When I first came to live in the apartment where I now stay, I was taken in by the big garden around the building and the huge trees that were the hallmark of the garden. The garden was soothing and negated the Mumbai pollution.
There is one Debdaru tree in front of my balcony on the other side of the driveway. The tree is like any other and I had paid no attention to it in the earlier days as I was trying to settle down in the city alien to me.
Few years later, when I was standing alone on my balcony, on a rain drenched Sunday afternoon, my eyes suddenly chanced upon this Debdaru tree. The tree and I stared at each other. On this silent, dark hour, I slowly felt that the tree was communicating with me. I was overawed by the thought, so unbelievable and unnerving. I stood there for a long time, trying to figure out what to do. The feeling was palpable and I still experience that moment.
Since that day the Debdaru tree started growing on me. Be it night or day, I found a strange connect with this quiet entity. It gave me a lot of peace and I started spending a lot of time on the balcony. I would talk to the Debdaru tree in my mind and believed it could empathise with me. And the connect grew stronger with passage of time. I continued to share my thoughts with my friend silently.
There are a few incidents that occurred that made me believe that the tree really had befriended me. Of course it was just a notion, but a pleasant one.
One evening, around 11 pm, I was sitting and reading on the balcony. I must have dozed off after a while. Suddenly I heard a swishing noise and woke up with a start. It was well past midnight and I quickly gathered my Kindle, my iPad and my books and went off to bed. The next morning I found our gardener in the driveway, removing a branch that had fallen from the Debdaru tree. I realised that the swishing noise that I had heard the night before was that of the branch falling from the Debdaru tree. I felt then that my friend was trying to awaken me from my slumber. Weird, but it did make sense to me.
Another evening, I was standing and watching the moon play hide and seek through the long leaves of the Debdaru tree. It was a full moon night. My balcony was drenched with moonlight. The sky was clear, with stars twinkling across the expanse. There was a gentle breeze and I was smiling at the beauty of nature. Suddenly there was a gust of a stronger breeze, and the branch from my Debdaru tree swayed and moved towards me. It raised itself with the wind force and almost reached my face, as if to touch it. I was startled and tried to touch it back involuntarily. Despite knowing that trees are not to be touched in the night. But I could never get there, the breeze settled and the moment passed.
There were many such little incidents that made me believe in the connect more and more. I could, of course, never touch my tree as the driveway was sizeably wide and the tree was several feet away.
One day, I came back from work and as usual went to the balcony to gaze at my friend. I was shocked to find the tree cut and only a short portion was visible at the ground level. My feelings were indescribable. I felt a sense of loss that I couldn’t handle as I stared at the vacant spot and saw the road and the vehicles. I felt I had just lost my soulmate. I just stood there, feeling so desolate and so helpless. It was strange that I was so lost without my Debdaru in front of my balcony. The feelings shook me to the core. But there it was.
For days and months on end, the melancholic mood continued and I felt at a loose end, not knowing how to handle the separation. I realised that the Debdaru tree was my pillar that I was holding on to which gave me solace and strength in my trying times. So irrational but that was my reality.
Gradually, the tree grew taller and one day I could make eye contact with my friend, once again. I had tears in my eyes that day and felt like giving my tree friend a big hug.
But my friend and I were quite a distance away from each other. There was no way I could even get close to it. Even if I went down, the tree actually was at a height and surrounded by shrubs. I would never be able to reach it. So it stayed that way eversince.
Trees are considered to have souls and they do empathise. I believe that I have a soul connect with the Debdaru tree and it has taught me so much. The teachings are a continuous process. It is akin to my life and my living it.
I realised that I have a limited lifespan and my Debdaru tree has years to live. Maybe with the next owner. So our interaction is within a finite time. It is a painful realisation and I try not to dwell on it.
I learnt that when providence creates a distance, it stays that way. I, therefore, cannot always get what I want. Like the Debdaru tree outside my balcony. I love the tree, it is my adrenaline, I need to see it all the time, but I can’t reach it. I will never been able to make good the distance. A truth which only I can perceive, feel and live with.
At these times it is crucial not to aspire, so that it does not destroy something else or someone else in the process. For instance, if I were to get my Debdaru tree close to me, either I would have to break the tree or I would have to try and jump across, which would only break my bones. Or pull the swaying branches with a rope, thereby damaging the tree. And such a tree doesn’t grow in apartments.
Again, like this atypical connect, what happens if I cross paths with my natural soulmate, my Debdaru in flesh and blood, under unusual circumstances? Or at the wrong time of my life? In the cacophony of living, my existence at the sublime level is what matters then, as that is not in conflict with the societal norms, away from the expectations of people around, not having to conform and not being able to do justice to our own selves. A subliminal bond is surreal, predestined and so very continuous in a different zone, away from prying eyes.
Joy and pain then learn to co-exist. The bond with my soulmate is perennial. If we can mutually decide to retain the friendship we are blessed and stay connected.
Or else life moves on. Mostly one without the other. Time is said to be a great healer. Maybe. For some lucky ones.
[Note : Debdaru tree (Polyalthia longifolia), also known as the ‘false ashoka’, native to India, is a lofty evergreen tree, commonly planted due to its effectiveness in alleviating noise pollution. It exhibits symmetrical pyramidal growth with willowy weeping pendulous branches and long narrow lanceolate leaves with undulate margins.]