By Vyoma Nupur 柒月 选 张健 注
Absent-minded footsteps scrunched along the forest path, carelessly crushing new tree shoots and wild grass. Bees zipped past, buzzing loudly, as if picking up on the noisy irritation of the lanky boy striding along the river. For a moment, the murmuring currents slowed their pace, as if watching Tom’s mindless abstraction.
“They cannot do anything without me… If I die today, it is as if they would collapse!” he murmured broodingly. Shooting worried glances at the gray clouds hurrying on, he quickened his pace. As he entered the dense thicket, the fragrance of fruit made him realize he had missed lunch. His stomach growled as if on cue. Fat raindrops crowned the pear he reached out to pluck from a low hanging branch. Outside, the pitter patter increased but here the trees protected him from the downpour and made him forget his grievances against the world and his classmates who came to him for help with their homework everyday because he was a straight A student.
“Wait!” the voice whispered in the darkness. The fruit fell from his grasp.
“Who is it?” Tom’s voice quavered a little, as he strained to see who called out to him in this jungle. “It’s me”,” rode along the wind to him.
“Me??” Tom looked around frantically, his startled gaze trying to find the Me that spoke to him from nowhere. By the periodic flashes of lightning, all he could see were rain-lashed trees well endowed with leaves and fruit. As he crouched forward, his gaze fell upon naked branches shivering in the wind. Slowly, he took in the vastness of the skeletal tree, bare and devoid of any foliage, like a gaunt, unclothed man standing in the midst of a well fed, richly dressed crowd. “D…did you just say something?” Tom said, feeling silly talking to a tree and expecting a response.
“Yes, it is me and no, don’t freak out”,” the tree replied calmly. “Sit down and I will tell you a story…” “I just want to get out of here!!” Tom screamed, visibly shaken by being confronted by a piece of vegetation that spoke.
Tom sat down shakily on a nearby tree stump, all the while staring unblinkingly at the speaking tree. “I need your help. In the next 15 days, woodcutters from the Forestry Department are coming to chop me down because they think I am barren and dead…and they are right in a way because I was consumed by ego, like you are today, Tom.”
“Once upon a time, I was as green and healthy as the others, you know”, the tree began dreamily. “I felt the perfumed breeze caress my leaves… I felt like a satisfied mother when I nurtured the fruit I bore. I was replete and content with happiness, swaying and dancing to the melodies of the wind and rain, basking in the golden waves of the sun. Monkeys danced with joy amongst my branches, bunches of parrots nestled in my swaying boughs, chortling musically like shining emeralds partaking of the fruit I had to offer. I was alive, the center of their world….But as months passed I began to feel discontent. I was feeding these birds, I was their home. Bees pollinated my flowers. Animals frolicked in me, passerbys sat down under my shade, and I was the jewel of the forest…But what was I getting in return? …I began to scare away the birds and the bees. After all, I could exist in splendid isolation. But I forgot that existence depends only upon co-existence… Animals stopped coming, bees stopped fertilizing my flowers, my fruits fell to the ground and started decaying. I angered the River Goddess herself and She withdrew Her lifegiving water from my roots. My branches and roots have weakened and are dying.”
The tree’s voice trailed away with the exertion of speaking. “So Tom…”, came the whisper, “help me be useful again…” “Pray to the River Goddess for me…These few flowers that still cling to my trunk, take them and offer them humbly to Her lapping currents as atonement and homage….so that She may have mercy on me and bring back her life fluids to my roots.” “When you pass me each day on your way home, will you do this for me? Remember from my suffering that only when you share your bounty with others and make them happy, can you exist. You, like me, are in this world to be useful, to co-exist with others. Otherwise you have no purpose and your talents and skills will wither away like my branches.”
Hit by realization, it was Tom’s turn to whisper now. “Yes, I will help you each day, till you are strong and green again. And I will always help my friends at school and at home, so that I may grow powerful and vibrant like a healthy tree and provide shade to those who need it on the path of Life. So that my roots of experience may deepen with the fertilizer of hard work, irrigated with the fluid of love and so that others may also benefit from the fruits of my labor”.”