The tree of love

Das nurtured the plant like his own offspring; he fenced it and watered it, unfailingly.

It is always a disturbing sight after  festivals to see our city littered with heaps of severed stumps of tender plantain plants and withered flowers, used liberally for decorating places of worship.

One cannot help but wonder whether it is really essential to raze down so many tender plants, depriving them of the right to yield fruits in the course of their normal life, just for the purpose of decoration, and reducing them to mere stinking garbage thereafter. I have been fortunate enough to acquire a good number of friends from across India in the course of my long service in the steel industry.

But my thoughts always float to my good old Bengali chum, Chandan Das, whenever I happen to see atrocity perpetrated on nature’s greenery like the kind mentioned above. Like most Bengalis who are, generally, highly sensitive to finer aspects of life, I found Das a notch above all the others I knew in this respect. 

Over half a century ago, when we were living in the same sector of our Steel Township, Das had brought a highbred gulmohar sapling from his hometown Calcutta, which he carefully planted in the vast vacant field right in front of his quarters. Undeterred by the snide remarks of several young colleagues who didn’t miss a chance to take potshots at him for doing something meant to be done by the township department, Das arduously nurtured the plant, as if it were his own offspring. He erected a protective fencing around the plant and unfailingly watered it.

The Das couple, incidentally, was not fortunate enough to have an offspring of their own while their peers in the locality were progressively blessed with additions to their families.

With the passage of time, the residents of our sector moved over to different sectors with bigger housing quarters commensurate with their ranks following timely promotions in the Plant.

Das, however, chose to remain in the same house, despite his fast elevation to higher positions, simply because he didn’t want to be away from the gulmohar tree – his inseparable companion – which had grown into a gigantic one, splashing the premises with the splendour of its abundant bright-coloured flowers and harbouring birds of several species. It was a common sight to see Das relaxing in his easy chair under the tree, engrossed in a book on hot summer evenings, totally oblivious to his surroundings.

Both, Das and I retired from service  at almost the same time, over two and a half decades ago. Although we have settled down in different cities, we have kept in touch with each other sharing the vicissitudes of our lives, during which he invariably mentions his tree. 

Last week I received a call from him from Kolkata, telling me that he would be visiting Bhilai next week to greet his tree on its 50th birthday! I couldn’t miss the sublime joy in his voice when he said it. As I wished him well, a voice within me spoke: “Love, indeed, is a many-splendoured thing!”

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