As the last rays of the sun bid adieu to the horizon, the starry night opens its arms to the dense forest. The picturesque view that normally brings a bounce to Kumar’s steps fails to stir a reaction today. He sits on the patio, head stuck between the knees as sounds of stifled sobs escape into the expanse of dancing fireflies.
The thought of abandoning life amidst nature disheartens him. Growing up in the lap of a plethora of flora and fauna, the idea of city life seems numbing now. His father, a Forest Officer is moving to the city on a transfer, leaving Kumar no choice but to accompany him.
“Cities are nothing but towering concrete jungles. I can’t be happy there,” Kumar retorts to Grandpa’s million assurances.
Despite the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, they move. Thankfully, the promotion transfer ensures they are allotted a bungalow. Huge lawns, green trees and birds are a distraction from the humdrum of city life. The settling down begins but Grandpa is concerned as Kumar draws into a shell. One morning, watching the gardener spend hours tending to the greenery, Grandpa has a plan. Quick instructions follow as the gardener nods in acceptance.
The following day, Grandpa has an unusual sprint in his steps as he waits earnestly for the gardener.
“Dada Sahib. Here it is,” the gardener declares. “It will bear the most beautiful flowers all year round, the colours varying each season,” he chirps gleefully handing over a bright green plant in a jute bag.
“Hey! Kumar, come meet your new friend,” Grandpa calls. The mention of the word ‘friend’ brings a flush of red to Kumar’s cheeks as he ambles towards the lawn.
“Where? Call him fast, I want to meet him,” Kumar exclaims.
“Here,” Grandpa hands over the bag of joy. “Your friend for eternity.”
“A plant!! As a friend?” Kumar is confused.
“Yes. Dear Son. Nurture it. Name it and let it grow in your happiness.”
“How can we be friends? We are incompatible?” Kumar answered discouragingly.
“Of course not! You can be best friends. Remember your chit chat with the mulberry tree back in Jaldapara.” Grandpa guffawed. “You often remarked that when the tree hears you, it drops its fruit for you to pick!”
Kumar is intrigued, “Will I get responses to my questions too?”
“Of course you will,” Grandpa answers undeterred.
“In your sadness, it will shed leaves. In your happiness, new leaves will sprout. When you talk of achievements, colourful blooms will acknowledge. When the winter chill arrives, the dark colours will warm you and when the summer drains you, the pastel blooms will be offer calm.”
With an excited ‘Thank You’, Kumar walked towards a shady corner of the lawn, holding the bag of joy close to his chest. The gardener quickly prepares the ground and Kumar places his new friend, ‘Jeevan’ into the lap of Mother Earth, with a silent pledge, “I promise to be your protector and you be mine.”
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