I used to walk around the park at six in the morning. I would always go into the farthest part where the trees were old and the foliage was thick. There, I would stop at a particular stretch to marvel at the beauty of an old tree that was distinct from all the others. While most of the trees around had curvy branches and rough exfoliating barks, this one had furrowed trunk and had two branches growing parallel to each other. It almost looked like a child’s drawing of a man.
I was looking at the man-like tree when a grey-haired man ambled towards me. His willowy figure and wrinkled forehead reminded me of the tree I was watching.
“It’s you!” he said and bowed in salutation.
I was astonished to hear his words. He sounded like he knew me. But before I could ask him about it, he already introduced himself as the new forest warden.
“I do rounds at dawn. I see you arrive here when I’m already going back to my dwelling. We met today because you’re earlier than usual.”
“Ah, yes. Sunrise is early these days. And I love it here at this hour…so calm and peaceful.” I paused, taking in the silence of the forest around us.
“I also come to see the tree-man.” I pointed to him the tree that I was referring to in excitement.
“Ah, yes. I notice him, too.” He smiled.
“I am mystified by it,” I said.
He gazed at the tree and pronounced, “There is indeed something magical in it.”
“So, how long have you been with the Forest department?”
“All my life! I uh, I mean…this is my home!” He chuckled.
I felt a sudden connection with him, for I feel the same. “I’d probably go crazy if I don’t get to see trees and walk among them every day,” I said.
He didn’t comment. I looked at him only to find the saddest pair of eyes that I’d ever seen in my life staring back at me. “It won’t be long now that these trees would fall into the hands of vile people and there’s nothing the trees can do about it.” He sighed.
“Yes. I heard about road widening project in this area.”
“Yeah,” he muttered.
It was time for me to go and we parted. While trudging towards the main park, I had a sudden urge to retrace my footsteps and follow the man. I spied him hugging the tree-man. I smiled, for it was the first time I saw someone hugging a tree. But I felt sad at the same time. He seemed to really care for the forest and felling them would hurt him.
As I gazed in melancholy reflection, the forest warden appeared to slowly merge into the tree I had christened the tree-man. Soon, they were indistinguishable – the tree-man and the warden had become one. All that was recognizable of the warden was his friendly eyes peering sadly from the tree.
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