Abimon was born and raised in Bangalore. He had some fond memories for this once beautiful city.
The Forgotten Spring
“Good Morning, Nanda, this cool breeze is so soothing to us. I feel like swaying freely in this wind”, said Krishna, a Silver Oak Tree planted on MG Road, Bangalore. “Morning Krishna, yes, a pleasant relief from the blistering heat of this once beautiful city”, replied Nanda, a Mast Tree (Ashoka in vernacular) standing tall opposite his friend. The chilly winds caressed their strong branches and they were enjoying this brief yet beautiful moment. They looked at the view in front of them. The vehicular population was increasing with each passing moment in time and so was the heat.
“We have seen this city for well over a century and now, we are the oldest ones left here to survive alone. Most of our companions have long gone. Uprooted, to be honest, and now does a similar fate await us?” said Nanda.
Krishna meanwhile was looking down at one child, who was seeking shelter under him from the sun. He stopped swaying and stood still providing enough shade for the child. Nanda asked, “Why do you love these people? They have killed our companions and they have destroyed our seed. Now you seek to provide them comfort. Let them realize how difficult it will be for them in the forthcoming days”
Krishna replied, “Look at that innocent child. Yes, the people have destroyed some of us. However, that should not stop us from doing our purpose. We have been here for a long while. We have seen how this small sleepy town had changed into a great city. The people will surely realize that we must be here to sustain them. Where will they go for shade? We are the only species on earth who give out fresh air into this atmosphere. I’m sure that they will realize that. Let’s be patient with these folks, Nanda”
Nanda frowned and said mockingly, “Shade? Who we? And fresh air?! How wishful of you, Krishna? In this polluted city where the exhaust fumes from these vehicles choke our breaths and spoil our release. I have no hope left in me. Tomorrow, they will cut us down and they will build a shelter with better facilities for shade. Who cares about fresh air, anyway? You see the huge billboards of air conditioners advertisements over there which promise of purer air than both of us put together can ever produce. So, my dear comrade, I am not hopeful at the very least.”
Krishna looked down to see if the child was still there and the child was not there. He sighed, “Yes, you may be right. However, I am still hopeful. I feel someday, they will plant more trees and soon enough, we will have many friends. We won’t be alone, my friend. Come on, don’t be grumpy but now let’s stand back and enjoy the view of this glorious city.”
The clock struck twelve. The busyness of the city was at its peak. The narrow roads were filled with cars, motorbikes, buses, trucks, auto rickshaws, mopeds, bicycles and pedestrians thus creating a traffic jam in one of the busiest roads in the city. The pace at which the life was being lived here was quite hurried. Krishna was taking in the sights, sounds and smells of this city and then he thought about his past.
About 25 years ago, in the year 1991, Bangalore was a wholly different place. The calmness and silence of MG Road were in sharp contrast to the noise and unquiet of today. A long but beautiful boulevard had lined this road making it even more picturesque. The KSRTC bus painted in red and yellow was seen every day in regular intervals of ten minutes on this road. Nanda would sometimes call out to him to look at the new car which would pass by that road because there were only common cars like Ambassadors, Omni vans, Maruthi Suzuki 800 and Premier Padmini.
He then thought about the day when he had engaged all his friends in a conversation. He said, “My dear comrades, what a lovely day is this! It’s a great privilege to have been born and lived in this city. Look at the roads, the people, the birds, and the animals. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
Mythri, a rosewood tree, said, “Indeed, it is a lovely day. This wind is ever so constant that we never feel a need for anything at all. The people are good. Oh, there is our friend coming in from a distance. It’s him, Kaalia.”
Kaalia was a crow, aged nine, well respected among his peers and also a good friend of the trees in this place. He was a messenger. He used to tell stories of the people and the latest happenings in this city. He came and perched himself on the branches of Krishna. He began, “How are you, my dear friends? All of you seem so happy and lively. What’s the matter?”
Krishna replied, “I love this place. I was telling how lovely day this day is.”
“Oh yes, my dear friend, it is lovely, however, a day will come when there is nothing left here”
Every tree was thunderstruck by this sudden revelation from their feathered friend. The silence that followed was so eerie that Kaalia began to shed more light on his statement.
