I haven’t read the newspaper, not in a long time. I haven’t written, not in a long time. But yesterday, when after so many days, I picked up the Times of India lying on my couch, I had no idea why this tree festival article caught my eye, and made me read that page longer than any other, ultimately ending up in this tangled representation of a multitude of experiences. I was actually surprised, I mean, I have never been much of a strong idealist for plant-life, I love greenery and blossoming nature just like the next person, then why the pause?
And then suddenly, out of nowhere, a small scene flashed out. A little girl, sneaking chili seeds out from the potato sabzi in her lunch, just like every other day, only this time, not throwing them into the bin, but secretly putting them into a small white plastic Shikakai pot hastily filled up with damp mud, in the few minutes that her mother dozed off. Who watered it every day from her water bottle, fearing someone would discover if the water in the jug seemed lesser. Who looked at the tiny pot every day, and prayed that it grew enough chilies so her mother wouldn’t have to buy from the grumpy old vegetable lady. Who was terrified when her parents finally discovered it, fearing the worst, and jumped in ecstatic joy when they allowed her to keep it and gave it a nice, cozy place of its own in the window! Who looked in wonder at her pot after a few weeks, that contained a miraculous transformation from few seedlings to a handsome, swaying chili plant, and decorated it with stickers and glitter and chart paper and wrote in proud letters – My Tree. Who took it to her school and showed it to everyone and celebrated the plant. Who still has the white pot, although the plant, too big to grow in it now, had to be shifted to the park.
My relationship with plants has just been so natural that I don’t at all remember making a conscious effort to do anything in that regard. For no reason, I just choose them. More moments started flashing out in random order – I remembered caressing the jasmine plant when I plucked a flower, giving a long speech in front of the neem tree that always greeted me every morning when I looked out the window, reading tree chapters in my textbook with extra interest. I remember listening awestruck to stories of my grandfather tending to his neat vegetable garden in our village house backyard, I remember climbing onto the slanted rooftop to wave huge bumble bees off the bean-vines (even though I felt dead scared of them), I remember pleading excitedly to my mother to take me to the huge farm of her aunt where they used to grow everything that could be grown and who didn’t buy a single food item from outside except salt, I remember my great-uncle teaching me the names and the origins of different varieties of spices that he’d planted in his kitchen garden.
And the most splendid experience of all – spending the last four years of my life in companion with a tree that had become an inseparable part of me – The Banyan Tree of the CoEP campus. It was my spot for contemplation, its thick stem a hiding place for dodging professors who would walk by it to the next lecture classroom, dozing off beneath its cool aura as we waited for the next practical, to go so far as to conduct an entire club meeting underneath the natural canopy it provided! Every day included at least one trip to the tree, even if it had to be the only reason to walk to that side of the campus. The countless moments spent beneath its benevolent branches, blink smilingly up at me now, as I can’t help thinking, trees are companionship. Trees understand. Trees soothe. But trees also rebel. Because trees, are life. And that is why, trees are memories. 🙂
(c) Anuradha Ganesh