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Based in an indeterminate future, when humankind's activities has destroyed all trees, here is a tale of budding hope.
Based in an indeterminate future, when humankind’s activities has destroyed all trees, here is a tale of budding hope.
This year, we bring you again the Muse of the Month contest. We have received some wonderful entries for the March Muse of the Month, and had a hard time picking just 5 winners. Congratulations to all of them!
The cue for March 2016 was:
“Most people trusted in the future, assuming that their preferred version of it would unfold.”
― Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland
The first winning entry is by Deepa Arun.
“Mommy, mommy,” it was a tone mixed with laughter and curiosity, striking in unison, coming from a child.
“What came first…a seed or a tree?”
After a moment of silence, mommy spoke with a dash of amusement. “I think it’s the seed, or can it be the tree. You ask me such baffling questions that I babel,” winked mommy.
“Heeyaa! Mommy, look, I can sway like a ship- wooh, woosh.”
“That’s great my dear. Did you drink water? I see that you haven’t, since morning. It’s already noon. You need to grow healthy and strong.”
“Mommy, I don’t want to drink water. Can I have something different to drink?”
“Honeybunch, water is an important part of our diet. The intake of water mixed with sunlight will create sugars- the source of our energy. It helps us to grow wide and tall.”
“Mommy, is water the secret of your prettiness? When can I become beautiful like you?”
“Very soon, my love!” Mommy patted lovingly at her child’s slender arms.
“Mommy, before I drink, I have a question. How did we come to this island?”
“It’s a very long story. Our ancestors were from far off lands. They lived, thrived and flourished in the dense jungles of Amazon. This island, then, was covered by snow.”
“Mommy, where is Amazon? Can we go there?”
“Sorry, my love! We cannot go to Amazon. The jungles are all vanished. It’s submerged under water. All that is left on the face of this elliptical egg, is this piece of island.”
“How did Amazon and the remaining land go under water? How did Amazon look?”
“Amazon jungles were near the river basins of Amazon. There were many famed jungles all around the earth, but, Amazon jungles were the largest. It was a unique world of blue, green and brown: blue- the color of water, green- the color of creepers and my ancestors and brown- the color of mud. I too haven’t seen my ancestral land. My mother and grandmother used to tell their tree hood stories. I used to listen to them with rapt attention. They lived in a canopy, in a sprawling neighborhood with other family members. Animals used to make the trunks as their homes. The strong branches accommodated nests of winged creatures called as birds. It was a utopian world. The motto of life was ‘love all and help all’.”
“Mommy, when will such creatures come to us? I want friends in my life too.”
“Darling, I am also hoping for their arrival. We still have the fishes and planktons as our friends. Though, they do not talk our talk, or sway our sway, we are neighbors. Presently, it’s just you and me, along with the fallen trunks of your grandparents and family. They protect and guide us as our guardian angels,” mommy tried to cheer her little one.
“Oh mommy! I love you. You are my best friend,” the child interlocked her arm into her mother’s trunk. Then with curiosity, she asked, “What happened in Amazon?”
“Everyone were happy. Mornings were welcomed by songs of birds, dances by animals and whispers of insects. The trees were busy in the day as they were factories providing oxygen. They took in the carbon-di-oxide and released oxygen. It was a beautiful barter system between trees, animals, birds and ecology. Everyone grew hale and hearty. In fact, you and me, still follow the tradition of using carbon-di-oxide and exhaling oxygen.”
“Mommy, those words are too long. I call them the ‘in thing’ and ‘out thing’.”
Mommy smiled with ease at her young one’s wit and continued her tale. “The situation changed with the advent of homo sapiens…man. My mom described them as funny looking creatures with two hands, two legs, burly hair, a face and pot like belly. The mouth and belly were the worst part of their anatomy, both being discontent always. Initially, they were nice to my family. They used to hug my people and sleep beneath my family’s shades. I say that they considered my people as sacred hoops, beneath which men spent the sun lit days and star lit nights. And slowly but surely, they became more shrewd and powerful.”
The child gasped. Anxiety ringing in her voice, she asked, “Did man grow wide and tall like us?”
“They were short and stout. They became powerful with their tools and weapons.”
