Monday, February 19, 2018

Your Cross To Carry

**The writing prompt: All the forests on this planet have been destroyed, a single, old tree that's been here since almost a century or even more, remains.
The sentinel tree narrates everything that it has seen in its life and how it now waits for the end.**

At this very moment, close to the midnight of a nameless day in the countless winter of an unmeasured duration, perhaps I'm a stranger to you. But survival has its own peculiar scent, so it's rather unlikely that you'd stay unaware of me for long ...
This is an awkward introduction ... isn't it?
Let me try again... With some verses from Heer may be?
You know I hold Waris Shah's Heer very dear to my heart.
It is the Heer, that Waris Shah penned in 1766, that has been a part of my identity over the centuries.

Heer aakhdi jogiya ve jhoot bolay
ve kaun ruthaRe yaar manavanda eee
aisa koi na milya ve main dhoond thaki haaa
jehRa gayan nu mohR layavanda eee

sade chamRiyaan jutiyaan kare koi eee
jehRa jeu da rog gavavanda eee
bhala das kha chiree vichania nu
kado rabb sacha ghar leyavanda eee

sada jeuja maan jehRa aan milay
sir sadqa osde naamda ee
bhala moye te vichaRe kaun milay
aevein jiuda log val-lavanda eee

ek jatt de khet nu agg lagi
vekhan aaike kado bhujhavanda eee
ek baaj toh kau ne koonjh khoi haaa
vekhaan chup hai ke kurlavanda eee
devaan chooriyan, gheyo de baal divay
Waris shah je suna main aavanda eee

The bichRa yaar, Heer in these verses has been longing for, is Dheedo Ranjha. The son of my soil, Takht Hazara, where I stand even today.
As the lone tree survivor, a forest within itself.
Like the wailing lament of Heer, the very definition of love within itself.

I'm a Banyan tree. Though, does it matter now which tree I am?
Identification matters for the un-singular. When all you do is to wipe all trees from the earth, what does it matter whom the earth had birthed and raised? What does it matter if Ranjha had ever lived, loved or not? What does survival matter to the one bent on annihilation any way?

I know ... I know ... Don't start shifting uncomfortably just yet. I speak a lot for someone my age. I don't know my age. But I was there when Waris Shah was deemed a majnoon ... I was there when a white person had carved on a side of me some kafka:

"If we value our lives, let us abandon it all… I am forever fettered to myself, that’s what I am, and that’s what I must try to live with", before hanging himself from one of my trunks.

I was there when the Japanese were nuked. I was there when Japanese rebuilt themselves again. Of course, I was far far far away from those happenings, in the quiet blissfulness of Apal Moori, near Takht Hazara, with my branches disappearing into the ground and emerging anew. But you don't think only humans communicate and network, do you?

Shh... let me tell you a secret we, the trees have been silently guarding over the millennia.

We have maintained symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi that lived on our roots. This mycorrhizal network worked on a much larger scale — sort of like an underground internet that connected entire forests. Entire forests. Forests.

Roll that word over your tongue, would you please? F O R E S T. Could you taste the scent of herbs, the sense of calm descending upon your strained nerves, the moist cold fresh oxygen? Could you?

You couldn't, I know.

You know whenever they bring another dead to bury under my 3 acres wide shade, I wonder if your lot still does not recognize your relationship with earth? If you still not see it as your ultimate home? How do you steal away from it, plunder it if you had recognized it?

Don't tire of me just yet. Please.

I've not spoken in ages. I've no one left to talk to. Do you know the pain of writing poems in a language no one knows the alphabets of?

Today, just for today, stand by me, underneath me, by this maze of graves. Look at my griefs as I lay shade over your sun burnt face. Let me break down under the weight of witnessing centuries, let me sob in the rustle of them leaves while you wonder what could grieve me! What more do you know of the haunted heart of the lone banyan tree than you know of Hell when someone warns you it's hot and dreadful?

I've lent my tenement roof to many a penniless poets. I've seen the wonder of those sculptor apprentices returning from their pilgrimage to the Taj Mahal. I've seen childless women tying threads at my branches urging a dead man settled in my roots to fight their case with their choicest god. I've been fed the blood of warriors that they shed at my feet so they don't have to, during the war...

This isn't real. You may think. But what is the frame of reference of the real in the existence you lead? You shrug at the power of notes of Ranjha's bamboo flute to be a myth, and in your empty heart's begging bowl karma grants you belief in some Harry Potter's magic wand. Ironic, isn't it?

When you kill enchantment, disenchantment is your cross to carry.

Don't be mad at me. I'm not mad at you. I'm just the lone Banyan tree. I could be your Kahlil Gibran's Dancer.
Have you read the parable?

Once there came to the court of the Prince of Birkasha a dancer with her musicians. And she was admitted to the court, and she danced before the prince to the music the lute and the flute and the zither.
She danced the dance of flames, and the dance of swords and spears; she danced the dance of stars and the dance of space. And then she danced the dance of flowers in the wind.
After this she stood before the throne of the prince and bowed her body before him. And the prince bade her to come nearer, and he said unto her, "Beautiful woman, daughter of grace and delight, whence comes your art? And how is it that you command all the elements in your rhythms and your rhymes?"
And the dancer bowed again before the prince, and she answered, "Mighty and gracious Majesty, I know not the answer to your questionings. Only this I know: The philosopher's soul dwells in his head, the poet's soul is in the heart; the singer's soul lingers about his throat, but the soul of the dancer abides in all her body."

Look at my breadth. You can not even know the beginning of me, how do you plan to see the end of me? 
My roots under the surface of earth carry the very floor you stand on. It is my structure that is over and under you. Call me a senile lone Banyan tree ... but here you are ... within me.

At this very moment, close to the midnight of a nameless day in the countless winter of an unmeasured duration, perhaps I'm the sky over you and the earth earth under you.

For this reason alone, you may want to stand reverently before me. As you would, before the entrance to Hell.

Image credits: Unknown, acquired through web of the actual tree referenced in the text above.