As far as I am concerned,Indian summers have only one speciality- mangoes🍋. When summers come and I feel the uncomfortable perspiration trickling down my body,I think of luscious mangoes.
Another glory of summers for me is the bell ( wood apple) tree in our garden. The ripe bell fruits are not only delicious to eat but also beneficial. The Bell tree bears fruit twice in a year so I can't call it a summer speciality.
Once upon a time in a not so far past
our garden had lots of fragrant , little white jasmine flowering plants. These flowers have the capacity to freshen up any gloomy atmosphere as well as gloomy thoughts . On either side of our entrance gate were two huge hibiscus trees. The bright red flowers grew all round the year. On the boundary wall grew rows of Rajnigandhas . Till this date I associate the perfume of Rajnigandhas with marriage and jasmines with temple ceremonies.
These are memories.
I used to visit my parents when schools closed for summer holidays. My daughter would come with me. Every morning while having our usual cup of tea my mother and me would get into an argument. These arguments would continue throughout my stay.
' I want that bell tree removed from the garden ' she started.
' YOU want the bell tree cut away' I would say in surprise.
'Yes. It's not good for our house. The roots go very deep . It can destroy the structure of the house. '
' It's a healthy, fruit bearing tree. You got it planted.' I would protest and try to stop her.
Her arguments in favour of her decisions were like this....
'Why ? only that day someone was telling me (that someone's name she would never reveal) that I should not have planted the Bell tree.'
We have had the bell tree in our house since I was in middle school and my brother in his primary class. Every year the tree was laden with ripe, sweet bell fruits. The tree never failed to give us fruits. People from neighbourhood, relatives, friends would ask for the Bell fruits and praise it's taste and benefits.
My father would like to drink bell fruits juice every afternoon.
The Bell leaves are tender and refreshingly green. We would offer the Bell leaves to the Idol of Lord Shiva in out garden temple everyday with a prayer.
' the Bell leaves are an essential part of Shiv Puja 'I would say.
' Then I want that Idol of Lord Shiva removed from my house. I want to gift it away to some temple or simply immerse it into the river Ganga 'she would say.
I couldn't understand why she would rant like that. Sometimes I felt my position in my parent's house had changed. My advices and suggestions were not important any more.
Next year, when I came to visit my parents, I saw the Bell tree still standing on the ground, healthy and strong.
Little unripe fruits was scattered on the ground, broken from the tree by some strong gust of wind or perhaps plucked from the tree by the group of monkeys that came to our garden in the summer afternoons.
' I can see you have not got rid of it yet, maa. It is still standing in the garden.' I said. She gave me a vague reply.
I don't like hints and guesses. I like simple straight conversations. My mother thought giving hints was a sign of great intelligence. I think it creates confusion , misunderstandings and problems.
I never liked those guessing games my friend's used to play in each other's house parties in which we had to guess the names of some movie or song. My friends are not anymore my friends. Times change and so do friends. I heard that they still play those guessing games.
A big mango tree stands at the west end corner of our garden. It was planted by our old house help Laxmanda after the earlier one was uprooted and thrown away to make space for a lawn.
The earlier tree was planted by me. It had a simple story connected to it. Every night I would have dinner with my father in the shaded varandah adjoining our hall room. We called it hall room. I would watch the calm, far away twinkling stars as I ate. It was a magical moment.
My father loved mangoes. The seeds of the mangoes were always thrown away in the garbage bins. I couldn't understand why it would make me sad. ' The seeds are bitter so they have to be thrown away,' said my father. We liked to have our mangoes with milk and chapatis and small cubes of desi sugar of the season.
'But father the mangoes we are eating comes from a seed. Why can't we plant the seeds in our garden and grow mango trees' I would say.
When we went to Kolkata on our summer holidays I took up the topic of mango seeds with my grandmother.
'আমে দুধে এক হয় ,আঁঠি যায় ফ্যালা'she would say a proverb in bengali. It was the proverb which made me sad. When I came back I did not throw away the mango seeds. I sowed them in the garden.
Every morning and evening my father would water the garden and I would watch to see if a little sappling had come out of the mango seeds.
Most of the time my clumsy attempts were not rewarded. The monkeys, squirrels and the birds would find out where the seeds were sown. They would dig it out from the soil and spoil it by trying to eat it.
Finally one seed was strong and lucky to save itself. The first mango tree grew in our garden. It was a moment of great joy for me. Every morning I would run to the garden to see if the mango tree was well and fine.
A few years later, one afternoon as I came home from college, I found the healthy, slender, mango tree uprooted from the soil and thrown In a corner to wither and die.
That day I fought with my father. I was very angry. He had no idea why I was shouting at him. He did not know what the mango tree meant to me.
Laxmanda saw my anger and felt my love for the mango tree. He secretly sowed another mango seed in the west end of our garden.
That seed germinated and grew into a big mango tree. It gave fruits every alternate year.
'I want that mango tree removed from the garden. Your father wants to make a couple of rooms in that part of the garden' said my mother on one of my summer holiday visits.
' But mother, the mango tree gives fruits'I protested.
'The fruits of that mango tree are sour. It never gets ripe. Why should I let such a mango tree thrive in our garden?' I don't like pickles'she would say.
Her arguments in favour of her decisions was as under,
' somebody was telling the other day (the name of that somebody she would never tell) that the mango tree is not good for our family. All kinds of problems have come to our family because of that mango tree,'she would say.
'You are mad maa. The mango tree has nothing to do with your problems. Spare the mango tree, ' I would retort angrily.
Sometimes I felt my presence unwanted. Words and gestures were deliberately said to humiliate me. My visits to my parent's house slowed. My daughter stopped showing any enthusiasm in going to visit them. Even I stopped going to them. I felt it best for my peace of mind.
The entrance gates were removed. The gap was plastered and made a wall.A smaller gate was erected on the east side of the house.
A great baba had told that Vastu tip for the financial success of the family.
The twin hibiscus trees with their bright red flowers were uprooted and thrown away, it's branches still holding a few flowers to itself. I stood helplessly in a corner witnessing the unstopable madness and carnage. A beautiful fragrance filled the garden as the hibiscus trees were being cut as if some pure spirit had lived in those trees and was saying goodbye.
My mother was filled with remorse when I told her about the perfume coming from the flowering hibiscus tree when it was cut, quite unlike the fragrance of hibiscus .
The jasmine flowers stopped blooming. Even the gardener could not understand the reason.
Perhaps it missed the hibiscus trees.
Who knows if plants have feelings.
Maa is no more . She couldn't cut the Bell and the mango tree. She could not throw away the Shiva Idol either. She only stopped going to the temple.
The world is reeling under the attacks of virus named COVID 19 which causes problems with breathing. Many people died because of oxygen deficiency. I can't help thinking that people have cut trees indiscriminately without any thought for the animals, birds and other little things living on it. People have damaged the world, caused wide spread deforestation and soil erosion with their ignorance and selfishness.
I remembered my music teacher teaching me Raag Bhairavi in the morning and saying that music and universe is all about balance in laye, sur and taal. Whenever this balance or harmony is disturbed catastrophe occurs. When someone makes inconsequential decisions they don't understand what would be it's far reaching consequence.