Vivek's very own tamarind tree

Vivek's very own tamarind tree

TREES COMPANY!

Vivek was scared. His habit of popping coins, buttons and everything else into his mouth had brought him grief once again.

When he was four years old, he had swallowed a 25-paise coin. His parents had been at their wits end. His mom scolded him, but she was in tears as well. Somebody said he had to be x-rayed and if the coin was caught up in the trachea or intestine, he would have to be operated upon. It had been raining heavily that night and getting a doctor to make a house call had been impossible.

Vivek had been made to swallow bananas — plenty of them. Somebody also suggested a strong dose of castor oil! While his parents and neighbours stayed awake fretting, Vivek slept soundly. Luckily, the coin came out when he used the loo the next morning!

From then on, everybody made sure he didn’t pop small things into his mouth. But Vivek was itching to pop everything, from marbles to colourful buttons, into his eager mouth! As his seventh birthday approached, his habit took root and grew stronger.

One morning, he visited his friend Nithin. His friends — Chella, Jyothi, Rishi and Krishna — were all there. Nithin’s uncle, Shiva, had a fabulous seed collection in different colours, shapes and sizes. He had put away the seeds in small packets with names pasted on each packet. He showed the children his collection.

“If there ever was a famine or if the earth went dry, these seeds can be put to good use,” Shiva explained. “Everyone should collect seeds and preserve them,” he added. The seeds fascinated Vivek. He began dreaming of starting a seed collection himself. And as his dream turned rosier and rosier, he unthinkingly popped a seed into his mouth! The seed was small and promptly went down his throat.

“Uncle! Uncle! Vivek has swallowed a seed,” shrieked Nithin. Uncle Shiva patted Vivek’s cheeks and smiled.

“Uncle, will it grow into a sapling in Vivek’s stomach?” asked Chella, round-eyed. Uncle Shiva smiled again. “What was the seed you swallowed?” he asked.

Vivek didn’t know. He was worried. What if it grew into a tree? “Could it be the tamarind seed that you were holding?” asked Chella.

“Oh, then we could get our supplies of tamarind from Vivek,’’ said Rishi with a chuckle.

“And because he will be rooted to one place, Vivek need not go to school,” said Krishna.

“Then, monkey’s will pee on him, and birds will....” smirked Jyothi.

“We will soon know. Seeds of trees usually germinate in a week and grow to some height,” added Uncle Shiva, thoughtfully.

Vivek was in tears. It was late and he had to go home. He washed his face to hide the fact that he had been crying. His mother had made his favourite tiffin — mango dosai. But poor Vivek barely looked at the delicacy. “Amma, just give me bananas,” he said. “Why?

Are you sick? Then, you should take some kashayam not bananas,” said his mother. Vivek tried to put on a brave face. “Amma, today I want bananas.”

Wondering what was wrong with him, for he rarely asked for fruit, his mother placed a couple of bananas on his plate. Vivek wolfed them down. And spent a long time wondering about seeds and trees before falling asleep.

First, the branches came out of his ears. Then they sprouted through a hole in his head. And even before he realised it, the roots had wound themselves tightly around his legs. Only his face stuck out. Even his head was surrounded by branches and green leaves and tamarind fruit. Birds nested close to his face. A bird even tried to peck his eye, thinking it was a luscious fruit!

Vivek was in tears. He tried calling out to his friends, who were busy picking tamarind off his branches. But even as he called out, he could feel the branches coming out of his throat. Would they cover up his face too? Would the branches come out of his eyes and nose? “Please God, save me. I will not swallow anything again,’’ he begged.

And fell out of bed with a loud thud! His mother helped him up. “Now, what are you crying for?” she asked.

“Amma, I swallowed a seed yesterday,” said Vivek, between sobs. “All my friends are saying it will grow into a tree in my stomach!”

“Hush, hush Vivek. Trees don’t grow inside us. Your friends are just kidding you. All the same, it serves you right for swallowing something again. Thank God, it is just a seed you swallowed.”

A tamarind tree did not take root in Vivek’s stomach after all!

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