Felling a giant, cruelly

Who knows the new tree may turnout to be as majestic as the one we've lost!

When the truck noisily pulled up one morning, the tiny village community didn’t pay too much attention. To them it was just another truck taking a ‘short-cut’ to the brick-kiln. It was only when the vehicle swung to right and stopped outside the old school building that the lady realised something was up.

At the school building with an attached one-room clinic, the grey-haired school-master saw the vehicle and came out to investigate. Dressed in his usual black cotton coat and panche, the school master questioned the driver. A uniformed man by the driver’s side jumped out, and explained that they had come on ‘government’ orders to cut the tree, that was in the way of the highway expansion.

With a gasp, an old lady asked them, “You don’t mean that old tree, do you, anna?” The lady indicated, with wide-eyes, the giant rain-tree near the entrance to the village. Ignoring her, the man grunted at his co-workers, “Get going, men. There’s no time.”

With that one of them scaled the tree’s upper reaches, and with an electric chain saw worked on a huge black branch. In a short time, the men tugged at a rope tied to the trembling, severed branch and pulled it down. There was a deafening sound, attracting more people to the tree-felling spectacle. Soon more branches came down. By late afternoon the men were done. The truck made several trips to take away the timber.

Finally, only a wet yellowish stump was left standing. Around it were stray leaves, flowers, and a broken unglazed red clay water-pot with a chained metal mug attached. The lush landscape abruptly became desolate. “A beautiful tree, a valuable carbon sink has disappeared,” moaned the doctor.

Everyone’s gaze soon turned to the place where once stood the magnificent tree. The rain-tree was a giant of a creation. It had a dome-shaped crown that spread many metres, and towered regally into the sky. It had evergreen, velvety foliage interspersed with small fan-like pink and white flowers of light.

Children frolicked under it; some made balls from the fallen black-brown pods. Under the tree, a stone platform was used for conducting health camps, women-empowerment talks, and to disseminate ideas on environment conservation. The school master used it for adult literacy classes, and talks on Mahatma Gandhi, simple living. “What shall we do now?” asked the angry old man, looking around.

“True, we’ve lost a magnificent tree. Spending time blaming will not do! Remember, before we had the rain-tree, some 30 years ago, there were coconut trees in the same area? A storm flattened those trees but we moved on. We planted the rain-tree sapling. Let’s do that again. There’s an  empty space on the other side of the school. Who knows the new tree may well turn out to be as beautiful, and majestic as the giant we’ve just lost!’ 

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