of thought, I finally decided to go home for vacations. Being a fighter by nature, I never believed in the principle of escapism. Running away from the problem was and can never be a solution, it was my firm belief!
As soon as I reached home as if by a matter of habit or long subdued reflex action, my feet spontaneously took me to the verandah where the object of my love, once stood tall.
New leaves had sprouted out of the stump!