“I mean, these humans will start to build more homes and so they would need furniture. They would want to build wider roads, and hence, they have to cut some of you down. This would soon be a city of great importance. And so they would start beautifying it and in the process, uproot many trees so as to have more space.”
Mythri asked “How distressful is this? Can’t they build a better city without destroying us?”
“It’s quite in the realm of the impossible, Mythri. I had overheard a conversation between two men just a few miles away from here. One man said twenty years from now, they should widen the roads and they should build a rail station. They have some projects in hand. The other man accepted all the suggestions and also added that there should be developed. Let me explain, this development means that the trees of your kind will be uprooted and their schemes would be implemented there”
Krishna and Nanda looked at each other pitifully. Mythri felt a pain inside her and with that, a few leaves had started falling off her tree. Kaalia continued, “I am sorry to be a bearer of bad news. We will hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Let me tell you, my friends, even we are in danger. They have decided to build some towers which emit deadly radiations which would adversely affect our offspring. I got this news from our grand old man, Shakur the owl”
After a few minutes, two squirrels named Chittu and Kittu had emerged from their homes which they had built on Mythri. Chittu asked Kaalia, “I was busy storing food in our food compartments while I overheard your conversation. If these things are so, where would we go?”
“I don’t know, Chittu. I tell you whatever things I have heard. I fear that something sinister is going happen in the years to come. Until then, let’s enjoy our day in this beautiful spring. Look yonder, the park is teeming with fun and frolic. You guys can go there. I saw plenty of nuts falling from the trees there” replied Kaalia.
With that, the two chirpy companions dashed off to the park with much excitement. Mythri said, “They are like my children. Look how happily they dashed off when you had mentioned their favourite food. I hope that they will return safely in the evening.”
“Oh, they will be fine, those two. They are smart. I have told my friend, Kedhar the eagle to keep an eye on them so that no bird attacks them”
“What about the animals?”
“They are well protected”, said a voice from the below. Kaalia and everyone looked down. It was Jack, the oldest stray dog in that place.
“Oh, thanks, Jack!”
“I have told all of them that those two kids belong to us. Hence, no stray dog or cat would go near them.”
Krishna loudly exclaimed, “How happy my day is! Everyone living here in harmony! I only wish that this could last forever!”
Nanda replied, “Don’t build castles in the air, my buddy. The life will change. This place will change. The people will change. Let’s brace ourselves for the days ahead”
Mythri said with a laugh, “You two amuse us in every way. Krishna the idealist and Nanda the realist, you two make the best combination. I hope that you two stay same this way for years to come. You have a lot of life left in you. “
“Absolutely Mythri, it’s refreshing to hear this two speak. Now, it’s time for me to leave and I have to find food. Otherwise, you know what would happen in my house”, said Kaalia in jest. He flew away.
“Hey Krishna, look over there. What are you thinking, my friend? Why? Are you lost?”
Krishna was woken up out of his reverie by these words. He looked at Nanda and said, “Nanda, I thought about our past. Do you remember Mythri, Kaalia, Chittu, Mittu and Jack?”
Nanda replied with a sigh, “So you were daydreaming, my friend. How can we forget them? All of them gone and we are alone. That’s our curse.”
“No, don’t think like that. They have taught us well. For because of them, we are not surprised by the changes”
“Yes, but at what cost, we have seen their lives taken away right in our presence. We couldn’t do anything. To the outside world, we were mute spectators. We know the pain we experienced when our best friends were taken from our midst. Who heard our cries? Who saw our tears? Who heard their pleas and our pleas for help? Even the heavens were silent. I don’t want to remember because it fills my mind and my heart with grief.” With those words, both remained silent for an hour.
Nanda felt deep anguish after saying those words. He then thought about his past. It was in the year 2007; the day was going on at its normal pace, however, he could see a long line of trucks coming towards him. It was an ominous sign. His presumptions were correct. As they unloaded those vehicles, he knew that some of his fellows, including him, would be cut down. Out came the men with chainsaws in their hands ready to mow down the trees.
