Saturday, April 4, 2009
It is Story Time !
Who doesn't love the beginning "Once upon a time..." with anticipation ? I always loved story telling sessions at school and at home.
My father though not much educated, is good at narrating stories to little kids. He has a way with them. He will twist and turn same old stories and recycle them for the day or rather the night.
My ten year old daughter goes to bed only after the mandatory story session. She is now grown up enough to predict the course of most of the stories. But she still loves them !
So for a change let me narrate a story. And let me see if I can match my father !
Once upon a time, there was a village with a lot of people. And there was a huge Mango Tree. It was so huge and so old, no one in the village knew about it's origins. But people always had stories about who planted it and who all had watered it and how it has come to become a symbol of pride for the village !
But what is a story if it doesn't have characters, twists and turns and a theme ? And then an End ? Can a Tree alone be enough ? No, we need more and hence here we go !
The Tree yeilded thousands of mangoes every year, week after week without fail. Even during off season it had something for the people. As we know, it was a huge Tree and hence it covered a large area with its shadow. There wasn't a single tree which could be compared to this Tree in the surrounding villages.
People traveling far and wide came to rest under the Tree for the cool shade it provided. They often ate their food under the Tree. Thousands of birds came to rest on the branches of the Tree. The melodious songs of these birds added to the wonderful atmoshphere.
People used the outer bark, small broken branches and dried and fallen leaves as fuel in their hearths. The mangoes were very juicy and sweet with a lot of nutrients. But many young people preferred the raw mangoes and threw stones at the Tree to get raw mangoes. The magnanimous Tree tried to satisfy everyone.
Well, it was by all means such a Great Tree. But nothing in this world can be cent per cent perfect. So our beloved Tree too had its share of problems. As years grew, it become harder in the bark and softer in the roots. The fruits too had become lesser and less juicier. This is law of nature !
But people couldn't understand this, rather didn't want to understand. People always like to complain, as I have discussed in my older post. So they had a list of complaints about the Tree. And these were some of the complaints.
The Tree has become too big to climb. The fruits are too higher up and are not easily reached. We need tree-climbers to fetch mangoes and they charge a lot of money. The Tree is sheltering some snakes and scorpions in the holes under the roots. The snakes are dangerous and are biting or harming people. There were rats and bandicoots who were eating food grains from the stores. The fruits have become less sweeter with too much harsh fiber content. It isn't safe to rest under the Tree anymore due to snakes and scorpions. Thus the list of complaints was really very very long.
All this while, the Tree was still doing whatever it could to yield fruits, give shelter and stand strong. But people are people and couldn't stop complaining. They were fine with buying fruits from the market. They had constructed houses now and all of them were better off than they ever were. But unfortunately they were not willing to give credit to the Tree for the yeoman service.
The Tree started realizing it was growing old and was not going to hold on forever. It looked around for other trees and structures, but was not satisfied. It decided to hold on in spite of criticism and old age. But the time and tide wait for none and on a stormy night with a huge downpour, the Tree finally gave up the fight and collapsed.
With that, a lot of surrounding structures got damaged. It ended up devastating many houses, water pipes, electricity lines and telephone connections. But the Tree was gone and people got together to cut it into pieces and use it for furniture and for many other purposes. In the immediate aftermath of the shock of the fall and during the process of rehabilitation, nobody realized the real loss. The magnitude of loss was not understood by people, but for a few.
Then came the summer. The people found out that their houses weren't cool anymore. They had become too hot and intolerable. There was no cool breeze that the Tree assisted to soothe the place. The snakes and scorpions still persisted around the place, but the amazing and assuring shadow of the Tree was gone.
The birds had left the place and the song was missing from the life. Travelers found the life miserable because they now had to visit costly hotels to eat food. Hotels demanded money and sold their own food. This was going to become expensive for people.
Thus it was after some time and with great regret that the people realized that the Tree they all were criticizing was finally gone and will never be replaced. But alas, what is the point in complaining now? If only they had cared to take care of the Tree without harming it when it was around...
Why do we fail to realize the worth of people when they are around ? This whole story is about my Uncle T. M. V. Shenoy who left us on 24 Frbruary 2009. I called him Manthu ! He was the Tree in the story. He yielded millions of fruits in his lifetime. He helped thousands like me to build a home and make a life.
I am one of those birds who sang when he was strong and solid. I am also one of those little boys who threw stones at him and got raw mangoes in return to enjoy during summer vacations. I am also the traveler who ate my food under the shadow of comfort he gave. But unfortunately there were the snakes and scorpions and the rats and bandicoots. I too complained about them. I too complained that the Tree had grown too tall and the tree-climbers were ruling the roost.
But today after the Tree is gone and the dust has settled down, I realize the heat has become intolerable. The shadow is missing. The solid presence is missing. The soothing breeze is missing. The lilting song is missing. The fruits are gone. So many people are suffering because we all failed to realize the enormous value of the Tree when it was still around. The snakes and scorpions and the rats and bandicoots are still around and are still looting the store rooms. But the Tree is gone forever !
The snakes and scorpions and rats and bandicoots will thrive wherever there is a Tree. The Tree can't do too much to thwart them, because they too are living creatures and usually don't harm the tree but use it to their advantage. If we keep complaining for all the negatives about the Tree, we will never have time to appreciate the greatness of the Tree. There will be millions of birds, snakes, scorpions and rats but it is hard to find a great Tree.
If only we could realize the value of great people when they are still around... We will not be felling trees in future ! Miss you Manthu !