The Tree of Fire

“It happens once in a blue moon” Jhumri had told her. Sonia didn’t know it was a myth or superstition, but she had experienced the dread of it.

Sonia and Karan had recently moved to the quaint town, and had found a place in the outskirts, quite contrary to the place they lived in the metropolis. Kabir had his own reservations about the place but Sonia was happy in the lap of nature. An independent house with a backyard. Along the fence of the house was a huge tree, full of foliage and flowers that had the hues of red. She had never seen any such vibrant tree in her life. It resembled her favourite Gulmohur and called it Gulmohur’s long lost brother to which Karan had a hearty laugh.

It was then that Jhumri had corrected her. Jhumri was her house help. She had told her “Baiji, we call it the tree of fire here. It bears beautiful blood red flowers – Raktagandha. If you collect the flowers in a Kalash and pray wholeheartedly, your prayers are answered. And during the spring, when the flowers bloom anew, the tree asks back for the favour in the same form as the answered prayer, but the flowers don’t bloom every year. It happens once in a blue moon” Sonia had rolled her eyes at this, appalled and surprised at the same time. Jhumri always had such stories to keep Sonia entertained.

Suddenly, Jhumri started being distraught. She wasn’t chirpy anymore. When coaxed, she said “Baiji, it is my mother in law. She is insisting that I give birth to a boy. She has lured my husband to speak the same. He has started beating me too” Sonia consoled her, and said she should make her husband understand by talking it out.

The autumn had set in. Sonia experienced the chilly mornings she loved. The early morning mist, the fog, everything perfect. It was during one such mornings that she saw Jhumri outside the house collecting the blood red flowers – yes, this year was special, the flowers were blood red indeed. She remembered the story, but the morning had her too busy to ponder.

Days passed, and the incident slipped her mind. A few months down the line, Jhumri was back being herself again. Sonia was glad to see her woes over. One day Jhumri told her “Baiji, I am pregnant. My husband is happy. He wants a girl” Sonia hugged her saying “See, talking helps. And what has your mother in law to say?” “She died Baiji. Remember I told you about the flowers? I had prayed for her death” reflexively came Jhumri’s reply and Sonia felt a chill run down her spine.

That evening Karan came home with a heavy head and his discomfort increased by the night. He was puking blood. Was the tree asking back for the favour answered? She didn’t know.

“It happens once in a blue moon” Jhumri’s words resonated in her ears again.

***

Glossary:

Kalash: A ceremonial churn, usually made of copper

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Pranita Bhagat Kaur

Pranita Bhagat is a learning and development consultant with 8 years of experience in the industry and academia. Currently, a stay-at-home-mom to her toddler, she took to writing when she decided to share her journey and experiences of motherhood with the world. Her other vices are food, books and travel.

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