Standing next to the giant old tree, its static presence made Saami sombre, more and more.
He cried, “Saami is now one with the rigid, rough and-and dead, yes, dead and gruesome tree bark, Saami has turned into this tree bark… O, but why?”
Resting against the tree now, now hugging the tree and mumbling, Saami stared into nothingness blankly, quietly. He opened his fist – a flint stone chip, equally dead he thought – and started ripping off the bark once again.
“Saami sees it all, Saami knows the limits, Saami’s dungeon is different from theirs, but… it’s all the same”, he announced in pain.
The twittering yellow bird, the prancing butterflies, a distant lullaby, the pesky kung-fu crickets’ funny civil war and the red flowers’ bold stance, Saami turned a blind eye to it all.
Even the crickets stopped their civil war to enjoy the rain and the rainbow that day, but not Saami.
“Fools! Saami knows the pattern, Saami knows hope and destiny are always stuck in a traffic jam, and love…”, said Saami two hours ago.
“Love… love coloured Saami’s world black… black is the absence of all colours… black reflects no light… Saami lives in darkness”, he completed the sentence just when the fireflies lit the jungle.
Some rested on his head and hands, but Saami refused to greet them.
With a dry look, sullen eyes and tired limbs, Saami spoke for the last time, “dead, static tallness, this soulless tree bark hates Saami, this is the death penalty, and the most terrible because Saami is not tied, Saami can move, Saami knows, but not anymore, for Saami has become one with this giant numb stubborn treeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…”
Saami spoke for the last time because the lovely, joyous and calm tree’s branch took hold of Saami’s tired body and pulled him up-up-up… in a gushing blast of speed, suddenly music broke Saami’s heart-heart-heart… ta-rum-pup-pup-paa came the sound and immediately replaced it with a musical hub-dub sensation of a heart.
From the top-most branch of the tall lovely tree, Saami could see melodic colours and no darkness, nothing was static for the entire jungle and the river and the wind and the sky and the stars and the moon and the sun (together) danced to the twee peppy tune – and equally soothing, thought Saami – that the animal orchestra was playing.
Every animal – jamming freely – sitting on the top of some tree just like Saami… Saami who started clapping, swaying along and tip-tap-toeing in the air.
The tall lovely tree finally spoke, “Saami, yoi-knowi-da-cosmic-i-dance-sO-‘ell”; Saami was seen blushing brightly before the curtain was drawn.
And the Warli drama unfolds… thunderous applause… come and watch the puppets dancing, dancing to the tunes of folktales… look at, but beware, the bewitching dance movements will make you happy and take you to the wonderland. And you will dream the original dream. Ohhs and aahs and wows and wahs!
Hey puppeteer, where are the strings and where are you hiding? “I am over here”, said the puppeteer and added, “the strings are invisible and so am I, my dear.”
But the puppets were ready, the performance had started. Shush! Shush! The tale of a King heard never before by some.
“Where is my horse, commander?”, asked the portly King. “Sir, you’re riding it”, gasped the tired commander. The horse neighed and snorted.
Meanwhile his subjects went through their daily chores of dancing little more…
· I prefer ink pens if I have an option and I strongly feel that the white paper thinks the same. The smoothness with which it works makes bad handwriting elegant, adding to it an old-world charm.
· ‘Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone…’ this song is stuck in my head. I cannot put pen to paper when my mind is out for a stroll somewhere in a far land.
· I think I know what will be the name of the main character in my story. I will call him Shakespeare. What a wonderful name for a tree. This will be so as the other character Tim, a kid, who after reading a story in his English class written by William Shakespeare is captivated by the music of the surname and decides to name the Tree, Shakespeare. The Tree, Tim’s best friend, will be a large, leafy and shady tree. It looks quite okay so far. I hope I’ll complete the story in time.
· I love to come on this hilltop. What a calm place this is. My eyes can see greenery everywhere, with a shade of blue, as if these are God’s favourite colours. And the birds fly here and there as if they are the paintbrush. I think I will be able to pour my heart into my writing, in such a beautiful place. God bless the person who thought of putting a bench in this place. Oops! Please teach manners to some idiots who enjoy putting chewing gums on the benches. Hah!
