A story about the time when trees could walk and there were men with whom they could talk.
Chapter One : When they met
It was an old forest bordering an old village. Mud houses and open streams, grass that was still green. Kuccha roads on which kids played ‘gilli-danda’ and village that resonated with sounds of transistors playing in the background.
It was a usual sort of day,
hot and bright with a clear blue sky.
A tree called Neem was doing the usual too
You know, shedding old leaves and encouraging the new.
The trees paying their daily sum to their collector,
who was a light breeze,
through giving it their water.
Our good-natured gentle Neem asked his friend Keekar again, for 10th time that week, why were they still standing.
He wanted to move, like humans do.
Flutter around like birds and learn how squirrels chew.
He answered him with a grunt
and a thinly veiled contempt
that Neem had lost its mind .
Neem must stop, else he wouldn’t be too kind.
Keekar told Neem that if he asked again he will tell grandpa Bodha, who would boycott Neem. Grandpa Bodha was very old and very strict and looked like that too, with his gnarly fingers and beard so long that it touched the ground. He was so old that everyone spoke to him about anything they needed to know or complain about, for he knew everything! Neem feared being boycotted above everything else and for good reason too. Being boycotted was the most serious of all punishments, for you see in tree-world having no one to talk to meant spending hundreds of years of life completely alone with nowhere to go and nobody to share things with. It was the most dreadful punishment so, naturally, nobody ever got it and hence, most feared as nobody knew what might be the result of living in such isolation. Neem wasn’t planning on being the first one to experience that and so didn’t ask again out of fear. Our simple and kind Neem was a friendly social creature and wanted to be able to chat, more than his desire to walk.
Few seasons passed and there stood Neem still doing the usual. One fine day a little boy came and sat under the Neem tree. Our friendly Neem, unlike his friends, wasn’t the one to doubt, feel shy or get suspicious. So he said a friendly “Hello”. The boy didn’t respond and kept staring down at his browned legs, looking rather sad. Neem felt sorry for the boy and wanted to help so he tried again and asked “Who are you? Why are you sad?” Getting no response, Neem thought that the boy probably couldn’t hear him and tried again but louder this time. The boy didn’t answer. Neem, not the one to give up easily, then shook himself to shower leaves on the boy. The boy slowly held out his hand, then touched his hair to pick out the leaves that had fallen on them. He squinted twice and shook his head. Neem again showered him with leaves and this time the boy slowly looked up. With eyes big and wide and mouth to match, the boy blinked twice to see if some human was sitting atop the tree but found none. Neem asked again as loud as he could but the boy just looked at it with blank eyes.
Neem got sad and had given up just as a small foreign voice said ” I can hear you. My name is Abhay but everyone calls me Paglu” . Neem was overjoyed! It was the strangest sort of voice- sweet, gentle, soft but clearly audible. The boy began talking and Neem listened.
Paglu told Neem how he had always been different from others. He would often stop to hear what the other animals and trees were saying and converse with them. People now think he is crazy. His own family thinks he is making up stories or being naughty. Nobody believes him and nobody understands him. His friends were none and people had long stopped believing anything he told them. He grew lonely so set out for the woods outside his village. That’s where he saw the friendliest looking tree and came to sat under it.
Neem heard him patiently and told him that he isn’t mad, nor crazy. He is just different. They don’t believe him because they themselves can’t do what he could. People are so busy living that they have lost touch with other living beings. They no longer stop to look at a butterfly, see a bird’s flight or gaze at stars.
Neem told the boy about his own troubles about how he has been wanting to know why trees don’t move but fears isolation. The boy told him that he knows the reason. Neem couldn’t believe it. A stranger from other species knows it !! Will he get his answer that day? That too without getting boycotted for it. What a wonderful day!
The boy told Neem that trees can’t walk because they never tried. Unless you try how would you know that you can’t do something?
They both talked for hours and became thick friends from that day on.
That was the day Neem got the answer to the question of his life. But it gave birth to another one- If he tried, will he be able to walk?