Nibbling the leaves and thorns, reaching for its yellow flowers, suddenly, Jhui-Mui the little goat made a novel request to the Khejri tree, “please tell me a story.”
Jhui-Mui’s mum and other goats chuckled a bit, then continued surfing the shrubs spread around the Khejri tree for shade, water and love.
The tree which gave, for centuries, both food and medicine to all, with its ground bark to make a flour during the very many parched famine days, and its deep-deep roots that held the soil and directed the researchers to the cool water table, the desert’s old friend, Khejri, knew a pocketful of folktales too.
The Khejri tree told Jhui-Mui the little goat about a four-hundred-year-old tree, one who belongs to its own family, but lives in a far-off desert, alone on a barren hill, with roots fifty meters deep and long groovy, harmonious branches that welcomes every traveller and every story.
“What is its name?”, asked the beady eyed, happy Jhui-Mui. “The Tree of Life”, replied the Khejri tree and hummed an old tune that filled the arid air with cool magic.
What a wonderful, serene scene this is… I love mountains.
[Dev breathes in the cool air, then walks ahead and clicks pictures using his new camera; the funky-funny-machine-like clicking repeated sound is in sharp contrast to the peaceful silence present.]
Hmm… Hey, Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me/ I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to/ Hey, Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me/ In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you…
[Dev walks ahead; his rough shoes making imprints on the kind earth; he continues humming and the wind plays the tune; he then stops and clicks another photograph.]
Who’s that? Does not look like a tourist… she is… why is she standing… on the edge of the cliff?
“Excuse me, you are standing on the edge… the cliff is quite steep… just, just be careful.”
[The girl does not pay much attention to him; she is looking at the grand mountains and the evening sky.]
What is with this girl… she is clearly… oh!
[Dev suddenly starts running; camera in one hand, he rushes, gazing like an eagle at the girl.]
“Hey! Wait! What… what are you doing?”
“Calm down, it is alright”, said the girl curtly.
[Dev halts; panting he takes a step forward and then looks up in the sky; he then presses his forehead with two fingers and sets his hairstyle before looking at the girl again.]
“I thought… I… I thought you are about to jump… sorry!”
[The girl smiles and goes back to looking at the picturesque scene. Dev feeling embarrassed hits his head gently and starts walking away.]
“Will you click a photograph for me? Such a peaceful place this is”, said the girl mesmerised by the view.
“Oh, yeah, sure”, said Dev.
Should I take her photograph or just the mountains…? Oh, she is looking at me and smiling, definitely posing for the camera.
“One moment, please”, said Dev.
[He changes the settings on his Canon DSLR and then gets ready to click the photo.]
Hmm… she is beautiful…
[As Dev sets the frame with the girl to the left side and the mountains in the centre, the girl takes a step backwards and jumps. The camera slips from Dev’s hand and he rushes towards the edge.]
Oh, no, oh, no!
[Dev gulps dry air and peeks down the cliff, he cannot see her anywhere. His heart beats madly and his head starts to spin.]
What just… she, she… jumped!
[Dev again looks down, a gush of wind hits him, this time it is playing another melody. Dev fails to recognise this tune. Dev steps back from the edge of the cliff, takes out his cell phone and turns; he dials the emergency helpline number and looks up. The girl is standing with his camera in her hands.]
A crumpled piece of paper, resting in an old library book, smoothened by time.
Intrigued by it, Bakul quickly rushed to a corner. She read the words loud and clear ‘Ellinikí Glóssa’.
Unsure of what it means, she fabricated a story– it is a secret message meant for someone. Yes! Beaming like a sunflower beams on seeing the sun, Bakul crossed the corridor, then the stairs. Students saw her and thought, ‘ye to gayi firse’ (she has lost it again).
Bakul looked at you, yes you, the reader and said with dreamy eyes and a wide smile – “Let us find out what the secret message is.“
A turn and Bakul bumped into her teacher.
