Standing here unmoving for decades I’ve witnessed many tales, some happy, some not. These are the stories that teach us fortitude and give us courage to face life.
Sidhu was a Santhali girl who loved swinging from my branches. The Santhali people are simple folks with loving hearts, but are fierce when crossed.
Sindhu spent her days picking berries and firewood. She could reach places squirrels could. She knew which tree yielded the best mahua, where to find the brightest flame-of-the-forest flowers and which berries were poisonous. Soon she ripened like the berries she picked.
One day a young man stepped into the forest. His binoculars roved among the trees to sight birds, but fell on Sindhu instead, who was sitting astride one of the tree branches reaching for some flowers to braid in her luscious hair. He fell in love with her at first sight. Sindhu threw a branch at him thinking the binocular was some weapon. He fainted and when he came to, a contrite Sindhu was peering over him.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“I’m Naren. I’ve joined a job nearby. I love chronicling the local bird life.” He explained. As he tried to get up, he stumbled into Sindhu. They both fell to the ground.
Sindhu had never been so near a man and her heart fluttered. She got up hastily, collected her flowers and ran away. But she left a handful of them at Naren’s feet as an apology.
They soon started meeting every day under my dark canopy. Naren would bring little gifts for her from the town like silk ribbons and glass bangles. Sindhu would laugh and preen. Their love soon crossed the boundaries of intimacy.
Her dreams weren’t reflected in Naren’s eyes though. One day as Sindhu waited for him, she heard voices. From the foliage she saw a girl walking next to Naren. They had binoculars in their hands. Naren held her hands. Sindhu’s heart broke. But the two humans continued unheeding with entwined hands and hearts.
The next day Naren came, Sindhu was ready for some reckoning. But first she made some preparations.
“Do you love me?” she asked. Her intensity was lost on Naren.
“Of course, I do,” he looked into her eyes. She knew he was being unfaithful.
“Will you marry me? Or is there someone else?”
Naren, who didn’t know she’d seen him, assured her, “I love only you. Do you doubt me?”
She felt slighted at the lie. It brought out all her ferocity.
She fed him the halwa she’d made with enough dhatura seeds to kill a fully grown bull with a smile. Naren happily ate the sweet. When the aches began, he called her but she just sat there and watched him writhe. When Naren’s body stopped twitching, she covered it with palash flowers, her goodbye. Then she was lost among the trees.
I never saw her again. But whenever I walk down memory lane, I remember Sindhu and her revenge of her broken heart.
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