THE PRECIOUS PLUM TREE - Part 1
Residing in a tightly packed residential complex of the Government, without a lawn as one's own didn't dampen Meena's spirit for gardening. She thanked God hundred times a day when she sat alone for hours together admiring her garden, for she was allotted the ground floor of the quarter block miraculously. Meena couldn't imagine a life without plants, trees and flower pots around her. She could bear the loneliness at ease, being away from her spouse and children. But she couldn't bear the thought of being away from her plants even for a single day. She missed them a lot. Whenever Meena was forced to attend a marriage or death ceremony at a distant place she secretly pleaded to the Sun God not to shine too bright lest her plants may wither without regular watering. She was even reluctant to attend any long function during weekends as that was the time she spent more with her plant family. During weekends Meena tried to finish cooking, cleaning and other kitchen hold chores fast and rush to her garden like the housewives who completes the work in a hurry in time not to miss their favourite Serial sitting tight, eyes glued to television.
If one thought gardening was a quick and simple hobby it is wrong. Gardening was also an art brushed with accurate master strokes. When the quarter block was allotted to Meena five years back it was an abode for poisonous reptiles. She had to spend ample of amount from her own pocket to clear the weeds and unwanted shrubs from the little L shaped area around that block. She started by arranging flower pots in the front, slowly planting fruit trees and finally vegetable shrubs and creepers at the end, smiling within secretly titling "Meena's : Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Garden". The neighbours who were not interested in Meena's hobby readily extended their area also for her benefit as they knew, that by expressing such leniency they could have their lawn too, free from reptiles and fresh vegetables in case of emergency. Some curious neighbours couldn't help prying at her garden concealing themselves behind the curtains as they could see even the rare Blue Lotus in a Chinese plastic tub in the front, fruit bearing trees in a row at one side and bright shining spinach and vegetables at the back. One could easily guess that she wasn't using any harmful fertilizers but only the homemade ones. She used the useless vegetables peels, tea leaf leftovers, egg shell and other wastrels as manure. At times she collected dried cow dung and molasses of groundnut after oil extract and used it appropriately for orchids, anthurium and vegetables creepers. It was as though the old saying regarding effort "Man half and God Half" as God blessed it in abundance. All the trees started bearing fruits quickly; the plants were covered with colourful flowers throughout and the creepers laden with vegetables.
Like the story of Eden, there was a special tree in Meena's garden too. It was the Precious Plum Tree. Though all the trees were five years old and produced yield the Plum tree was keeping on growing spreading out wide its healthy branches. When she planted it, it had hardly four leaves. Why was it precious for Meena? Was it because of its rarity? One could see that Meena turned to an orator when she reached the plum tree with the friends who visited her garden. She proudly narrated "Can you guess what tree is this? Without waiting for the reply she continues, as she knows that no one can answer her question. "It's a Plum tree, Yes, the delicious fleshy red plum we eat, found only in the Far East and cold regions". "But then how did you get it"? Comes the question by the admirers. "you know the weakness of mine for plants, when I visited a relative at an hill station travelling in our own vehicle I made the driver stop at every plant nursery to look around for new saplings, when I procured it I had my doubts whether it will survive in our place, but my special care brought the result, wait for next year, all of you can have a bite of plum from this tree. You see how strong her branches are! It has grown taller than me". Some of them had their doubts. "But how do you know that it is real"? Meena had the research result ready for that question, "I goggled in the net and got all the details, it matches with this tree, the texture of the leaves, the stalk, the way the branches spread", she continued "Like the fruits of Banyan trees, plums also adhere with the stalk, no separate branches sprout at time of bloom, it needs six years of growth".
The Monsoon began and Meena didn't spend time tending the garden, her spouse came down for annual leave and the children for the break. Meena was busy cooking delicacies to their liking. There was lot of shopping, purchasing etc. Dad went for comfort commodities. He purchased two huge soft beds for the children. Meena stacked the old ones under the cot stating that it can be given to the needy. But as some say "Man without patience" dad wanted things to be cleared off immediately, stating that dust may get accumulated under the cot, so saying he dragged the beds out to destroy it by burning. Meena had the limitations in objecting.
Time passed, holidays ended and so did the monsoon. Spouse and children went to catch up their job and studies. Meena eagerly went to spend her time with plant family. That day Meena had a shock of her life. At the place where her Precious Plum Tree stood she saw its burnt corpse. Panting heavily Meena rushed to its side, tears dripped down her eyes, she gasped for breath and mumbled " Oh! God, What happened? "Was it because I didn't water it for the past two weeks", she gazed around the other trees, No! The sand was still wet from rain, but the debris around the plum tree made everything clear. Her spouse has destroyed the old beds by burning it underneath the plum tree, the tree that usually grows in cold region couldn't bear. Meena saw the vision in her mind, Oh! No, Great God ... it might have cried out for help, it might have looked out for me to extinguish the fire, it might have pleaded for little bit of water to quench the thirst while burning alive. Did it have anything to say finally? Did it have any dream? Like the dream she had about it laden with rich red fleshy plums. Meena couldn't control her anger and grief. She sensed that many neighbours were watching her. The controlled words echoed within her heart. "Murderer, you burnt a virgin alive and a part of mine"
Some people cannot accept the death of their beloved ones, they keep expecting their return, likewise Meena thought that some miracle might happen, she started watering that burnt tree daily vigorously, she whispered soothing words with prayers, apologized many times and asked it to come back to her. One day, gently she pinched its skin to see whether it is still raw within, then she decided to cut off the dried branches and let only the stump to remain expecting fresh nodules to appear from the root. But the stump stood like a tomb. Like the tombstone placed to mark the spot of burial of the beloved, near to the house. Blinded with tears while watering the stump Meena didn't notice that the white ants were gently gnawing away the dead stump from the root.
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