A long time ago, a little boy planted a Tree sampling. He nurtured it with utmost care all his life. After him, his children and after them, their children.
The Tree thrived in their love. It grew taller and stronger by the day. The leaves on it grew so dense; they gave shade to the owner’s entire house.
The Tree it seemed had become centre of their love. The children would play around it; the older kids would even climb up in glee. The elders found peaceful refuge for their mundane activities under the Tree; they would sit beside it to read or to talk of many a thing.
However, one rainy morning, the youngest girl came up to the Tree to talk as she routinely did. She said, “This is probably the last time we are talking, you know. Maa says since Dadda has been called over by God to take care of his accounts, he won’t be coming back for a long long time. However, in the meantime, we have to shift to a smaller house, you know, since we are one member less. She also says we can’t take you there as it doesn’t have a backyard. Not yet at least. So goodbye, Tree. I will always love you.”
The Tree could not fathom what to make of it. Who will now take care of it? Will it ever find love and be happy again? The Tree sulked as the days grew into months and months into years.
The house had long been demolished and a road was being paved in its place. They wanted to chop off the Tree too, (the Tree had overheard one of the workers talk) but the governing body would not allow it. However, it didn’t matter to Tree. Being alone, unloved and unacknowledged was as good as being dead. Gloom had withered most of its leaves and weakened its strength too.
One fine day, the workers had erected a Lamp post beside the Tree. The post would sleep most of day and come to life at night. The post was a very jolly fellow. It would call out to cars passing by, asking for any news. But no car stayed long to reply back. However, this would not demean his spirit at all. He would try again with the next car.
The Tree observed this keenly despite its sullen state. Curiosity overpowered his gloom and it asked the Lamp post, “Nobody ever replies to you, doesn’t that make you sad? Doesn’t that make you feel unloved and pariah?” the Lamp post looked at the Tree just for a flicker and joyfully replied, “I live to grow, my friend. I believe tomorrow will be different.”
The Tree shook its branches with a note of resignation. The Tree knew it was a matter of time before the Lamp post would give up. However, the Lamp post continued its routine every night without a hint of hesitation.
One night after weeks and weeks of calling out, a car passed by and before the Lamp post could call out to it, the car yelled back, “two new buildings have been painted in the city.” The car had zoomed past before the post could say thanks. And so it began. All the cars the Lamp post had called out to, one after the other, on their return journey brought their news. Soon the Lamp post and the Tree had heard enough to map the entire city.
Utterly surprised, the Tree asked how the Lamp post mustered the courage to not give up when nothing favoured it. How did it grow the grit to pursue on without as much as a twitch of hesitation? The Lamp post answered, “It’s very simple, my friend. I believed there more to me than just lighting up the road. However, in order for me to grow, I needed to push myself beyond my limitations or in other words, beyond my comfort zone. Hence, I stretched myself and found out all I had about the city. I can now, not just light up the path for a few metres, I can also inform the cars of any news of the city ahead.
”But it’s not just me; the same is true for everybody. Yes, you too. There’s so much more to all of us than just the mundane reason we are comfortable living with. You, my friend, had become far too comfortable in your comfort zone. You stopped growing. That’s why, when you were thrown a challenge, you withered. You submitted yourself to eternal sadness. Why can’t you find a new purpose? A purpose to grow once again.”
The words struck the Tree like a bolt of lightning. The Tree vowed to turn things around and find a purpose to live (rather to grow). The Tree once again grew to its full strength and bore innumerable fruits on its branches. Today, the Tree and the Lamp post not only guide the travellers with news and suggestions but also provide fruits and shelter.
A short story written for Ayushi’s Bookmark “The Tree and the Lamp”
It was an ordinary wednesday morning and I was walking along the Santacruz skywalk. I had just got done talking with my colleague regarding my appointments for the day. Out of habit I checked for any messages I might have received since I had last checked and as expected, I had 3 unread messages. I was texting and walking simultaneously, when I bumped into someone. I apologized without as much as even looking up. I had only walked a couple steps more when a plump lady in white salwaar kameez, who too was engrossed in her phone (watching some video with her earphones plugged in), bumped into me making me drop my phone shattering its screen.
I looked at her retreating profile and called out,”HEY!” with both my hands raised in an utter displeasure. She did not even notice. However, what surprised me was, neither did anybody else notice any commotion. Given that we Indians have a reputation to leave all work at hand and huddle up at slightest disturbance, I felt completely ignored and uncared for.
I picked up whatever was left of my phone and attempted to restart it in vain. Pushing the phone away in my bag and making a mental note to immediately visit a phone store at the earliest, I began walking again. My thoughts were still intrigued though by the way I was neglected by everybody when I noticed a young beggar’s kid (about 5 or 6 years of age) carving a horse out of a piece of wood. I had always seen this kid when I walked by, but never observed him. The precision and speed with which he was slicing the wood with an old Swiss knife (which I suspect he must have picked from some place or stolen it from someone) it demanded every bit of my admiration.
I went closer and stooped low so that I could observe his art better, he suddenly became aware of my presence and looked up with the widest smile his tiny face could muster. He dived in is rough jute sack and pulled out a couple wooden figures that he had carved and presented them all to me. I singled out a particular elephant which he immediately quoted “forty rupees, sahib.” I paid him a fifty rupee note and asked him to keep the change.
I wondered how I had never noticed him before. I did not have to think long for the answer; it was all around me. Everywhere I looked, everyone I saw were entirely absorbed in their mobile devices. Some in deep conversations, a few checking out text messages while others enjoying music/video. Not one of them cared about his/her surroundings.
Alas! Terminator has actually come true. The machines have enslaved the humans (of course, quite differently than delineated in the movie). I wanted to shout out to them, draw their attention to the obvious slavery. But who would listen? How many would even care? We humans have got into a deep rooted comfort zone with these gadgets. Taking them away will cause an existential crisis to most of us.
So what should I do now that the realization has dawned upon me? Should I continue my ignorant bliss or should I get out of my comfort zone and actually my life?