(A short fiction by Sidharth Vardhan
April 7, 2018)
I am imagining what a tree would think if it could. How it would look at the seasons as they come and go – the spring that brings with it flowers and birds, the winters that take them away – how with death of every flower would be for it like dying a little too and how with birth of new one, it would be reborn to that extent. Does it get tiring for trees, this perpetual cycle of little births and deaths? Is that why their branches are hunched so often?
But far more terrible than these changes in its own body would be the memory of the birds – how they come every spring with their musical voices, building their nests, which to the trees might seem like promise that birds are here for rest of their life, and feeding the little bridlings which trees would hold tenderly on their branches, offering its fruits to happy family to which it has become a home. At first, each tree must have been misled by those apparent promises but repeated disappointments year after year have meant that at some moment it will just know – that they shall not be with it in its weakest moments – when it shed away its leaves like tears mourning in that secret grief which makes the Autumn so beautiful.
Perhaps initially it did try without success to cry for birds to come back but over years, each tree would slowly come to terms with the fact that for all the music that birds create in its better moments, it would forever be alone in its grief.
The word ‘traitor’ must then pass through its non-existent mind when it would look at those birds go away without a second look. And yet trees can’t seem to hold on to that anger. Come next spring and they can see birds from afar coming with same delightful voices. Could it do so, perhaps it would have then lamented its inability to stay angry? And that perhaps is their greatest tragedy – trees seem to can’t get angry.
This tree would silently welcome the intruders and let them sing (though they may never know about their secret admirer) and let itself get used to the happiness they offer once again – knowing fully well by now that this happiness is temporary and that by giving in to it, it is only making the next winter harder for itself. Again and again it would nourish the little bridlings who would fly away next Autumn, again and again, it would shed the little traitors from the cruel sun of summers – and again and again, it would look forward anxiously to the moment when they would fly away. For, won’t it be worse if they were not to come at all? Why destroy something beautiful just because it wasn’t everlasting?
Perhaps, it would reason, birds can’t be judged – they don’t know and perhaps can’t know how much it suffers in their absence. But then even this line of reasoning would sometimes get refuted for some of the misfortune trees who happen to catch fire in springs or summers – for then they would be fated in their dying moments to see the birds desert them – in the eyes of those little deserters only fear for their own lives, not a single tear for what has so long been their home.