The tree, a Peepal, stood at a T-junction. Behind it could be seen Varkala railway station and in front of it a road going I know not where. Probably Google would tell me if I asked. It is just that I haven’t asked it as yet. I love trees and this one, resplendent in pink tinged green, caught my eye as we drove in from Kappil (A beautiful place!) to Varkala, on the way to Trivandrum.
The day was stiflingly hot. It didn’t seem to matter in the least to the young leaves. They quivered in suppressed excitement, as if they knew of something none of us did. Perhaps they did too, that it would rain later in the day, and were trying hard to contain their exhilaration at the prospect from showing, so as not to give the game away too early to the mortals on the ground below.
By the way have you noticed how the leaves of the Peepal tree keep moving all the time, almost continuously, even when there is absolutely no wind blowing? It has something to do with the length of the leaf stalk and the broad structure of the leaf, or so I am told. Not being a science student myself the dynamics of the thing is a closed book to me. If someone tells me that those are the reasons, I take it in good faith, of course, depending on who is doing the telling. Anyways, this constant motion of the leaves must have baffled and puzzled people in the past because apparently some of them attributed it to divine beings using the tree as residence.
I pondered about the tree that stood among the hustle and bustle of the city. How long could this Peepal tree have been standing there? Probably the locals knew how old it was. I bet though that when it started out as a wee little plant there was no tarred road or a T-junction to speak of, only mud paths or may be not even that. Now it even has a railway station near at hand and can see trains chugging (not that the present lot of trains do any chugging) in and out. The tree must have seen many of the buildings around being constructed from scratch. It has in all probability watched with an indulgent (or resentful?) eye, the place grow to its present form around it.
The tree brought to my mind another one I knew rather intimately almost a quarter century back. It stood right outside the gate to the army quarters we called home in Secunderabad, just a few feet away from the iron gate that creaked each time anyone pushed it open or close, and the mehendi bush hedge that went all around the front-yard. I loved the tree (yes, I LOVE trees) for the cool shade it provided, the way it soothed sore eyes with the abundant green leaves that graced its branches, the constant musical chatter it provided in the otherwise quiet environment of the cantonment area.
One particular branch of that tree was devoid of leaves. It swayed alarmingly when the wind blew strongly and worried for my young son and also all the others who had to walk underneath it to get to our house and the next and last one beyond, I requested that the MES look into it and have the branch cut if necessary. After many a frantic call on my part (whenever the wind blew strong), they sent over a couple of men to have it checked.
The men came climbed the tree, broke off a few dry parts, but declared the main branch fit though leafless. It wouldn’t fall any time soon, they opined. I wasn’t convinced. Are you sure, bhaiyya? I asked. Wouldn’t it be better to cut it so no mishap happens? But they insisted nothing of the sort would happen and left without cutting the bare branch.
Truly speaking, I hate it when trees are cut, except when it is a danger to lives around. In this matter I am like Dogmatix. If you are a fan of Asterix comics, you’d know who I am talking of. Every time a tree is cut, Dogmatix sits down and howls. I haven’t done that yet, but that’s pretty much how I feel too if/when I see it happening. So imagine my happiness at what followed.
When it was December, the said tree had shed all its leaves and stood totally bare. About a month later, I woke up one morning to find the magic of tiny leaves that had sprouted all over the tree, even on the branch I thought was dead wood. The leaves grew day by day, from a lighter green tinged with pink to a darker shade of a full grown leaf. The bare branch was totally covered in beautiful dancing leaves. I was, and still am glad that the men left that day without cutting it down.
Note: The picture above is of neither trees but of one in the vicinity of the residential colony where I stay.
©Shail Mohan 2015