The Peepal connection

The glistening, fidgety shadows danced on the bedroom floor, filtering through the iron grilled windows. The Peepal tree would greet me every morning the same way.

I would spend days and nights peering through these windows, staring at the tree. Its feathered inhabitants would noisily chirp, skip and hop on branches. The visiting squirrel would muster courage, sneak and prance around looking for something to nibble. Hues of dull and dust laden green foliage would playfully tease the shadows cast by the foliage. Some days almost imitating me, the tree would go still, absolutely motionless, frozen, almost like a wall painting. Those days I would feel worse.

I had become a recluse. I don’t exactly remember when… A failed relationship, followed by a dipping career, turned my otherwise promising life upside down. The Peepal tree became my muse, my confidante and my reluctant partner. She was as lonely as me. And as helpless. And she kept me engaged. Sometimes, that’s all that it takes…something to remind you that you are alive. I would observe her emotional outbursts, her brimming desires, her soaring and crashing hopes…and I lived through her.

It was a lazy day. I took my cup of tea and settled right next to the window. It was that time of the day. The late afternoon negotiated with the incumbent evening refusing to alter its arrival. The yellow-copper spotted Peepal leaves quivered in an unsettling restlessness as they witnessed the argument. They whispered a quiet protest. The request was drowned soon by the noisy overbearing crow and the fidgety squirrel nibbling on a few raw berries. The squirrel’s head shot side to side before darting out of sight. The cratered scars on the trunk looked on. The rebuttal elbowed the pleading, and the humble leaves waltzed in a sequenced retreat into the cool evening breeze relinquishing their trivial wish. All in a cheerless…lonely moment. I wiped away a stray tear that moistened my eye. Somewhere in my heart, the pain echoed.

By dawn, I had forgotten the evening tear-jerking episode. That is the beauty of mornings and their relentless promise. The early morning breeze announced the daybreak, a tad early, pre-empting the sunrise. It flirted, teasing the trees, twirling them to its tune. I looked closely. The Peepal tree swayed dangerously as the wind playfully swooshed teasing her derriere. The passionate breeze passed through twisting her branches and brought her closer. Resistance was conspicuous by its absence. Like an adolescent lost in mirthful love, she took all the pain, losing all control, giving into the wind’s scandalous wish. They coalesced as one unit.

As the Peepal absorbed all the love and sweet intense pain, it forgot everything. Her heart throbbed hard and she silently cried, trying to contain all the beauty in the moment. Her leaves shed and fluttered away, dropping like dead skin. The passion befooled her and just for a moment, belying herself, she silently whispered into his ears to take her along. She groaned for a secret, sweet escape. Just for one day, a moment which could truly be her very own. A free moment…cheating all expectations and boundaries. The wind suddenly went quiet. A heavy silence followed. As the realization dawned the bright red sun rose in the background. Her branches drooped in deep embarrassment. The forlorn leaves lied strewn on the ground as reluctant witnesses. Still recovering from the shock of losing their lives to the flirting caress, they drifted away with the moody waft. The bluster pecked her one last time, but left without any promise.

Her leaves quivered with delightful pain as she held on that moment’s promise. A moment loaded with dreams. A moment that could last forever in her heart and carry her through ages. A moment that lifted her and took her soaring above her roots for that brief time. She paused and couldn’t help smell him in her cheated arms. It was hard to hold back tears. My life flashed in front of my eyes. The love. The betrayal. The agony. Memory serves you best when you want it to fail.

The next few days were brighter and better. The Peepal tree sprouted new translucent fingers on its bare arms. Green, pink, peach, lemon yellow, the colours infused life into the staid brown tree and embellished its derriere like newly polished gems. She stood tall, upright, sticking her chest out, ready to take on the next season. Her smile shone of newfound abundance.

A faint pride swept her face and she hummed a silent song. A fluttering pigeon balancing on the window pane distracted her for a minute. Her glance returned to admire her sprightly infancy. The repentance and agony were long forgotten. Sunlight kissed her cheeks and she blushed waving her peach-pink leaves.  Her arms reached out to introduce the youthful glistening members to the sun, the fruit of her strife. The rays glided on their smooth, flawless surface, feeling the moist texture. The noisy overbearing crow failed to sully the beauty. The shining glory breathed life into me. I even hummed a song on some days. I wore bright colours. I smiled. I was back. 

Then one night it all came back. The night was dark, dreary. All nights are dark. But this one was a deeper shade of black. I could not see any hope streaming through the gloomy night-tide. Some dull grey evil streaked clouds were hovering, casting murky shadows as I looked through the bay window. I could not see any moon or stars. The soot black night locked my feelings in a mystery Pandora’s box leaving me with no clue where to find the key.

It closed me in, like an unrelenting heavy door. It left no possibility for optimism. It was so dark, reflecting all my slaty memories, my dingy embarrassments, my raven hued fears, like a wicked ugly mirror. The night turned into the colour of deep ink just before dawn, in its last and final attempt to eclipse my mind with its darkness ocean. But I fought back. I wanted to live. I wanted to smile. I wanted my life back. 

I didn’t realise that I could stay awake all night till dawn. Until that night. The sky had announced daybreak. Dawn stretched its arms wide, quietly spreading its soft blue hue. The red-eye sun yawned awake and sprinkled its bright sharp rays jolting awake the drowsy Peepal tree leaves. They waved back in a lazy friendly motion.

The sparkling saffron sunlight sent its caffeine kiss and gently squeezed into the room through the window bars casting a sharp mystical shadow into the room. It then gently pecked my cheek glistening through the window beckoning me to welcome it. I wasn’t a morning person. But it takes a murk filled night to realise the value of a fresh crisp morning. The Peepal was still there. So was I. But we were both transformed. And ready for a new day, a new beginning. 

Alka Sharma

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