“Sorry Sir”, “Bakul! Be careful girl! And what’s in your hand, what are you up to this time?”, “Sir, Rekha Ma’am is looking for you”, “Quiet Bakul, show me… eh… Ellinikí Glóssa… so now you’re interested in Greek language, hm?”, “Sirrrrr… this is in Greek?”, “Don’t waste your time and submit your assignment by Monday, okay?”
Bakul nodded. Sir turned to leave, then stopped, “Where did you say Rekha Ma’am is… in the staff room?” “Hee-hee-hee”, “Bakul, wait, you silly girl!”
Alone in the corridor, she looked again at you, yes you, the reader (don’t you remember?) and said with starry and mischievous eyes– “Am I interested in Greek Language?” She then winked at you.
Well, she must have found out the answer to this questionby now. What do you think?
I dare you to forget not. Forget what not? Try to remember… remember that day when…
… for the first time you crawled… you struggled to walk… you hopped all along… you won a race… you tap danced with grace… you came in style… you left wearing a smile… you befriended the walking stick… you crawled for the second time…
… for the first time you were loved… you were pampered… you were jealous… you were told to share… you were lonely… you made a friend… you believed in dreams… you knew true joy… you hurt yourself… you stood up… you worshipped time… you quietly realised… you happily understood… you loved them back…
… for the first time you felt you knew absolutely nothing… you followed their path… you managed to survive… you built a new track… you knew right is right and wrong, wrong… you travelled in time… you accepted the change… you thoroughly read writings in brief… you said of course… you said not at all… you repented and laughed at the mistake… you cheered your take… you declared that you still knew absolutely nothing…
Everything is forgotten on the way, but the journey goes on… the journey that is unforgettably yours.
Papa said, ‘I am not a negative thinker’. I almost clapped in approval, but then I saw him drinking at 9:45 in the morning. I dared to speak and I did, reminding him of the 80% blockage in one of his arteries. Gulp! ‘No negative thinking’, he advised me.
His red eyes and newly ignited soul went into the garden to work. After a few hours, I checked the fresh hairstyle of the garden, it was almost bald. Papa said, ‘Plants should grow this way’.
Which way you must be thinking? Whichever way Papa wants to grow it, you fool. He replied so, I am just quoting it.
My sense of understanding is weak; I am the wrong person to walk left when the right is right.
I am also stupid if I don’t remind Papa, thrice, that he wanted to drink tea, which invariably loses all its piping hotness and turns dead cold by the time he returns from the garden.
Kindly ask everyone in the street not to stare at me. So what if I look like an outgrown, zigzag tree, my Papa will prune me.
I have the whole life’s agenda, second wise, installed in my brain. I am to wake up early every day and run to the office, work and be good in it and come back home to get recharged for the next day.
Every hour I am to be alert; I am allowed even to worry about security. I again dared and asked Papa, ‘Security from what?’ ‘That thing… that… something…’ he said.
I understood zilch about it. Patience please, I am a slow learner.
Every minute of the hour, I am to relish the complexities of the present. It is to be like the dogs, they are so cute and hold only one feeling at a moment – hunger, aggression, love or anxiety.
I reluctantly told Papa about my opinion. He laughed and then shooed me away like a dog is shooed away.
For your benefit, I am sharing that it is not a wise thing to do. Homo sapiens sapiens can do better. I have read so in a book. Of course, I didn’t say a word about it to Papa. Do you think I am stupid? Ha!
Every second of every minute, I am to remain lost in whatever shit crazy thing I am doing. This will result in an unhealthy body, but a good position and a reasonable flat after a few years travail.
I am a middle-class being, this means to me what nirvana means to that mad ascetic I once met.
Do you know what the ascetic told me? He asked me to sit under a huge tree, pointing in the jungle’s (point decimal of what is left) direction. That’s it!
What am I supposed to do there alone, I shouted behind him and he shouted back, ‘Think’.
Confused, I asked Papa about it one day – a day that showcased crimson clouds from the window. He didn’t say a word.