· The story is moving at a good pace. I feel both, Tim and Shakespeare the Tree, are looking strong. But if I am to consider what my teacher said, dealing with an experimental plot like mine could result in a lame tale. Nevertheless, I am going to stick with what I have thought of. Do we have the liberty to express ourselves or not? So what if one enjoys writing absurd stories?
· Well, I haven’t written much for a long time. My lovely ink pen looks dry lying on the table by the notebook. I wonder what the ink pen is thinking. Maybe it is waiting to pour fresh ink on the paper and make cursive designs. Maybe it dies when one is not using it and when used, it comes back to life. I can’t forget that scene when Ella trying to fill the ink pen, somehow managed to spill the inkpot all over, staining her new dress. She shouted at me because the ink pen was mine and blamed me for the disaster. I didn’t reply because I was busy laughing and cleaning the site of the accident.
· The highlight of my story will be the interesting conversations between Tim and Shakespeare the Tree. Tim will be a sensitive boy, who notices and relishes each and every movement of the Tree- the dance of every single leaf and every branch, the falling of all the old leaves, the ants walking non-stop on the Tree, sometimes tickling the Tree and the habit of the Tree to make the leaf always fall in the pool of water. Shakespeare the Tree will be like its name- grand and simple, mysterious, life-giving and a great actor. An actor who knows its role very well and performs it perfectly with such swiftness that it looks dynamically static.
· It is raining today and Ella doesn’t like it. We cancelled our plan. Ella messaged me ‘rainfall… not happening yaar’ and I agreed, though I didn’t in reality. I like the rainy season; the dominant sound of rain splashing everywhere; watching the birds trying to hide; the dripping roof; and the hot coffee. Thanks to the rain, I’ll add a chapter about it in my story. A sequence about how Tim rushes to save himself from the heavy shower and finds Shakespeare the Tree as his rescuer…but not like a cliche, it should represent the bond between the two friends.
[After a few days.]
· I am excited because tomorrow I’ll present a sneak peek of my story in the class. And so will the other participants. I’ll have to make the opening sound both reasonable and authentic. I think I’ll be able to sustain the interest of all those who will hear me out. I’ll end the summary in verse.
Tonight the moon looks quite talkative or maybe I can hear more.
The Moon: Do you know about my friend Cactus? He lives in a desert. Me: How calm one gets just by looking at you. The Moon: You talk like my friend Cactus. He said he enjoys my calm white rays. Me: What is that you want to say dear Moon? The Moon: A lot. It’s quite lonely up here sometimes, you know. I’ll tell you about my other friend, he is a sailor. But later sometime, for now, I wish you a sweet night. Me: Talk to you soon. I am feeling sleepy. Good night!
· I got an average response in the class. It is so that people like straightforward love stories and adventure tales more than any experimental tale like that of a friendship between a boy and a tree. Well, this will not stop me from continuing. I asked my ink pen and he said nothing. Instead, he was ready to write. So was I.
· Tim can’t be a single child or an adopted child or mentally challenged or troubled at school or anything weird and obvious. Tim should be normal and a happy go lucky child. I want him to be one of us, whose innocent mind bonds with a tree. I think I’ll make him a hostler and his school will be in a beautiful hill station. This sounds familiar but I have to start with this basic idea. Because later in the story I’ll have to deal with lots of How’s and Where’s etc.
· Shakespeare the Tree will be an Oak tree and I was always clear about this; a big tree with canopy branches and spiral leaves. Like all the trees, this one too will be warm and welcoming. I feel we all have been friends with a tree or will be in future. Not a single tree in the world needs the help of words to express itself. Their aura is such that if we get close to them we immediately sense the connection. This is what I and Tim believe.
· Ella disagrees. I never want to fight with my best friend but we sometimes upset each other a lot. Like yesterday she said that the story is too “something” and when I asked her to describe exactly what this “something” is, she said it is risky to write such out of place stories. We are not talking, for now.