“What are tools? Do we have tools?”
“Darling, we too have tools. Our tools are wide branches, roots and leaves. Their tools were different. They had axes and lumberjacks.”
The young child looked at her mother and bent her slender trunk towards the sturdy trunk. “Mommy, I am scared. Will they come here?”
“You need not worry. The humans are no more. They have become extinct.”
“Whew! How did they become extinct?”
“My great grandfather and his friends helped men by allowing their barks and branches to be used for firewood and construction. The other young trees supported men by providing fruits and roots. We, being trees, resonate to the needs of others. Gradually, our community saw an influx of more humans. They became more innovative. Their needs increased by the day and intelligence sharpened by the night. They came out of our sacred hoops, learnt to make fire, made inventions and discoveries, challenged nature and ecology. One of their formidable inventions were the metallic machines. They started killing birds, fishes and animals for food. They started cutting my people, their saviors, without guilt. New machines and new food were grown. They tamed few animals that listened to their orders and killed the others that didn’t. Our community dwindled and theirs began to grow. Our senses that relished fresh air, water and soil started tasting poisonous gases, metals and buzzing of machines.”
“Mommy, were all humans bad?”
“There were a few humans that cared for us. The birth of noble souls of certain cults were under us, the trees. Some of them considered us as gods and respected and preserved us. Some men also believed that apple trees had a historical connection with them. Thus various believers, followers, eco-centric minds protected us. But they were outnumbered by arrogant humans.”
“Mommy, why did they do terrible things to us?”
“It is called hedonism. When a creature becomes the leader of all living beings, they get puffed with power and pride. They became more rich and sophisticated. They had a perennial love in dangerous machines and chemicals. They believed that they were the keepers of present and future. Though they trusted in the future, and assumed that their version would unfold, the greater power called Cosmos had a different version. With supremacy in his stride and thoughts, there followed differential views. Man became enemy to his own clan. He started waging war against his brethren. With power came war; with war came miseries, diseases and death. It was ironical to see him win fights with other species, but lose with his own. He was given terrible warnings by nature in the form of floods, earthquakes and volcanoes.
He did not listen. He vehemently destroyed more of our community, bringing an imbalance in ecology. The carbon-di-oxide increased with a meagre supply of oxygen. The protective cover above, called as ozone tore away. The Earth’s gravitational pull increased and started acting like magnet. Many huge boulders in the sky came as fireballs and fell on Earth. There was utter chaos. Fire and water overtook the land. All living organisms including the great humans perished in the deluge. Water gobbled all the land.
My mother and her family swam across rivers and oceans. They floated on water for many days and found refuge in this piece of island called as ‘Antarctica’. When all the ice and water swept away the remaining land, this island bulged into prominence. I was born here as a sapling from my mother’s roots. She took good care of me and guided me till you broke from my roots. Someday, my love, I too will fall, but you will have your sons and daughters who will grow with you. It will all be like the bygone days…the days of birds, animals and us, trees,” thus speaking, the mommy tree rustled her young tree’s leaves.
The young tree looked at the golden sun, the bulky clouds and calm waters. She thought about the forthcoming happy days when there would be more trees, plants and good creatures. Her thoughts were disturbed by a feeble noise. It was a tiny sapling breaking free from her mother’s roots who peeped to the world beyond.
“Look mommy, I have a sibling. A new shoot has emerged from you.”
The mother just nodded and dropped a few leaves and sap welcoming the newborn to the new world. The threesome looked towards the horizon with hope and purpose.
Deepa Arun wins a Rs 250 Flipkart voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the 10 top winners at the end of 2016. Congratulations!
Image source: lone tree in a barren land by Shutterstock.
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She would serve everyone fresh food and serve herself the stale rice and curries from the previous meal. Some days after finishing the leftovers she was so full she would not even be able to even taste the fresh food.
When I married the first time, my MIL told me that during the Navratri the lady of the house should not eat stale food. ‘Gharatlya bai ni shila khau naye’ — in refined upper caste Marathi.
I was just 26, eager to please, not versed in patriarchy or feminism, and it seemed like a positive thing — respect for the goddess in woman.
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