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“Ghar-wapsi”

This year, August has been pretty undecided. Should I go with bright blue skies with fluffy white clouds or gray skies with ominous dark clouds? Sunlight filtering through leaves or the rain drops sliding off leaf tips? The sun’s rays making patterns on floors or muddy puddles on pothole-ridden roads for cars to splash pedestrians? Allow Shail to dry her clothes to a crisp in the hot sun on the clothesline outside or make her run to collect them all and put them on the clothes drying stand indoors? You see what I mean? Not able to make up its mind,. And yet, August’s indecisiveness has been our gain. Sort of. The sunny days followed by days of rain – or sometimes mere hours of each taking turns – has meant that we have had a month free of extremes. A lovely month so far weather-wise, It feels like I am holidaying in some resort without ever having to move out of my house.

There have been sad happenings too in August, the loss of greenery in and around my house being one. The rosewood tree in my neighbor’s yard, the one which stands outside my window and whose leafy branches cooled my spirits (and gladdened my heart) each time I glanced out, was shorn of its luxurious ‘locks’. It now stands bare, rather like me with my crew cut. But then, I am told by those more knowledgeable about these things than me that such is the fate of rosewood trees. They need to be thus trimmed regularly so they grow in girth. Then so be it. Each of us has a destiny to fulfill and that of the rosewood tree is to grow wider so it can be of use to mankind.

The neighbor on the other side, not to be outdone, has cut down her moringa tree, the ramphal tree, also some of the branches of the two mango trees that grow in her yard. The wall of greenery between our two houses has been utterly decimated. Now I can see right into her kitchen. Not with my eyesight of course, but you know what I mean, my field of vision is not limited by greenery. With better eyes I probably could have seen right into it.

What hit me hard though was the new drains in our street. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against drains as such, or new ones being built for rain water to flow downhill. In fact, it is something for which the residents had been clamoring for quite a while. But it meant digging up the space along our compound walls where every resident had planted flowering shrubs and/or crotons.

One morning in August, I heard a commotion outside and went out to the balcony to check. There was a huge truck depositing gravel by the wayside opposite our gate. ‘Oh, road repair!‘, was my thought. Little did I know what was in store, namely, digging of drains. Soon an excavator moved in and started uprooting all the bushes and plants that made our colony roads a delight to walk.

There stood my yellow bells, who though they grew outside the boundary wall preferred to push their branches through the iron grill into the compound in an attempt to come back, of their own volition. This, by the way, is true ‘ghar-wapsi’ (returning home), not the other kind where a religion supposedly takes back into its fold those who had earlier converted to another religion. Anyway, as I watched the excavator’s ruthless arm dig the bushes out and fling them aside, my heart broke. The hanging hibiscus, the jasmines and a few of croton bushes were all gone in a jiffy. What’s more, the butterfly magnet, my precious lantana camara, was also sacrificed at the altar of progress. I could have cried as I watched them being butchered, except that I didn’t. I gently closed the door behind me with a heavy heart.

The rest of August got drowned in cement dust (Cough cough!), the noise of drills (ours is a rocky area) and of men (there were no women) cheerfully talking as they worked. Crossing the newly dug ditch by stepping over planks laid for the purpose whenever one had to go out was an adventure. Everyone hoped it wouldn’t rain too much and prolong the work. But what do you know? Capricious August actually obliged, and kept most of its rain on hold, at least till the major part of the work was done. But yesterday, it could hold back no longer and let the skies gush forth. It has been pouring ever since. It is probably checking if the new drains work.

Work in progress.

© Shail Mohan 2021