I have lived here for three hundred years. Was I going to leave so easily?
Familiarity, instead of breeding contempt, had bred a deep sense of appreciation in me for my abode, a haven cocooned among the branches of this magnificent Banyan tree. The tree and I spent our evenings together, watching the sun rays shimmer on the nearby pond’s undulating surface, while the breeze played hide-and-seek with its errant waves.
That year too the sharp winter evenings gave way to the bracing spring breeze eventually overtaken by the sultry summer days. Summer meant vacations. The lonely pond transformed into an unwilling center of attraction for the hordes of hyperactive boys who arrived annually at their native place with their dutiful parents. While the parents got busy attending functions and meeting long forgotten relatives, the boys descended on the buffalo-infested pond for frolicking, water chestnuts and some company.
How could I know mine wasn’t welcome?
Long centuries of solitude made me wish for some company. I got down from my perch above. What hungama they made about my inverted feet! So what if my feet are different from theirs? Do I go around pointing everyone’s front facing feet? It’s rude, but I couldn’t explain it to their fast retreating backs.
The tree, with his age old wisdom, said we would suffer. His words proved true. Two days of a constant stream of visitors to the pond followed, excitable kids pointing to the tree and adults nodding their heads, deep in thought.
It was afternoon and a crowd had gradually gathered. A sense of expectation hung over the crowd. The men whispered while the boys chattered excitably, embellishing their stories with invented details. Ladies clustered to the side, sari pallus covering their heads, glad of an opportunity to be out of their homes in the sultry evening. Even the mud swathed, ruminating buffaloes stopped, puzzled at the unexpected intrusion.
A few strangers approached the tree with a power saw. The Banyan groaned as the sharp teeth ran over his trunk. I was enraged.
How could they do this?
Twilight danced at the edge of the day, darkness creeping in. I conjured up my most terrifying form, dark face, red eyes, hair flying around me like a halo, burnt orange by the light of the dying sun. Tongue out, and with a blood-curdling scream, I jumped in front of the man wielding the saw.
The effect was immediate and expected. He dropped the saw which skittered on the ground. People ran screaming, hoping to escape its hungry teeth. A huge commotion ensued. The buffaloes bellowed, the boys shouted and the birds flew shrieking from the trees. Soon silence reigned under the tree.
Rumours flew fast and far declaring the tree haunted. No one came looking for a dip or chestnuts in the pond anymore. Only a few buffaloes but they hardly know any better. I still live here, with my friend, and we still enjoy the sunsets together. Undisturbed in my abode.
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