Buen

December 17, 2017

‘The shedding of trees of Chinar is called Buen. It marks the onset of autumn and new beginnings.’

 

  

I

The morning was commencing its short-lived life, the wind bringing in the scent of the incoming autumn. The bright blue sky was speckled with flocks of birds - the birds getting a head start on their work. Amongst those various flocks was a flock of mallards, seeking refuge in the warmer winters of India.

One particular bird asked her co-flyer,

‘Do you see that tree, the big one?'

‘The one with the twisted branches?'

‘That would be the one'

‘And?'

‘I am going to take a detour. You all continue without me.'

‘But why? All of a sudden?'

Her words were stolen away by the wind and her friend had already dived.

 

II

Legends, myths, stories - that is how humans intend to stay immortal.  They leave their stories behind to be passed down the generations, which somehow get distorted in the way.

Nature has its own stories too. These stories are quieter and more hushed, only exchanged when the trees rustle and when the winds kiss the crowns of the mountains. These legends remain stored within the elements of nature, along with the secrets of humans.

One particular unsaid and unspoken story was about a tree, a maple tree. Brought in years ago and planted by Persian invaders, the tree was commonly called the Chinar tree in its local surrounding.

This Chinar tree had stayed in the same spot for decades, centuries rather. Its roots had been busy tickling the dirt while the branches attempted to poke the clouds.

Humans had come and gone, while the tree remained a silent spectator to their frenzied antics.

After years of being stationary, the tree now yearned to travel. New leaves would grow and shed every fall, leaving him empty and bare. He was his only constant companion. He felt like his purpose in life was to just give shelter to others. There had to be more.

 

 

 

III

It was another day, another beginning of fall. The Chinar tree had turned into a temporary redhead, waiting for its leaves to shed in a month.

Thud! Thud! Thud!

Something soft had passed down passed the leaves and branches of the tree, sending a shiver down his trunk.

The soft object lay immobile in front of him. It was an injured bird with a bleeding and disfigured wing.

You see, until now, the tree had often served as a guesthouse for foreign birds and local animals, but it had never been a hospital ward. Now, however, it neatly swept into its part. It deftly moved its roots here and there, so as to get a bit of mud on the fallen bird and called out his animal friends, the squirrels, and insects, who attended to the bird in a doctor-like manner.

It was then, that the birds drowsily, opened its eyes and swallowed the surroundings. The tree asked gently- ‘Do you feel better?’

The bird chirped weakly, ‘Do I seem okay?'

The tree chuckled and let the bird catch up on her sleep again.

 

IV

A few days had passed and the bird was on her quick path to recovery. The bird had been too weak to acquaint the tree yet but slowly once the weakness started slipping off, she returned back to her natural chirpy self.

‘So, how old are you?'

The tree got taken aback by the sudden barrage of words from her  former silent self.

‘Well, that is quite a personal and rude question to ask, if I may say so.'

‘I have heard that your kind live for 500 years or so.'

‘And why should I confirm that?' rustled the tree in an agitated manner and went back to tending to his leaves.

The bird felt like she had overstayed her welcome.

‘Oh well, I am sorry for intruding. I suppose I should go ahead with my journey.'

‘But your wing hasn't healed yet! You won't be able to fly.

His words came out too late because the bird was already perched on one of the branches, ready to take off.

She leaped with great momentum and after a few clumsy flaps; she was as graceful as an eagle. But the tree was right of course, the mallard spiraled down onto the bedding of the departed leaves.

‘Told you,' shook the tree as he laughed.

‘Can we please not talk about this?'

‘If you say so.'

‘Thank you very much.'

‘Around 1600 seasons have gone by since my birth'

‘Huh?'

‘I don't count my age by years but by the number of seasons that go by.'

The words were now tumbling out from the both of them, getting exchanged in tweets and swishes. The clouds, grass, other trees, and mountains were smiling at seeing this new friendship develop so rapidly.

‘It must be wonderful growing up in the same place, the same surroundings. Everything is so homely and familiar.'

‘Quite the contrary, actually. All these years I feel like I have had just one use  - to be of use to others. The animals and humans come and take refuge under my leaves. I have seen the same skies and the same mountains. I have heard of foreign lands, lands where there is just water and water ahead, no land at all. I yearn to see those but here I am, stuck and rooted to one place. I see them, the humans, with their strange machines that kill each other. The snow only here knows how much blood has been spilled here. They think that earlier there was no turmoil, but there is always turmoil amongst these humans which ends up in death. And look at me, my inner turmoil just persists, while I wait for nothing new to happen. Life is how it used to be and that is how it will continue to be.'

The bird stayed mum at this outburst of emotions. She could empathise but not relate. Things were different for her and the tree could sense her discomfort.

He susurrated and said gently,' Sorry for the sudden outburst. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable.'

‘Oh no, I didn’t feel uncomfortable. In fact it is nice that you are sharing your thoughts and feelings with me. I was just wondering how it is extremely the opposite for me. I keep flying the whole year round. I am always in the sky and barely on the ground. For me, the world is of changing landscapes. I see people from afar; I am never a part of this civilization that takes place beneath.'

‘I feel like I don't belong here either. Can you teach me how to fly?'

‘That is very easy. Let the wind guide you. You just go along with it.'

‘I am never able to do that. Whenever the wind blows, I just put in all of my efforts into not letting move me.'

‘Don't do that the next time, flow with the wind. It is a wonderful feeling.'

 

V

The bird had fully recovered by now and she knew that she had to leave. Her anatomy was such that she needed to live in the wetlands. Her clan was there too and they must have been wondering where she had vanished.

The tree also knew that their short friendship had to end here. He knew that he was cursed and could not be attached to anyone.

Hence, they never acknowledged the goodbyes.

The bird simply said, ‘I will come back next year for sure.'

‘Around this time of the year? I look different every season.'

‘But you do look the best during this season I suppose, for me,' said the bird cheekily.

‘Until next year.'

‘Until next year.'

 

VI

They both spent the whole year waiting, crossing off each sunset that went by. The tree grew his branches to make a nest for her while she collected mementos from over the world she could bring for her friend. If he could not see the world, at least she could show him snippets of it. Her beak used to be full of fallen leaves from trees she could show to him. It made the journey difficult, but it was worth it.

The tree did what he was good at  - waiting. He waited patiently for her to return.

 

I

‘I am going to take a detour. You all continue without me.'

‘But why? All of a sudden?'

Her words were stolen away by the wind and her friend had already dived.

The tree's friend, in her excitement, did not see guns being brandished from the bushes. Her excitement turned into terror when a bullet came and pierced her body.

Thud! Thud! Thud!

Something soft had passed down passed the tree's leaves and branches, sending a shiver down his trunk.

It was the corpse of his friend and this time he knew nothing could be done. She just lay there in the hollow of his trunk while he wept his silent tears like he was accustomed to.

 

VII

Four whole seasons had gone by and the tree was still coping with the fate of his life when one fine day, a slight breeze blew and tickled his trunk. It was cajoling him to move more, to not control his movements. The tree moved a branch, then another and another. Slowly and steadily, his whole body was swaying with the wind and he was giggling. He was not flying but he felt like he was and he couldn't have asked for more.

The breeze was new; he had always felt strong winds but never a gentle breeze. This breeze was new but familiar.

‘Is it you, my friend?' he asked the breeze.

‘Yes indeed, I told you that I would come and meet you.'

The tree looked into the hollow of his trunk and the bird had vanished. Only her belongings were there - the gifts she had gotten for him.

The autumn had brought in new beginnings.



Edited by Diya Mathew

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