Rana Preet Gill
There was a banyan and a peepal tree and their friendship endured hundreds of years, I was told. I used to go to my village every summer and would find them deep into kinship as the long roots of the trees got entangled with each other. Some roots, instead of going downward, had travelled horizontally, as if only to find a way into each other’s arms. There was something about the giant trees that made me nestle in their shade for comfort and warmth.
The village folklore spoke of a propitious turn of events invoked by blessings to those who prayed to these trees. There were vermillion threads draped around the two that grew in numbers. The red threads might have faked an ethereal glow and looked esoteric, but it took a part of their natural beauty away. Some days, colourful clothes would be tied around them to fulfil the wishes of those who wanted to be heard and given a patience audience by the tree gods. But perhaps none asked the trees what they wanted.
They say you cannot question faith that dictates the fulfilment of wishes. Every year blind faith let them asphyxiate the trees by pouring oil in the roots, strangulating them by the burden of extinguished hopes. They were making the trees wearier by letting them carry a million dreams and desires on their ever-gasping roots for fresh air. And slowly the peepal started shrivelling away. It did not tell them it cannot carry the burden of the fulfilment of their wishes. It only shed its leaves that never appeared again and shrunk its roots which failed to get nourishment amid the mad scramble faith evoked.
Now whenever I go, I only see the façade of a tree bereft of any life, waiting to fall down. Someone started seeing it as a hazard and pointed it to the people with power in their hands, who ordered it to be cut down. Along with the threads and the colourful clothes, they shorned a million hopes that clung to the last vestiges of the dying trees for their own resuscitation.
But it was too late, for the tree was chomped off and only a stump was left that indicated its presence. Now the banyan stood alone, weary, bearing the other half of the dreams and hopes. But some noble soul prophesised that it would not stand the exaggerated expectations and would collapse soon under their weight.
They had to bundle off their faith and direct it someplace else. They removed the threads and ornamentation and decided not to let the banyan befall the same fate. They started pouring water in its roots, and not oil. Now it stands tall and free of all the melodrama and overbearing pleas. They left it alone only to build a shrine at the far corner of the village.
The banyan lost its sanctity, but it is not complaining at the loss of attention. It is finally breathing and leading a peaceful life.
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