Under The Tamarind Tree | Paridhi Poddar
The tamarind tree stood in the silence, growing spirits and ghosts. Saila began to stare at the leaves, she always wondered if the tree was truly haunted. A lonely tram passed with its bells ringing. There was no light except the tram’s ochre headlight which illuminated the fog ahead and shapes twisted in the faint yellow beam, disappearing as the tram moved forward. People lifted the shutters of their shops, and as one world was coming to life another had just seen its end.
The leaves looked like touch-me-nots, menacing people who walked past it. Every day at five she left for work and came back at nine at night. Saila’s mother would sing her lullabies after she returned from work, “My darling a touch-me-not, curling, drying under the moon.” She had instructed Saila, “Beware of the tamarind tree, a spirit lives there and it once lifted a passer-by and then threw him on the ground.” Saila always refrained from such superstitious rumours; maybe, this passer-by was not just passing. He must have climbed the tree to peep into someone’s house and fell down, blaming the tree, she thought. Everything seemed normal this morning too, except there were some people surrounding the tree. While Saila walked past to catch the tram to work, she heard them whisper, “This tree needs to be cut down.”
By the time she returned, this cutting of the tree had become the talk of the neighbourhood. Some believed that the people who cut the tree would be cursed, some believed that if the tree was cut, the ghosts would look for a new home in the neighbourhood and some believed that cutting it would get rid of all evil energy in the area. There was discourse among the children as well as the adults of the neighbourhood. When Saila got to know that the tree was being cut for development purposes, she objected as well. “What development can happen without nature?” she asked the workers. One of the workers said, “Don’t you want street lights in this locality?” Other people joined in, stating that the tree provided oxygen, shade, fruit and that was much more than the government had done in the past five years. The government workers got annoyed and decided to not put any lights at all.
The next day as Saila was returning home from work, the tamarind tree stood tall and unafraid. That night, the moon shone after guzzling all the stars of the city and the tram left, driving out of sight, leaving a pitch black street ahead of her. The fog had grown thicker than before, and as Saila walked she heard a noise. Her mind began to wander, maybe, her mother was right, and the tree had spirits. However, she walked on, without looking back, she decided that it was her mind playing tricks on her. Soon something knocked her unconscious from behind.
A few hours later, Saila’s mother along with a few neighbours was standing underneath the tree, holding her daughter in her arms, her knee and pelvis was ruptured, clothes were torn and she had bruises all over. “My daughter, those demons should rot in hell.” Her mother sat there sobbing, regretting that the street lights should have been there, that she should have been there and that somebody should have been there. She spoke to Saila, whispering in her ear, trying to ease her pain.
My darling, a touch-me-not, curling, drying under the moon.
People spoke among themselves that it must have been those workers who did this such a heinous thing but nobody was caught. A candle march was held and a few lights were installed. However, they all soon forgot as months passed by. Nobody went near the tamarind tree and nobody was willing to cut the tree. It stood in silence, growing ghosts that would haunt till the end of time.