It used to be a huge tree. And a rather sociable one too. It reached its arms out in comradely garrulity. It waved often. When the wind came around, it circled its boughs in sweet slow movements like village girls in their lehengas while shadows danced under it. ‘She’ hated it though. The leaves had to be constantly swept away. And the tree kept dropping them like little notes, with scarce regard for her rheumatic or lazy limbs. ‘She’ was the ayah. Avangal. We don't really know her name, she always seemed so reluctant to part with it. If anyone happened to call her by name, she’d shudder - as though trying to shake off an unpleasant memory right off her, like cattle thighs trembled to shake flies off. Once a younger member of the family, in an attempt to be respectful, addressed her as She-akka - ‘She’ slapped the poor child. So that was that - ‘She’ was referred to as ‘She’ and never addressed directly - like some strange God, capital letter in place. ‘She’ hated the tree as much as we loved it.
It was a large tamarind - its dainty mehendi-pattern leaves twirled delightfully down like a bunch of yellow-clad skydivers - somersaulting, somersaulting, somersaulting in the air before they landed with nary a whisper on the ground. During the summer, its cool shade was a screen from the obtrusive glare of the sun. With the tree around, the sun was always well-mannered and knocked politely before entering and never spoke out of turn and was always pleasant company. The wind was always around, swaying on its branches. Sometimes gently, playing mama rocking her baby to sleep and sometimes boisterously, like children on monkey bars, swinging by their hands. The tree was my friend - I loved it when it turned my wall into a kaleidoscopic dance of shadows at sundown. I love its tiny pretty leaves and fat, rude-shaped fruit - it made me giggle and how we could never spice our curries with them. I loved how tall it stood and how fat it was. And then came the borewell.
They carted my friend away - limb by hacked limb, until nothing showed for it having ever been there. Not one mangled root. The leaves, long swept away. The cover of the borewell has a hollow clunk when stepped upon - we don’t have a water shortage anymore. Now the sun barges defiantly. So do the curious glances. “Shameless!”, ’She’ half grunts, half spits every time she catches the boy opposite looking in on our lives. “She”misses the tree. I miss the tree.
Every time I walk over the place where the tree used to stand, without thinking twice about the grave I'm walking on, I look up at my apartment on the first floor and marvel at how exposed it is. I look up at the apartment and think in wonder, “To think that there used to be a big, big tree here! Who would say that now? Who misses it? Is it possible to miss something that used to be there, if you’ve never known its existence? Would anyone walk by and miss a tree when they see no tree and not know why? It’s funny, how a tree could have stood somewhere for longer than memory itself. Only to be pulled out by its roots and leave a nothing, so complete in itself that there’s nothing to show for it. Not, unlike those unmarked graves past loves sleep in.”