When We Are Gone

“Ayyo! It’s right there. Look where I am pointing. Yes! That bunch, get it down.”
“Just a minute, Sir, I will need to climb higher. Almost there. Got it!” Ranga’s feet finally found its footing and he added the mangoes to his sack.
“Perfect! That’s the last of the lot I guess. Thanks Ranga. You must be tired from all the climbing Ranga. Come in for some coffee. And yes, feel free to take a few mangoes with you. I know your children love it.”
“Illa, Sir, I better get going. I have promised the children a trip to Cubbon Park. I will take three mangoes with me. Thank you, Sir.”

As Ranga left for home, Mr. Rao advanced towards me and gave a pat on the bark.

I could see satisfaction in his smile and admiration in his eyes. I wondered what I had done to achieve this. Was it the yield? Or the green canopy of my leaves which had grown considerably over the last few years and now was towering over a good part of his house? I did not know. I did not want to speculate. I was glad that he had finally stopped talking about getting me chopped and sent away.

I keep recalling the one thing he told Ranga, “I am glad we did not get rid of this tree. It has given us so many mangoes in the first yield!” I would like to believe that he will stick with his decision.

Last year, he was worried that my roots will destroy the compound wall and was determined to cut me off. Mrs. Rao came to my rescue. Otherwise, God knows which furniture shop I would be in by now.

I have been a part of the Rao’s garden for over 10 years now. Jackie says my birth was a result of Mrs. Rao’s yearly prayers for having a mango tree in her garden. Jackie says that the year I was born, the jackfruits he bore had gotten big and heavy, and his branches had started to sway towards Rao’s garden. That’s how he had seen Mrs. Rao empty a plateful of mango seeds into a small pit, right where I now stand, cover it, and pour some water on it.

He had ignored this detail since he had seen her do this every year and she would desperately wait for a mango sapling to show.

The next day, the Rao family had left for a vacation and when they had returned after several weeks, Mrs Rao had seen my first leaves spring out of earth and exulted. At first, she put a fence around me to protect me from the bandicoots which came during night time. Once my tender branches had started to turn brown and strengthen, she had cleared more space for me to grow.

When I was growing up, I had many friends outside the garden who had shared water and stories with me.. Most of them are now taken down and cleared out for houses to be built.

Now, when I look around, I only see buildings with potted plants, which don’t even wave back at me. Not every plant gets a home like Rao’s to live and branch out in. I feel lucky for I receive enough space, nourishment, and water from the family at all times. When they are not at home, Ranga and his wife tend to me and all the other plants here.

Jackie and I keep discussing which of the seeds could I have possibly come from. Am I a Badami? A Raspuri? A Mallika? Or worse, a cross? Even if I am a cross, I would like to know who my two halves are. This identity crisis has spurred since my first conversation with the corner house Badami. When I was five years old, I had tried to make friends with her. She had asked me which variety I was, and I did not have an answer.

Badami has her whole family spread out in the empty plot opposite the Rao’s garden. I wish that one day, my branches will grow and entwine with hers. I am tired of having to communicate through the other plants and trees here. But I highly doubt that the colony people will let that happen.

It was only yesterday that I heard two gentlemen speak about clearing the plot and selling it to a builder. I feel bad to have given shelter to people conspiring against my Badami. But what could I do?

Poor Badami, she bears one of the finest variety fruits which are eyed and enjoyed by the entire colony. But I am sure no one will come to her rescue, especially not after I saw what they did to Banya.

Banya was easily the biggest tree in the entire colony and was at least a hundred years old. He stood majestically in the farthest corner of the colony and all trees here looked up to him and aspired to become like him one day. His enormous branches, spreading out in all directions were preferred homes to most of the birds and animals here. It was only when the cuckoos and the parrots came crying to us that we found out Banya was being taken down. The birds needed a new home and were desperately looking for one. They had no choice but to distribute themselves among the few of us. The squirrels chose to stay in Badami’s compound and now visit me once in a while to feast on the fruits. Poor Mynah even lost her family when the lopper took down one of Banya’s branches, which had her nest. She was inconsolable for months and now lives in my topmost branch. It took them one whole week to clear Banya out. The noise of chainsaws, axes and stump grinders, employed day and night, replaced the calm and occasional rustle of leaves. Truckload after truckload of timber was taken out of the colony as we watched in horror as the mighty Banya was reduced to a stub. It is at times like these that I wish we could just lift up our roots and run. It is unfair that the only way we can respond to torture is to cry our juices out or discolour in pain.

I so wish Badami could stay and we could grow old together. But I know the chainsaws will come for her soon.

I am glad that the first showers have helped me grow new leaves in her direction. I want them to grow faster so I can embrace her just once before she is taken.

Author Bio: Raksha Rao is an avid reader, an aspiring writer who doubles up as an engineer to make money. 

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Whether you call it Bengalooru, Bengaluru, Bangalore, or the Ooru – join us in our protest against the elevated corridor.

Urban projects that have been depleting Bengaluru’s green cover, have taken their toll, and the proposed elevated corridor is the worst of the lot. It would remove Cubbon Park from the map, along with 3,700 trees.

Sign the petition here.

Note: If you’re in town you can also participate in the rally against the elevated corridor slated for this Saturday, 16th March. Details here.

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