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The Constant Companion

Anita could still remember the day clearly as if it were only yesterday. She was five years old and along with the rest of her Year 1 classmates, had been to the Theosophical Society in Besant Nagar for their school field trip. She remembered looking up at the huge trees in awe and felt tiny in comparison.

At the end of the trip, a surprise lay in store for Year 1. The lovely people at the Society had packed a sapling of a banyan tree for each of the children, a lasting memento of the day. There were gasps of excitement when the presents were handed out.

Anita couldn't wait to get home! As soon as the school bus dropped her off in the corner of her street, she raced off with the frail sapling held fast in her little hands.

'Mom! Mom!!' she screamed as she ran in.

'Don't scream Ani, you will wake the baby up. Your mother just managed to put him down for his nap.' said her grandmother.

'Ok, granny' answered Anita and tiptoed to find her mother.

Her mother was there in their room, holding her brother. Anil had just turned two and was such a terror. He took ages to fall asleep and even then, he woke up screaming at the top of his lungs if you made the teeniest noise.

Her mother turned around as soon as Anita opened the door and smiled at her daughter. 'Sh' she motioned with her finger on her lips and slowly put Anil on his cot and stepped out of the room. By the time her mother came out of the room, Anita was hopping from one foot to another in barely controlled delight. 'Mum, look what I've got' she blurted out, shoving the bag up her mother's face. Mother managed to grab hold of the bag with its precious contents and examine it herself, before her daughter did any serious damage.

'Do you know what this is, Ani?' she asked.

'Yes, mum, I do. It is a baby banyan tree. I learned about it today. Can we plant it please?'

'Well, alright Ani but you have to promise something first' said Mother.

'Yes mum anything' interjected an eager Anita.

'You must take good care of your baby tree. It will be like your baby from now on. You must water it, protect it and look after it properly, all by yourself'.

'Yes, mum, of course mum. Can we plant it now, can we can we?' chanted Anita.

Mother laughed her tinkling laugh and off they went into the back garden to find a place for Anita's baby banyan. They finally decided on a spot well away from the main path as well as the compound wall. Mother used an old ladle to dig a hole while Anita lovingly set her tree down it. They both covered the roots with moist soil and sprinkled a little water on it. Mother had to curb Anita's enthusiasm lest she flooded the poor plant on its first day.

Once the deed was done, they both sat back on their haunches to admire their handiwork. Anita had sparkles in her eyes and it gladdened her mother's heart to see her little daughter so taken up by a tree. She thought to herself that the fascination would last about 4 days before she forgot all about it and moved to the next one.

Mother was so wrong, remembered Anita. Anita never broke the promise she made. Every morning before she took her bath, she used to rush down and water her tree. It also got a special wave goodbye as she rushed out of the house on her way to the school. Anita also remembered how her father, on seeing his daughter's interest in her tree, got her a huge book all about trees. It was big and colourful and so full of interesting stuff. He also took her to the local nursery the following Saturday, where they got the proper food for the tree. They had a grand time that weekend, preparing the manure and sprinkling it and generally getting very mucky.

As Anita grew, so did her banyan. Soon, the tree became her friend, her confidant. It was there to listen to her woes after her first big fight with her best friend, in Year 7. It also stood by sagely as Anita sobbed her heart out after she got her heart broken by the boy from the next class. Its leafy branches seemed to hug her like real hands and cheered Anita greatly.

Years went by and the tree grew strong. It became a place of refuge for Anita. She used to run to it when she was told off for fighting with her brother. Once, when she failed History and her father yelled at her for the first ever time, Anita climbed up her tree and sat amidst its comforting branches, drying her tears. When her father came in search of her, he felt oddly poignant to see his daughter getting comfort from her tree.

The tree also patiently comforted Anita when her best friend's father got transferred and they moved away to a different city. It was there when Anita poured her fear of the impending Board exams and how she was afraid she might score very less, disappointing her family. It waved its leaves in glee when Anita scored 90% and hugged its big trunk.

It was also there, listening, when Anita confessed her first ever crush – her new neighbour, who was a real cutie! Anita was sitting right under her tree, engrossed in her M&B, when he popped his head over the wall and said ‘hi’! She almost swallowed her tongue!

