It had been a particularly long and mundane day that called for some unwinding in style. As dusk fell, I went to the terrace of my home to meet them. Darkness had blanketed the street and the neighbours were too busy to notice. The home is not a luxurious high-rise apartment. It is a normal second floor residence that gets rented out to a normal bachelor living a normal life. But the terrace is just the right height for this. Tall enough to escape the street light’s glare but just low enough to see them in the eye. In fact, this was one of the prime attractions for me to rent this house. I come here often to see them up close and talk to them.
It was humid even in the night. I waved them a warm greeting. They stood in silence. They were all around me but none moved an inch. I knew. It had been a fair interval since our last lengthy conversation. They would take their time to come into the groove and connect with me. But I waited. I threw random questions at them all, one by one, in all directions, hoping that someone would break the ice. Then the tallest of them all waved in response. A gentle waft of breeze caressed my face. The conversation had begun. How I love these conversations with the trees neighbouring my terrace!
Strange, but yes! I talk with trees. Not all trees. I am not a wizard. Don’t expect me to make it rain when I wish. I just have my own bunch of botanical friends- coconut trees- who stay rooted around my home and we strike an occasional conversation every now and then when the wavelengths sync. Just like a bunch of nutheads catching up on stories of good old days!
I talk to the trees just like I talk to humans. They respond in their language. This is a language that I have learnt over a period of time and I am still working on improving my vocabulary. They nod, wave, sway and stay still. When they are happy they give a breezy response just for me. When there is laughter, all the trees join in and a gust of wind hits me in the face. But I am very hesitant to tell about this love to anyone. At best I may be considered a poet and at worst I may be sent to an asylum.
It all started one night in a college hostel when I was high on some good philosophical literature. I wanted to communicate with the soul of the universe. I stood at my balcony and tried to connect with the nature around me. For hours I stood there observing the minor movements of trees around me and I tried to engage them in a conversation. I would ask some question to them and let my imagination interpret their response. It was crazy but it was also good fun. The more I talked to the trees the more their responses made sense to me and about five hours later I realized that I had been there unmoved all night and completely engrossed in a conversation with nature. It was almost transcendental. Honestly, I was afraid when reality struck!
For fear of embarrassment, I never told this to anyone. But I tried it again the next night. That time, I could feel the passage into the trance sooner than the previous night. I felt like a baby learning the language of the mother. I blabbered something. The trees smiled at me and tried to teach me some language. It was special! For two years after that night I stayed in that room and I made very good friends with those trees. I even shared my first love story with them and they even gave some ideas to win the love of my girl. Honestly, their notions of romance were much different and none of their ideas worked. My ideas were not that great either and later when I wanted a shoulder to rest and tell about my break-up, it was the trees that came to the rescue.
Later when I shifted base, I found this home and at the very first sight I had a hunch that I could make some very good friends here. Since then, we are here, chatting up many interesting stories while the rest of the locality slept in peace.
Trees don’t speak like humans. Much of human conversation has become text-based now-a-days. We send text messages or ping in chats. Love blossoms in text and break-up notifications come in text. Occasionally we talk to people around us and flex our vocal chords. While such evolutionary change happens with humans, trees prefer the old school of communication. They demand to earn their trust before they open up. One never really knows when the friend request gets accepted by a tree but intuitively a gentle nod will show. You will know when you see it. Befriend one and it introduces you to the gang of its own gradually. That is how I made friends with a big group of coconut trees around my terrace in three years.
One fine day I mustered some courage and told about this strange communication to a dear human friend. He smiled. He checked that I was sober. Then he began to laugh wildly. I did not insist much but he did not leave me. He wanted me to show him a demo. Obviously I failed. My friends were too shy to respond when he was watching sarcastically. I know that you too will look at me sarcastically now. Join with the world in mocking me but try this in private with a coconut tree in your terrace. And remember to keep it confidential even if you find some luck.
Talk of trying, I had tried connecting with other trees in other places often. I have made efforts to open a conversation with trees that speed past me through windows while travelling in a train. I fail always but later I realised the explanation. Surprisingly it was human logic that came to my aid in clarification. Even humans cannot communicate with other humans under such circumstances. It takes time. Imagine being washed ashore a tribal island somewhere in the middle of the Pacific and you are surrounded by men who wear leaves. You don’t just say hi and hi-fi them over a beer. If you spend a considerably long time and if they do not turn out to be cannibals, you can communicate and even make friends with them in due course of time. But even that won’t guarantee immediate communication if you are washed ashore another island on the other side of the world.
People are constantly talking to pets, parrots, teddy bears and pillows. But they simply don’t see the potential with trees. Well, at least trees have life as against stuffed bears. While this happens on one hand, we have on the other hand the tree lovers who hug random trees. This looks equally stupid to me. I asked my friends curiously one day what they felt about these tree huggers. They loved being hugged by the ones whom they love. But they were completely uncomfortable being hugged by strangers. One can love all trees all right but to hug any tree and pose for a photo? Does it not embarrass the tree involved? They have their own versions of emotions too.
Thinking back, the first tree that ever connected to me emotionally was the one in my compound when I was a 10-year old kid. It was an old wide neem. I play in its shade every evening. I watch squirrels run up and down its trunk with great amusement. But it never became so close to me like a friend. It was there. Just.
Then one fine day they cut that tree down when I had been to school and when I returned home it lay in pieces in the ground. Leaves and branches torn all over from its body and the soft pulp crushed under human feet. I carefully walked to my door that day without stepping on any of it and felt very bad for its demise. I refused to come out that evening as I did not want to see its remains. Only after it was gone, I could realise how much connected we were in that phase of my life. The shade was gone. The squirrels were gone. A part of my life was gone. In its absence, I wished it would somehow miraculously spring up from beneath the ground and connect with me again. I had once tasted one of its fruits when it was not still cut down. It was bitter, which was the exact taste that it left behind in my memories after it was gone.
This incident suddenly came to my memory and I told this to the coconuts. They seemed to understand and pointed to me that even before that night in college I had made friends with a tree unknowingly. I was only a kid to realise what I was doing then. Then I wondered if kids will understand my love if I told them I talk to trees.
I waited for the right moment. My niece visited my home one day on vacations. She was a charming little young lady who had just lost a tooth and was getting introduced to the tooth fairy tales in life. After everybody fell asleep, I took her to the terrace and introduced her to my friends. I had told them about her before and they were equally excited to meet her. I was a bit hesitant myself how to open the conversation. After many shadow trials, I told her “Janani, meet my friends, the trees. I talk to them often. They are very excited to meet you today and they want to talk to you too.”
I was half-prepared to call it all quits at the moment she laughs at me and take her to bed. But she gave a gentle nod and simply stared at the trees for a while. Then one of the trees gave her a nod. She figured it out. She told them that she had lost a tooth recently and asked them how long would it take for it to grow back. Frankly, my friend did not have an answer and he just gave a shrug but soon followed it with a reassuring sway and a breeze. I told her that he is telling he does not know the answer but assures her that it will grow back soon. One by one, the rest of the trees joined in the conversation and we stayed up late that night and had many a good laugh. The wind was constantly floating around with warmth and smiles in that street’s skies that night.
While returning to bed, I asked my niece if she ever thought that I am behaving strange by talking to trees. She gave a puzzled look and told me that she does it all the time with trees surrounding her home. It had taken her some time to get accustomed to the new trees here and she was really glad that I introduced them to her.
We have grown up. That is the problem!
(Image courtesy: Navaneeth K N)
(Image courtesy: Navaneeth K N)