The Tree and The Grandmother
The Tree and The Grandmother9 mins 144 9 mins 144
This is the world that my grandmother has carved; with no pain, no rush and scars of the past. This world is free from lust, hate and bigotry thus it is my fantasy. The sky remains untainted by the contaminants of the city, the river flows over the rocks perennially in its majesty, the pond is the spotless mirror and the breeze is tranquil with no fear. The eloquence of the scenery tempts me to jump in those pleasant days of innocence, where no shadows haunted our existence. The bottle green Banyan tree aged and frail, left uncared for century now cries in despair. Its shade still pacifies the passer-by, and on its branches hang thousands of experiences lingering to touch the roots. “Its roots are weak to support its vast expanse and onus, thus it grows these aerial prop roots” she used to say “…they persevere to touch the roots throughout their life” “So, do they get to touch the roots?”
I asked innocently “It already has, but doesn’t realise!” “How?” “You won’t understand, you are small” she embraced me “you have years to wait for, to understand this simple analogy of life” “But?” “Shhh! Do you want candies?” “Yes!” And like this she bribed me to relinquish my curiosity. We all used to get few candies to calm our buds “Let’s play a new game now!” said Nisha while she inflated balloons out of her nose “The Tree and The Grandmother!” Rehan came up with an idea, “What is it like?” I inquired “Um… One of us would become the grandmother and will have to find all the trees” “That is same as hide and seek” said Ananya while she feigned a yawn to express her denial to the proposal Rehan was cunning and he persuaded us to play the game with a couple of new rules that gave the game nothing new except an identity, and like this we played candy-bear, lion-sheep and father-mother, apparently innovative but not monotonous. Hidden in those games was our childhood and we sought it while engrossed in hide and seek. None of us knew that this would become our life, hiding from our insecurities and seeking joy in materialism. Even though no one lives here today, it seems to be ‘home’ and what makes it so is the lulling memories of the past, ‘the fleeting paradise’.
“Enlightenment is the road to endeavours” she said while I was busy licking the chocolate wrapper “…when Lord Buddha saw suffering everywhere, he resolved to find the eternal truth of life but this would cost him going against all the people who had ‘expectations’ from him” “What are expectations” “You won’t understand, should I get you some ‘ladoos’?” “YES!” we clapped in harmony She rose, her pale clothes wrinkled with creases looked like torn and crumbled paper. Hardly did she give any time to herself, she was so unusual, the beads in her boneless hands never stood static neither did her lips ever took a rest to talk about anything except our names besides the hymns and mythological stories, her stooping posture and slow pace was so mind-numbing and peaceful. Her hair was always tucked tight behind her head with a red ribbon, and she used to smile always. We could see a halo around her, but I wonder whether it was our extravagant imagination that illusion us.
Her face is not something I remember; I fancy it to be wrinkled and spotted but I can’t fancy more. I remember my mother shouting at her for making us eat sugars and calories. “I have fed my children all these relics, so did your mother must have done when you were young” “But time has changed, now go away and don’t let them eat these!” She must have felt extremely petty and disheartened, as she didn’t talk to us further and I didn’t see her eating or drinking the whole day, in the night when all of us were asleep Rehan peeped in her room “She was holding Grandpa’s picture and was sobbing” he said the next morning What made that day even more wretched was our aunt, it was just five days that we had gathered here at our grandma’s home and she asked us to pack our bags. I remember that Ananya was seeking all of us and she vexed as she saw us sitting in our rooms packing our bags. “You all cheaters!” she shouted
We couldn’t even get to say bye to grandma, I saw her standing at the door wiping her clamped cheeks. All of us cried that night, and what troubled us was the guilt to not hug her before coming, we fancied it to be the last time we could see her. Grandma used to beware us of the early rains, “It is harmful” she said, grandma used to say a lot, you must have observed but it took us years to understand that her words were meaningful as they sounded and as they meant metaphorically. The hills, valleys and flowers were all that surrounded the ‘home’. And for 6 years we were coerced to not go there, I wonder what prompted our parents to take such a stern decision at once? And what astonishes me is the fact those 6 years were enough to loosen the tie of relationship we all had. Those years forced us to grow up and the jubilant memories of the past became nostalgia and we forgot it like a good dream. May be all this was my imagination, maybe it was one my craziest and wildest fantasy that I was yearning for years and maybe all this was a creation of my mind, but what provided me relief was my grandmother who like the Polaris has witnessed all these events of our childhood.