· After two days she messaged me sorry. I did the same. We are back.
[The girl writes a lot about herself and her thoughts.]
· I am irritated. What was Ma’am thinking when she asked us to empty our minds and hearts and see how the zine list helps us?
[Crux of the story.]
· Tim and Shakespeare the Tree: it is about a blessed friendship between Tim, a 5th standard kid and an oak tree, who is named Shakespeare the Tree by Tim. He names him so because he is impressed by the grandeur of William Shakespeare when his English teacher talks about the legend in the class. Tim wishes to call the magnificent Tree by a magnificent name. He visits the Tree daily and enjoys talking with the Tree. Tim is astounded by the fact that the Tree offers so much to the surrounding. He decides to be like his friend Shakespeare the Tree when he grows up, to be as helpful as the Tree is. Without giving a thought about the future, he delightfully gets close to the Tree.
[She is ready.]
· Tomorrow morning I’ll submit the story. Fingers crossed!
[Before throwing the writing pad away she writes.]
· My teacher announced the name of the story that was selected for the competition. It wasn’t mine. Ella cheered me up and we went shopping. She asked me not to take it seriously. I told her that I am fine. We both knew I lied.
[No one told Time that it can stop and rest. And so, the life of the girl who wrote the zine list went on. She became a teacher and her dream to be a writer didn’t come true… life wasn’t the way she had imagined. Ella is still her friend but they are not in touch. Ella is married and lives in a foreign country. That girl is now a lady, who works to earn, to survive.
She is presently in her class. She is talking about writing competition. She encourages all her students to participate. Students burst with questions but she is lost. For a second she enters a reverie. She comes back and asks the class to make a zine list related to their stories. It helps she adds.
She reaches home and drinks tea. She knew she’ll not be at rest until she finds her zine list. She rummages all the racks. She finds it and unfolds it. The thin writing pad was old but half of the pages were blank… half filled. She reads through the zine list. Then she picks up her pen and writes.]
· I am writing with a ball pen. It doesn’t matter much. All you need is words.
[She rubs her wet eyes.]
· I am glad that my teacher didn’t choose my story, it wasn’t well-written. My story was too sunny and happy. The title for instance Tim and Shakespeare the Tree…what was I thinking? And the chitchat between little Tim and the Tree…everything was like a dream, it was out of place.
[She looks outside the window.]
· Life is such a shrewd player that you are bound to lose. I have not lost. I avoid participating. But I’ll write a fair ending to this story here. And let me give a fair opening to it as well. The writer in me is back. Funny me!
· Tim walked into the jungle. As soon as the voice of all the other campers was absorbed by the colossal forest, he thought of returning. He felt the hushes piercing. He was scared but soon the natural noise sunk in him. He took a deep breath and felt alive. He didn’t realize when the serene madness of the jungle entered within him and brought him in front of a giant oak tree. It was godly. Tim felt as if the branches of the Tree were ready to give him a tight hug. Seeing the gigantic structure Tim took a step back. But in a few minutes, he got hypnotized and sat near the Tree, adoring it and letting it seep inside him. He knew somehow that the Tree was waiting for him for a long time. He had a feeling that he was meeting a very old, dear friend. Tim was staring hard. Then he looked around. Nearby, a stream was playing a sweet melody and Tim started humming. Nature is always at its best. Always perfect. Receiving everyone with an everlasting, undying warmth. Tim didn’t realize it, but soon he fell asleep. The smile on his face made it evident that he was at peace.
· Why am I not Tim? Why have I never tried to meet my old, dear friend? Life can be so mean if you don’t appreciate it. I find myself empty.
[She stops writing and looks outside the window again.]
· I hope the idea of making a zine list will help my students. It’s a crazy class. Boys are busy fighting and shouting and girls love giggling excitedly. I love all of them. And those two girls, they are always together, I have noticed their Best Friend Forever bands.
[Another Sigh! She adds.]
· “Tim and Shakespeare the Tree” remains my favourite.
Keep walking! Walking? Together! Together?/
For a bright future – said the leader,/
Sitting comfortably on the throne.
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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