Until yesterday, if you looked outside our office space you would find a beautiful mango tree on the plot next to us. Just taller than our two story building, it was reaching for the sunlight, boxed in by the houses on all sides. Its young leaves which were very sick when we first shifted in were slowly starting to unfurl because of the care that Sudhakar Anna, our gardener, was giving the soil.
One had to be rather careful while standing directly under it. It was home to thousands of fire ants and in the right tilt of light, they looked like large bright drops of the sun moving industriously up and down the trunk. Patient creators, their homes were art pieces, green leaves carefully glued together to hold future drops of sun. Perhaps it was because of the ants, but many a time while looking out of the upstairs window, I have come face-to-face with tailorbirds, bulbuls, and prinias. Fashionable rufous caps, black crests of great attitude or sharp eyes and even sharper tails. They would flit very busily here and there, keeping one mesmerized until out of sight. Squirrels would hide a distance into the canopy, their presense betrayed by loud Cheep! Cheep! sounds. You were left to imagine their tails lifting with every call.
Two months back, excitement started as a shout went around office, “The mango is flowering!”. From little visitors of a few months old to thatha who is almost 80, every human being spent a few seconds watching it. Over the next few weeks, the fruits grew abundant. We had little moments of heartbreak when we realised some of them were falling off before growing fully. Peace was restored when the rest continued to grow.
Last sunday saw another workshop in office and as lunch time came around and stomachs started rumbling, we stepped outside wondering what to do; we didn’t have any food with us. Amma and I spotted two light green mangoes fallen on the ground. Closer examination told us they were ripe. What joy! They turned out to be quite sour but packed full of flavour! To two hungry women, they were heavenly.
Last night and this morning has been very hard. We got news that this friend who had nourished us, who had fed us, given us joy was going to be cut down. The owner had sold the plot. We who do so much good work, who change so many minds, who save and plant so many trees watched helplessly as our friend was killed without a second thought. There was no thought given to gratitude, to permission being asked, to respect for a fellow being. Merely a need for money… Hmm…
To my mango friend, I’d like to say this. Thank you for having graced this world with your presence for so many years. Thank you for bringing joy to us. And… I promise to not give up. I will take this moment to mourn for you and for all those around the world who suffer similiar painful losses. Tomorrow though, I have some stories of connection to tell people. Tomorrow, I have some gardening to do. Tomorrow I will honour your memory.
To you, reader, I say thanks for listening. And if you did, for mourning with us.
A human being
UPDATE!: Just as the workers were planning to do the last cut of the main trunk, Bangalore received heavy rains and work stalled. We were able to reach out once more to the builder. He agreed to allow us to transplant the tree! While it hasn’t got the care that it would have otherwise, there is a glimmer of hope now. The process has started and… We are feeling deep gratefulness to be given this chance to replant this beautiful being.