He sat in front of me and tears rolled down from his eyes. “I am crying,” he said.
I keep quiet. Talks on current political scene of our country have somehow traversed into environmental politics.
“People cut trees to make homes, and in the long run they suffer,” he tells me. “Foreign money has made all the difference,” he adds.
I have something else to say about my place. “In our village, people do make a number of huge houses. But they do plant a lot of trees. They compensate trees with saplings and trees.”
Silence grows like a quick creeper between us and it draws us much closer.
“I was in love with a tree in our courtyard,” he tells me. He is an artist and I do not find it odd even when he goes on describing that tree. It is a jackfruit tree.
“One day it cried and when I talk about it I still cry,” he sheds silent tears. I let him cry and talk.
He was in college when it was cut. One day his father said, “Your sister has to get married. Our house does not have doors. I do not have money to buy wood. So we need to cut this tree down.”
He protested. He stood near the tree, hugging it. He was an art student and people thought him to be naturally mad. They chased him away and cut the tree down.
Silently came down the tree and it fell on the ground with a thud. He rushed to the spot. At the base stump, with its age showing in cambium circles, he stood with a universal pain sprouting from each of his bodily pores. Then suddenly the stump started shedding tears. “It came like a fountain. It did not roll down. But it sprayed up as defiance to the human world. I was dragged away from there by my parents.”
I could see his eyes welling up again and tears rolling down like beads of atonement for the sin done by someone else.
Suddenly he smiles. “You know, in a few years time, from the sides of the tree stump, there grew another jackfruit tree. Now it adorns our courtyard as if nothing had happened on that day. Each time I visit my home, I go near and speak to it,” he tells me in utter joy and he shows me the goose pimples that have just come up on his skin. “Each time I recount it, my body reacts.”
For the last couple of years I have been losing my faith in art and its ability to elevate human beings to subtler sublime realms of existence. But when I listen to this anecdote from this artist, I regain my faith not only in art but in those rare artists who still care, for earth and the numerous forms of life in it.
We come from a culture where before cutting the trees, the woodcutters asked permission from the tree and also apologised to the birds and animals that resided on the tree. We come from that culture where when if a tree is cut another tree is planted as a compensation for what has been lost. Where did that culture go?
It has not gone anywhere. It lives in individual beings who are sensitive enough to cry for a tree; it resides in those people who take each cut inflicted on the earth and its pillars as a personal loss. It is there in those people who feel each chainsaw rushing through their heart when it actually splits through the wood of woods.
We have hope.