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The mango tree is dead. It was killed yesterday by humans wielding powerful tools, and mourned deeply by me.

Perhaps it was time for it to be put down for the tree was a weak and scraggly looking one. No lush crown of leaves adorned it, no bloom had burst forth and hence no mangoes were forthcoming this year. The few branches sticking out of its tall trunk did have some greenery attached, but unfortunately it was the leaves of the loranthus that predominated. A parasitic plant, the loranthus invades successfully colonises branches of woody trees and unfortunately this mango tree was one such victim of its proliferation.

As soon as I spotted the sorry state of the tree and the loranthus infesting it after moving here, I kept a keen eye out for the Pale-billed Flowerpecker. If loranthus be flourishing on a tree, can Pale-billed Flowerpeckers be far behind, was my logic. You see, flowerpeckers of all kinds are fond of berries, including those of the loranthus, and are responsible for spreading the seeds to trees they visit. Come to think of it, the poor mango tree never stood a chance with the little thingamabobs doing the unloading of seeds on to its bare branches. I bet the tree never dreamed that the one it sheltered would turn out to be its nemesis. Or maybe it knew but didn’t care.

I found no flowerpeckers in the days that followed. What I saw instead were crows. They built nests, laid eggs and raised their brood on the highest branch of the tree. I watched the parent birds feed the little ones and also saw the chicks test their wings and finally fly off. Other than them, some Magpie Robins and Southern Coucals too made brief stop overs, but no flowerpeckers came by.

When I heard the chainsaw yesterday, I put it down to some construction work happening in and around. After all interior work is still going on in many of the apartments. But then I looked out of the window and saw a man perched on the tree, there was one on the roof of the house next-door and two more were standing below on the ground holding ropes. They set to work, systematically cutting each branch off, followed by the sturdy trunk, all this done without harming either the boundary wall or the roof of the house between which the tree was sandwiched.

It was swift work and when it was done, there was only empty space and some bits of powdered wood on the roof to show there once had stood a mango tree at the site. The view from the window of my room somehow looked different, bare and forlorn.

Death of a tree is always a sad affair. Scraggly or not, I miss the tree. But everyone has a time and when the time arrives we need to go. No questions asked. In the meantime the crows are looking for other places to build their nests.

©Shail Mohan 2022