My relationship with my plants and trees is not very old. While I have always liked to believe that I can speak to them, the past few years have shown me how I can feel them and emotionally connect with them.
The Gardener called me out with a serious look on his face. “I have some bad news”, he said. “Gosh! Is any of my plants infected with aphids?” I asked. I don’t like them — aphids. They seem to suck the life out of any green stem. But the man in the khakis stood with his feet apart and was eyeing a tall tree at the corner.
“Why is he looking there?”, I wondered, “perhaps some bird is hurt”, I reckoned. But, Nabeel, my Gardener walked me towards the huge tree and pointed at the gaping slit of the wall that stood between my patch and my neighbours. “See this?”, he asked with renewed concern, “and that?”, he was now pointing at the wall that cordoned off the home space from the outside world.
“Yes”, I said, my brain still running at breakneck speed wondering what he was getting at. “This Neem tree should be felled”, he declared. That moment, I laughed out. I mean, why in the world would a poor tree have to be felled. It stood in the corner, minding its own business without as much as waving a branch at us.
“You are joking?”, I smiled. Nabeel was unmoved. He turned his cap around and rubbed his stubble on his chin.
“No. It has to go. Otherwise, the wall will collapse. The tree is pushing it — you see? That’s the reason, there is a gap”, he said pointing at the slit.
I watched the slit and looked up to get a full view of the bountiful bowing branches. A thick canopy with lush green leaves joyously danced in the afternoon sun. I could see them smile deliriously as they prepared meal after meal and welcomed young fledglings to their branches.
A tiny black-headed bulbul chirped loudly as a collared dove spread her wings to take to the skies. “Nope”, I declared, “We can’t do it” as I looked squarely at Nabeel.
“But, Ma’am, the tree is pushing the wall”, he seemed concerned.
“Yup. That’s because, the wall is in its way”, I put my foot down. Surely, the tree is not doing it out of any fancy. It is just trying to find its feet — quite literally.
“Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you”, he put his arms up.
“Let me have a chat with the tree”, I reasoned.
“I will leave you to it”, he said, shaking his head.
I stood there watching the Neem tree. The tree came to us as a young sapling with a thin stem. At that time, there were no branches. Just a couple of green leaves and I could pat its head as I took a walk around. Now, a decade later, I have to crane my neck up and I can hardly see its crown.
Many times, over the years, the tree has had to go through some cuttings so that it doesn’t unduly concern my neighbours. It has given me immensely grateful memories under its cool shades. On hot summer afternoons, the garden is scattered with its dry leaves. But, I gather them happily and scatter them around so that the rest of the patch become friends with it.
This tree in the corner has rewarded me with many happy mornings when I watch the morning sun stream through its leaflets and kiss my face.
I walked up to its trunk and patted it gently. The barks are all cracked up and many flies buzz through them. I chuckled under my breath because, this fella, my tree is home to so many more things than I can ever imagine.
So, I did what any tree lover would do. I had a little chat. I smiled as I looked up again. I wondered briefly if the tree could hear me. Perhaps it did because I have the weirdest feeling that the tree swayed gently and bowed with a smile.
Sudha Subramanian is an author and writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman