Shorty story by Akshay Iyer - Tree of Life
He couldn't believe that he was going to be a father. Swati had called him as soon as she had got the report. Positive... it was incredible! For seven years, they'd tried for a baby. Then, they gave up trying. Now, after a decade of hopelessness, the miracle had happened! He had to get her a gift. A diamond pendant? No, a rock seemed so cold. A bouquet of red roses? That was so trite! As he waited for the light turn to green, he spotted the nursery by the road. The line-up of green plants nodded to him. It was a moment of epiphany!
He went home with a sapling of a gulmohar tree. Swati loved it. Since it would soon get too big to pot, she found it a patch of good earth just below their balcony and planted it there. Over the next nine months, it grew along with the baby. Then, Shantanu tumbled into their lives. He brought with him chaos and cries, yet they cherished him and their tree, that was now within handshaking distance.
Five years later, they lost Shantanu. Who would have suspected that a lingering fever would turn out to be meningitis? It was only after he was gone that both Swati and he blamed each other and themselves for not taking him to the doctor sooner. Neither said a word though, only retreated into a world of their own that was cold, silent and seething with unvoiced feelings.
The tree continued to grow. Its slender branches reminded him of his son's outstretched arms. Its rain-spotted leaves of his tears. It's bright blooms of his workbooks splattered with paint. Suddenly, he could not bear it anymore. It's easy to plant a tree but really difficult to cut it down. But he managed to get special permission and one day left for work expecting it to be gone by the time he returned home.
The call late in the afternoon took him by surprise. It was Swati crying hysterically. She'd returned from a shopping spree to see a stranger hacking at her tree. "He's already cut off his head," she wailed. He quietly explained to her that it had been his decision. Her distress turned into icy rage, "How dare you? I've lost one child, now you're taking another one away from me too." He realised his mistake then. The tree that for him was a painful reminder of a child lost, was her consolation. He'd moved away from her when needed him the most. Only the tree had stood steadfast, gently swaying to the rhythm of sweet memories.
Their tree was gone but its loss had opened his eyes to what he was in danger of losing. That night, they didn't sleep on opposite sides of the bed. They stayed up, talking about their baby. By the time the sun rose, the seeds of a new beginning had been sown. That evening, on his way back from work, he stopped to buy his wife a gift. It was a gulmohar sapling. They planted it at the exact spot where the other one had stood. And together, they waited for it to grow.
Writer: Akshay Iyer
Location: Mumbai, India