It’s a tale about a tree but it’s powerful, it’s original, it’s heartwarming and it’s layered with WISDOM. And it’s written by our Vice-Chairperson Panchami Manoo Ukil whose narratives always present a rare and distinct perspective. Do read.
About six months ago, I planted two trees of Palash outside the house. The trees had been procured from a plant nursery in the Western Ghats after months of intense search for six to seven feet tall trees for the “Mission Palash” programme launched by my school.
Within a few days of planting the trees, the leaves on one of the trees began to wither away. The other stood tall and healthy. I’d watch the seemingly weaker tree shed its drying leaves and kept praying that it gathers the strength and will to survive. Soon it was leafless and the twigs too began exhausting to a dessicated frailty. Every other day I’d cut one of the lifeless twigs until all that was left was the trunk, a leafless stump. Soon the trunk also began to show signs of drying up. I was heartbroken and actually cried for hours. The gardeners were so concerned at my distress that they offered to get a replacement tree from the local nursery. They suggested uprooting the “dead” tree. Somehow I just didn’t have the heart to have it removed. I told the gardeners to cut the dry trunk but leave the root and a few inches of the trunk there.
The stump of the trunk retained status quo for nearly three months. In the meanwhile, hectic parleys would intermittently arise regarding a replacement tree as the entrance to the house with just one tree was exuding a sense of disharmony. However I held my ground and suggested waiting until the coming monsoon to see how the stump reacts. Naysayers were many but I ensured that the stump was watered copiously twice a day and fed every month with organic manure.
On 26th November 2020, my mother was discharged from hospital after having received treatment for COVID. That very day my sister and myself tested positive for COVID. With an octogenarian father at home, mother in the delicate phase of second week of infection and myself having been freshly diagnosed, it was traumatic beyond imagination, the physical suffering coupled with psychological breakdown caused by drugs as well as by an impaling sense of deep fear of the unknown.
My symptoms began to worsen from day seven. Appetite was low, I had severe headache and bodyache as well as the worst bout of gastritis I could ever imagine. As being inside a room constantly was getting to be suffocating and hugely depressing, I would go out to the lawn and lie down on a mat, breathing fresh air and soaking in the warmth of the sun, with faith in the healing power of sunlight. On one such afternoon, probably on the ninth day, I happened to just peep out of the gate and as I glanced at the stump of the palash, I just couldn’t believe my eyes! A few tender green shoots had sprouted around the stump with hints of tiny leaves taking shape. I was stunned to disbelief, I was overjoyed, I was also in a sense relieved – perhaps a reaction in the subconscious to something that indicated hope amidst the dreariness that we were going through. I suddenly felt my breath was easy, as if I had started breathing through the tender green stems. I opened the gate and went out to check it up close, almost forgetting that I was ill. I held myself back from touching the fresh green shoots with the thought that I might infect the newborn. Watching the shoots arising from the depths of the earth from a piece of wood considered dead was like experiencing the unfolding of a miracle, an affirmation of faith, and a lesson in resilience. And, yes, above everything else, it was indeed a message of hope.
The little palash is now growing fabulously alongside it’s much taller and sturdier twin. Every single day I go out to meet the little one, caress it with love, whisper sweet nothings and offer my gratitude for having been a beam of sunshine breaking through the greys. I watch the curled up new leaves open up a little everyday into a tender green trifoliate of pointed-ovals with a silvery sheen, soft, fresh and beautiful. I know that it’s going to twist and turn its trunk as it grows taller, every curve and knot an embellishment of its character.
With its revival and rejuvenation, the little palash tree has reaffirmed a belief that I hold intensely as an educator, the belief that growth and learning milestones in children are paced out differently. Late bloomers are as special and come to us with their own brand of uniqueness, sometimes astounding us with their repertoire once they begin to bloom. I’ve had parents come to me fearing the worst disorders in their child, not realising that their little one is simply a late bloomer. All we give such little ones is powerful doses of love, attention, nurturing and a whole world of patience and gently nudge them to open up their potentials and catch those milestones that are seemingly out of reach. Today when I see those very children express, interact, create and collaborate, I know that the language of love resiliently overpowers every obstacle and that every child is indeed a miracle waiting to happen!