Zeenat Iqbal hakimjee
The first word of the story is You
You should have heard it. First there was a loud creaking noise and then a thud followed by a ‘Whoosh!’
Whatever could have happened? I jumped up from my typewriter. I was in the midst of writing a story when I ran to the window to see what was going on. There, right below my window, lay the great old pine tree.
Ongoing outside to examine the tree, I noticed that it had actually broken into half. The trunk had split from the middle.
Years ago, such trees were a common sight for me when I was a boarder at a Convent in Murree.
It seemed such a pity for this particular tree had taken twenty years or so to reach its present size. And now, in one brief moment, it had become a wreck, only fit for firewood. It had provided shade for us, as it stood tall, close to my house.
The cause of its decay was not hard to find. Right where the break had come, I could see the telltale signs of decay. Nobody had noticed this earlier. Indeed, to all appearances, this tree was as strong and healthy as any other near it, but the weakness was there just the same, slowly getting worse month after month and year after year.
As I recollected memories of my past, I saw myself clad in jeans, about to climb my tree house that was built on this particular tree. I remembered the immense pleasure it had brought friends, my family and me. Could the place be such a great source of pleasure? This was a question that crept into the heads of my houseguests, when I would tell them of my tree house. And then I’d take them there and they too went away convinced that it was.
Experiencing the songs of the birds, the fresh air touching the cheeks, the sight of the sun and the moon, made them all wish that they too had a place like this.
As for my children, I had tied a hammock on the tree so that they slept well.
Alas, it was neglect, sheer neglect, which had brought about the decay. I was too busy enjoying my life and my husband was busy earning money for our family. Still sometimes I talked to my tree. Maybe the wind whistling through the branches was my reply. Yes, I think my tree would respond to me this way. My question-answer session, as I spoke about it to the outsiders, seemed like my imagination going wild to them.
As it now lay there, reminding me that it was only good for firewood, I became sad. My son, who was my best companion too, came to me. He had sensed my sorrow.
My young man, my son, was a champion cyclist and he rode around in the neighbourhood. He got me specimens of trees and told me to select one for planting. Such gestures of his and the circulars that my husband brought home full of information from his horticultural society meetings, did make me feel a bit better. Maybe I too should start thinking about a new tree in the garden.
One day as I took my early morning walk, I saw a small plant staring at me from the base where my tree had once stood. The seed of the parent tree had given birth to this plant. Its roots taking possession of the space. A ripe green shoot was giving me proof of the continuity of life.
Another story built up in my mind. A story with a happy ending. This little plant gave me reason to be joyous.
My husband explained the phenomenon to his society. And I did not tell him that the reason behind the growth of my plant was my talking to it. My friend had left a souvenir in its place. One that would always keep its memory alive in my heart.