She welcomed us the same way as she did years back, candies in her hands and a warm hug that could collect the entire universe in it. The piping hot food aromatic and flavourful waiting for us and a fresh lemon beverage that would quench our thirst for love. Such was the power of her love that it reminded us of our good times, all the cousins who spent hard time in the car annoyed and arrogant now beheld each other with an uncanny affection. But that was the last time we saw her, while we were sleeping on the terrace under the cool shade of the stars, our parents were downstairs waiting for someone – ‘the doctor’. And the doctor was trained to not call it a straight forward death, rather he used his knowledge of euphuism – “SHE IS WITH THE GOD” was all that he said. This event did not melt our parents’ heart to lament or mourn as we did, as the inheritance documents were successfully signed by their mother living alone in her farm house for years. It took us another 11 years to realise how mean and heartless our parents were.
Thus, we decided to come back here for the last time before our parent auction this ‘home’. But standing at the cliff end, all of us stand awestruck by the height and strength of the Banyan tree, a banner hangs on it named ‘Kausalya’s world’ in our grandfather’s handwriting who named it after hers. The tree is an elaborate sculpture crafted out of time. Covered in the dense fog the ‘home’ looks like heaven and the lawn as gardens of Eden. The flowers are blooming, the oak trees flourishing and the hills seems to be tilting towards north. “Hills keep on reducing, it is a natural process” she told me in private The tree, the hill, the enlightenment and expectations were all the biggest and finest teachings she gave me.
And sitting on the terrace we all ponder what she meant by the tale of autumn. “Once upon a time, there was a charming prince ‘Autumn’, an allegory of wisdom her mother was his guide and his father were his excellent mentor. One day prince Autumn woke up in distress, he was looking for his most precious treasure. It was a dream that was haunting him, a Satan came his nightmare and threatened to take all his wealth and treasure. Last night, he told him in his dream that your most valuable treasure is with me, so the king summoned all the senators, ministers, soldiers and guards – “Get me the most valuable treasure” the soldiers and guards headed to south, the senators rushed to the locker and ministers pondered what the treasure could be? A precious and rare stone worth millions was provided by the guards, they found it in the deepest sea and in the darkest corner.
The senators brought the entire wealth. The king asked his son to check, but his heart was pounding, head was clamped and breathes were unstable – “No father, it is gone” the king announced battles and expeditions to get what his son needed, but the chief priest advised them to stay calm and send the prince for meditation, and after a celebrated departure the prince was sent to a cave where he could sleep in consciousness.” “So, did it help him?” I asked “Yes! After several days, when his mind gained sanity, he woke and found himself on his bed as an infant, and his mother took him in his arms, and thus he got his most valuable treasure” “What?” Ananya jumped “Where is the treasure?” added Nisha “Was it not the jewels or money? I asked, all my cousins nodded in harmony “You will be surprised but you also have that treasure!” she smiled We were amazed, “Childhood” she replied “…childhood is the most valuable treasure”
That day we didn’t understand what she meant, and today while sitting for the last time in this cosy dining room, our phones are ringing, we are impatient and Rehan is smoking, I indeed realise what she meant by the most valuable treasure, but I ponder again whether it was us or them who snatched it from us. This utter idea of poverty and being deprived of love, innocence and faith persuades me to believe that it was us who failed to try. Now guilt grows from grief, and turns into anger. I am waiting for her to return and tell us the tales of our good time when she witnessed our abundance. It is only hope that keep us alive as this ‘home’ will be no more ours,
I prayto God that a beautiful family comes to live here and the children relish the surmountable pleasure of their treasure that is hidden beneath this building. Then this house would come to life and witness another set of frivolous and cheerful events that would render its divinity back. By then our children would also grow up only to realise that their treasure is no more. ‘समय ही सत्य और सार्थक है’!” she said [ Time is the most truthful and meaningful]