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Losing a partner

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N J Ravi Chander
The place where we live teems with greenery – the African Tulip, beech, Raintree, eucalyptus and mango – to name a few. Various birds, insects and palm squirrels frolic on the branches, live in their hollows and gorge on the fruits, flowers and worms on offer. But, while each tree has got its peculiar charm, the mango tree is dear to us.
One is unsure about the mango tree’s age, but it has been around for as long as one can remember. The sparkling green leaves have a charm of their own, and my significant other is in awe of the fragrance. Moreover, the tree’s extraordinary large leaves are in great demand during festive occasions when they deck Hindu homes’ entrances. Laden with golden mangoes in summer, our ‘tall green friend’ is a sight to behold.
Butterflies flit besides the leaves and flowers, the birds use the branches to make a brief stopover, and squirrels skip and scamper along its wide arms. Our ‘green friend’ also acts as a defensive barrier to ward off the sun’s harsh rays. The creaking noise it makes as its branches sway in the gusty monsoon winds is music to the ears.
A septuagenarian friend and neighbour, Kamlesh Dholakia, was an ardent fan of the tree. He would wake up to the sight of the green beauty every morning – the tree stood bang opposite his bedroom window. He spent countless hours wallowing in its shade and savouring the luscious fruits during the season.
Kamlesh, who had a craving for mangoes, would always take the initiative in harvesting the fruits. He had reaped the fruits for the last few years and knew every nook and cranny of the tree. He would extoll the ‘king of fruits’ virtues besides reel off the names of countless other mango varieties he fancied. The scent of ripe mangoes always made him go bonkers.
One of his pet peeves was discovering fruits missing from a branch – probably knocked down by miscreants. But the harvest time would see us team up, knock off the ripe fruits, count them, and share the bounty with the neighbours. Kamlesh would also squirrel away raw mangoes felled by gusty winds and turn them into perfectly cooked sweet spuds using jaggery.
Last November, Kamlesh, who was in great shape, suddenly succumbed to Covid while at his home town in Udaipur. Just before he received the curtain call, we had lopped off some of the tree’s arms that extended onto the roadside to prevent the fruits and deadwood from dropping on the cars parked below. But soon, the tree sprouted fresh foliage, which warmed our hearts. It stood in glorious splendour as the leaves transformed from an orange-pink hue to glossy red before turning dark green.
As the fruiting season approached and the tree flowered profusely, another bumper harvest was on the cards. But with Mr Kamlesh gone, there was no one to sing its praises. Then, inexplicably, weeks later, the tree went bonkers, dropping buds and flowers. To everybody’s dismay, the tree which always produced basket loads of fruits had only a few to show this time around – we could count them on our fingers. Whether the tree was grieving the loss of its beloved admirer or suffering from a disorder of some kind? The answer to this question remains elusive!
(The author is a former banker who has taken to writing as a past time. He is a regular contributor to ‘Kashmir Vision’ besides writes for various Regional and National publications)


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