Within a space of few hours, most trees in the road were felled. They had gone near Mythri. She looked at Krishna and Nanda and said in a choked voice, “Farewell, my friends, the day had finally come”. With that, the machine was struck right at the bottom, a few inches above her roots. She cried, but nobody listened. Krishna and Nanda could not bear the sight which bore in front of them and so they started pleading with men to end this painful act. They wished themselves to be dead. This event would forever be etched in their memories as a painful reminder of the days ahead. After a few hours, Mythri was chopped into pieces and then her remains were taken away in those Trucks. The men had thus ended their work. Krishna, Nanda and a few other trees were spared from this brutal act of destruction.
Nanda relived those moments as though they had happened now. He felt very morbid and then he asked Krishna, “Why does our life have to be like this? We have lost all our companions. We are now destined to a grim future and the times ahead look so very bleak”
Krishna said, “It is what it is. We cannot control our destiny. We don’t have to worry about the future. We will have friends soon enough. Let’s hope.”
“Ah yes hope, I don’t know, my friend. I have lost all my hope. I am getting older with each passing day.”
The sun was beginning to set; however, the city was getting livelier as the day progressed. The neon street lights were switched on and then there were artificial lights everywhere. Krishna and Nanda decided to take rest after another long day. They soon drifted themselves into a deep slumber.
The sun rose early at half past five. Krishna woke up with a start since he could hear some crows having a fight. He asked, “What’s the matter, guys? Why are you having a fight so early in the morning?”
One crow, named Chemba, answered, “They are not letting me in to meet you and Nanda. They perceive me as a threat. I am no threat”
Kadambari, the oldest crow among the group, said, “Krishna, he is not even telling us who he is and that’s why we are preventing him from entering this place.”
Krishna smiled and asked Chemba, “You look very familiar. You remind me of Kaalia”
Chemba was delighted at this and swiftly replied, “Yes, I am his grandson. I have come here to meet you and tell you something really important.”
Kadambari said, “Oh boy, you should have told us before. Your grandfather was a mentor to us. He taught us so many things. I apologize for this behaviour. Come in, and make yourself comfortable”
Chemba perched himself on the branch where Krishna could hear him easily. Nanda woke up, and asked, “Who is this new visitor?”
Krishna said, “He is Kaalia’s grandson”
“Oh great, how are you, son? Your grandfather was a character. Tell me, what brings you here?”
Chemba replied, “I am Chemba, I have heard some frightening things today. There were two men who were telling that they would be felling all the trees this side of the road. I have come here to tell you. It is going to happen today”
The crows sighed after these words. They were shaking their heads thinking of the fate that would befall their companions. After a brief moment of silence, Krishna displayed a rare sense of equanimity and poise, and said in a very calm voice, “I guess our time has finally come. Nanda, let’s face it. We should not be frightened at this. We must endure this brief yet poignant moment of pain. We will see this through to the end. It was a privilege to have lived amongst the greatest of companions. You, Nanda, I shall loudly proclaim that you’re my best friend. And we lived, learned and gave without expecting anything in return and so shall we die with nothing left in us, however, plenty to give to these men and women and children.”
Nanda still shocked could mutter a few words. “It’s time, my friend. I can hear the sounds. Those sounds are the sounds of the agents of our death.”
The trucks had lined themselves neatly along the entire stretch of the road. After a few minutes, the workers equipped themselves with all the tools and began their work. Krishna looked at the men and started to speak,
“Oh dear children of this city, I have a final thing to say.
For what good do you do these things on this lovely day?
For development and advancement, you say with pride,
But have you thought about your children or even tried.
Bear this in mind for one day; you will realize our worth,
Then you will seek every help in this world to bring us forth.
Why wait for such an awful day? Begin in earnest, I plead,
Seek to protect, save and nurture God’s creations indeed,
Not just by your slogans, words, campaigns or protests,
I have nothing more to say and this is my last message.
Inarticulate and incoherent as I might sound,
This painful death by which I am eternally bound,
May there be a revolution to evoke the memories of a forgotten spring.”
The men went about their businesses as usual since they never heard these groans from a tree which they had just felled. Soon enough, the other trees in the vicinity were cut down swiftly. The road wore a deserted look. The crows were raucous as ever. The traffic moved slowly at its own pace. It was another day in the city of Bangalore.
© 2020 ABIMON S P