I looked at the crimson clouds once again. Then I stared at Papa. I didn’t know there were four clocks in his room, one on each wall, until that day. I was sweating when Papa suddenly opened his eyes and asked me to get some water for him. He coughed badly.
He is coughing badly right now. From that day the crimson clouds haven’t left the window. I mostly stay near Papa and only occasionally go to sit under that huge tree.
“Civilization begins with distillation said William Faulkner….”
The way he wrote it on the blackboard, I first felt as if I am in a management class and I should note it down, word to word… later, I did note it down but the feeling wasn’t the same. The white chalk on the blackboard and the handwriting suddenly changed and I felt I had heard a secret that William Faulkner said long back. It happens a lot and though it’s strange, I enjoy these secrets… no I don’t understand the secrets, all of them, immediately, no, I just absorb them quietly.
I generally don’t remember all of them, especially on the occasions when there is a need to quote them but nonetheless a beautiful, warm and sweet feeling stays, the secret stays, forever.
The ink on my paper also talks to me but I rarely pay attention. And when I do, the ink has nothing to say. When it has something to say and when I also listen to it, a tear falls and erases it. Yes, tears can erase and paint beautifully.
I don’t know why, but I use the word beautiful a lot. There are so many other words like charming, pretty, gorgeous, lovely, graceful, even heavenly… how does it matter anyway, every word is beautiful. I scribbled some lines on the last page, it goes – ‘how beautiful the scene was but when I tried to capture it…it died.’ On that page then, I couldn’t write anything, not a word, I just doodled.
The flowers, the creepers, the sky, the moon and the sun close to each other along with the stars circling them, a small boat and a butterfly all danced their way towards what I wrote and then stopped. I darkened the moon, till it looked very deep and I have plans to colour the butterfly.
What is he saying? What are we talking about? Have I missed something important? I flip the pages and peep at someone else’s book. To confirm! Ha! It is the same page, nothing has changed, he has been talking and talking; I felt for a moment that ages have passed, time rushed some centuries back and forth for me, swinging in different worlds I almost always forget to live in the present.
Everything is so cold for some never ending seconds, then why will I not want the warmth of the other worlds? The last page…and I float again.
Oops! The duster fell from his hand and we all smiled. I shared my smile with a guy sitting next to me. How stupid is that? Laughing without any reason…though I generally do that a lot.
I have a story in mind… it’s an image that has stayed with me for a time I can’t recall.
An old man, he is tall but thin, his wrinkled hands and tattered clothes tell me something different from what his wrinkled face expresses – a smile.
He is always smiling or is it because the wrinkles have taken such a shape… or is it just my imagination. We are on the same bus and I never think about the bus fare because I just don’t, but the old man with a wrinkled smile fixed on his face seems to be thinking about it a lot. For two-three minutes, he requests the conductor to allow him to travel without the bus fare and then from his invisible pocket of his torn coat, he takes out some coins and gives it to the conductor.
I can’t hear the exclamations of the conductor, I am too engrossed to see the old man with a wrinkled smile fixed on his face.
The pages are turning, millions have written in it, the ink is dry and still alive… a lot has been said and there is still a lot to say… the blank page looks exciting and it says the most and aloud. I am listening. Are you listening?
‘Are you listening?’ Yes, I nod! He has written something else on the board, but I didn’t see him writing again.
“All truths wait in all things – Walt Whitman.”
Wait… for there is some truth waiting to get revealed in everything.
I wrote this on the blank page, there I also drew a time machine, then the whole universe danced its way towards what I wrote and then stopped. I plan to colour it with light.
When choosing my flower’s colour /
Blindly I pick all – the sun decides /
Which one suits me more.
A storyteller, following the ancient tradition of cave chroniclers, standing in vrikshasana (the tree pose) on a hill top (it is sunny, but windy), breathing in and out stories (relishing it all, but at times overwhelmed), declares animatedly that she will continue to – tell stories, share rare story gems, and connect with the pacy universe while also keeping the website ad-free.
Big thanks to my readers. Stay tuned!
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Chiming Stories (formerly Home Chimes)
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