Anita thought back to her 18th birthday party. Her parents had arranged for a special treasure hunt and she followed clues all around the house – they had hidden the best gift in the squirrel hole in her tree. In the evening, she had a great party right underneath its huge branches. Father had strung a line of paper lanterns all over the garden and it was like magic!

Her tree – not only did it bring her joy, it gladdened the hearts of her family’s too, with its stoic presence. And now, she has to leave it and go away! The very thought broke her heart. Why did she have to get married, she had no idea. For months now, she had argued with her parents, grandparents and the rest of the family and finally, the fight had gone out of her. Rajeev seemed a good man and was the son of her father’s old friend. Her parents were very pleased with him and even Anil thought he was ‘cool’, which was high praise indeed. Anita didn’t like the idea of being put on display like she was prized cattle and thank god she didn’t have to sing and dance as well! She didn’t know who would have been more embarrassed if she had broken into song, herself or Rajeev! He seemed real soft-spoken and quiet but she assumed it was for her parents’ benefit.

As Rajeev had to report back to work in a fortnight’s time, the preparations for the wedding took place in a frenzy. Mother was permanently out on shopping trips, buying clothes, jewellery or Tupperware. As she watched the things for her piling up, a strange feeling overtook her. As Anil wheeled in her shiny new suitcases, she fled to the sanctuary of her tree.

‘What did I do?’ asked Anil the world in general. ‘I thought she would be pleased!’ Father gave her ten minutes to brood and then came to her. Huffing and puffing, cursing his ripening age, he climbed the tree, wheezing ‘I am getting too old for this, Ani’ and got a grudging smile back.

‘What’s wrong, Ani? I thought you liked Rajeev’, he said.

‘Oh dad! It isn’t that! I wanted to work – get a job, earn pots of money so you and mum can retire and go on a world cruise or something. Get Anil that Tag Heuer watch he craves. I wanted to do something to ease your burden, instead of adding on to it. I don’t know, I wanted to do so many things – now it feels like my time has run out!’ finished Anita in a flood of tears.

‘Oh Ani!’ soothed Father. ‘Is this what is worrying you? I know you wanted to do s many things. It touches my heart to learn you wanted to do so much for us. But your mother and I have our own dreams for you too, Ani. We want to see you married and settled with your own family. Rajeev is a good man. He will help you grow into the person you want to be. Just because you are going to be married, it doesn’t spell the end of everything, you big silly!’

‘Yes, dad – but I haven’t done anything for you’, sobbed Anita. Father could just hold her, helpless to stem his daughter’s tears.

At last, its time. All her bags are packed and placed in the boot of the taxi. Rajeev was joking with Anil about the contents of her suitcases, wondering if she had rocks in there. Anita hugged her mother and could feel her eyes welling.

‘I wish I could stay here with you and be your little girl forever, mummy’ she whispered.

‘You will always be my little girl, my dear’, replied Mother, planting a kiss on her forehead.

‘Go with our blessings, sweetheart’, said Father. Even Anil suspiciously looked like he was going to cry.

As the taxi slowly moved away, Anita leant out of the car window and waved to her family for all she was worth. The house was getting away from her and then, slowly her beloved tree came into view.

There it was, where she and Mother had planted it, all those years ago. She could see Father’s lounging chair under its shady branches, with the sun glinting off Mother’s reading glasses, which she had once again left on the chair.

Anita could feel the worry in her stomach disappearing slowly. She knew that, though she was leaving her family and going away, her tree would be there, always. It will forever be there in the backyard, giving them shade and breeze on a hot summer’s day. More, it will be always be there with her family, a piece of her, comforting them whenever they needed.

Anita waved for the last time, with a lighter heart. It was going to be alright after all, she thought and gripped Rajeev’s hand warmly.

Posted by DesiGirl 10:05 am  

2 Comments:

  1. Amrita said...
    SO you know I like the story, right? You know what I like better than the story? Your new look!

    Thumbs up from me! But what happened to the lil pink message doodad that i never used but always eyed in envy?
    desigirl said...
    thanks babe, appreciate it muchly.
    that pink doodad went into the bin cos no one used it. :(
    now am looking for new pix to go on the header for each of my blogs/sections.

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