A tale of …

A tale of two trees

Once upon a time…

I was born in the forest, a long time ago. My father was the head of our clan – eldest, wisest and the strongest among those who lived and my mother was the kindest of them. She was not as beautiful or as spoken as a few others but she was humble, kind and cared for all like sisters and brothers. They say that when I was born, the clouds blessed me with their showers, the animals came around and greeted my parents, the wind blew happiness and the whole forest was in a festive mood. They said I was special but did not tell me how.

As I grew up…

The first couple of months, I did not see much light as my neighbours were too protective and they feared I would run dry if exposed to the sun. That was the case with pretty much all kids in the community. But we did not complain, for what we lost in terms of fun, we gained in terms of love and care. And as time passed, things changed. We were old enough to stand the heat and young enough to whistle and play with the wind. That was a  great time to grow up in the forest. There was greenery everywhere. We lived in harmony with the sun and the moon, the soil and streams. The sun loved us and looked after us. He gave us warmth and saved us from the dark. The elders protected the soil and streams from the excessive heat, and they returned the kindness in the form of nutrients. As we, the young ones, grew older and our arms grew longer, we started to share the burdens of our families and embraced our responsibilty to the forest and mother nature. I was  in charge of  protecting the saplings close to me and the small stream that rooted from our end. I made many friends in a very short time – the singing birds and the crawling insects, the smiling plants and the fun loving animals. I had a  wonderful group of friends. Among these, I had a special friend. He was the tallest and the strongest among the younger ones, yet he was as compassionate as any other. We spent hours together talking about various things. Days passed with fun games and nights with the beautiful songs the wind sang for us. Years passed and I grew up into one of the finest in the woods and so did he but nothing changed for the forest. The forest was full in itself, content with what it was and unaware of the outside world. It flourished with animals and plants of various kinds that led their lives without bothering or being bothered. The soil was rich and the streams grew surplus, they fed the thirsty animals and the growing plants. Many new communities took their place in the forest over the years. The trees, the animals, the birds and the streams… everything made us feel like we were living in paradise.

Until one day…

Everyday in the forest was like every other. The sun woke us up and kept us awake until the moon came by singing its goodnight lullaby. Amidst the happy routines of everyday we had little to worry until one day. It was sometime – mid summer – a time when the sun was at its peak, only doing his duty without any malice. That day, the wind had a grim chill to it even though it was mid summer. The wind usually brought us news from all corners, even though the forest beings seldom showed any interest in the happenings of the outer world. This time the wind looked very apprehensive. It did not stop by for a greet or a chat but blew straight to my father. I was confused and so were most. The wind whispered to him for a while after which my father called for the elders of all the communities in the forest – the birds, animals, the streams and other plants – and the and in their presence the wind shared its news. “There is some grave news my friends” he said, ” beings called humans have devastated the northern forests and are heading here. They are cruel,  selfish creatures. They entered the forests searching for medicinal plants but ended up chopping and hacking every tree they came across. They killed animals and birds for food and fur. Some even captured animals as slaves. They polluted the streams and rivers and did not stop there. After they rid the land of trees, they burned every remaining branch to the ground and started living there. But their numbers are too huge and the northern forest alone could not hold them so now a large number of them are travelling south, and they are travelling fast. In a couple of weeks, they will be here.” The wind said. The stream lay still on hearing this news and the forest looked dead without as much of a leaf’s twitch. There was a long silence. From the silence, a voice – soft yet firm rose. It was he, my special friend. “We are in the outer rings of the forest and we will be hit first if they come from north.” He said but that was fairly obvious. “So?” One of the elder trees questioned. “So, it is unrealistic for us to escape in the time we have. We should rather put our time in planning to save the rest of the forest. The animals and birds should be moved into the deeper areas of the forest where our brothers will keep them safe. We need to protect the inner rings by forming a barricade with our felled trunks, our bodies and branches.” The words shook everyone there. It was suicide but it was the only thing we could do to preserve our forest. I was scared and everyone there was too. Until now I thought I was the luckiest to have seen nothing but happiness in my life, but now I feared for the worst. “Given the conditions, this looks like the only way we can save the rest of the forest. If anybody thinks otherwise speak now.” My father said. He knew very well what this decision meant. The elders of other families knew it as well. This would require the ultimate sacrifice from us to keep the forest safe. “We shall build two barriers – one on the outer edge and a thicker, stronger one for the inner core.” One of the elders shouted. The others waved in agreement. “We will help you with our strength in making the barricades”, the eldest of the elephants spoke. “We will lead the animals to the core and protect the inner rings with our lives” the lions roared. “And we will scout the corners to keep you informed of the humans’ arrival” the eagle – queen of the birds vowed. The stream was peculiarly silent. The occasion was grim but the unity in the beings of the forest brought an upbeat feeling to the gloomy gathering. And right from the next day we started implementing the plan. The elder trees volunteered to form the barricade and among them was my father. It was a hard fact to accept. Sadness enveloped the forest but we knew that this had to be done to protect the forest. My father left me and my friend in-charge of the proceedings and sacrificed himself for the cause. My mother drew all her strength to hold our morale and fight for the forest. Day after day, more trees fell and the barricade grew stronger. The sun shone brighter and the clouds poured heavily making the journey harder for the humans which gave us a little more time. Time flew by, though I had a lot to tell him we never found time. The days were spent in  forming the barricade and the nights in moving the animals into the deep covers. There was no time to talk or rest. During all this, my love and respect for him grew and I knew he felt the same about me but we had something more than ourselves to fight for.

Finally, the day arrived. The hawks scouted the perimeter and found the humans at the edge of the forest. They came to me and signaled to get ready. The wind carried the news across the forest- from the outer ring to the inner core. We heard loud noises of crashing and hacking. The humans were trying to break in through the barricade and it did not take them very long. At about mid-day we found groups of creatures with two upper limbs and two lower limbs making their way into our home. A huge group soon followed and assembled to rest in the shade of the very trees they were about to hack down. “On one hand we only give without expecting anything in return and on the other these creatures only take without giving back any. Is this the meaning of balance?” I thought. “I never knew beings like these existed until now. So tiny yet filled with malice.” They rested for a while after walking in the Sun’s heat. Soon they began their work. They came at us with huge tools that they brought with them and started hacking the trees. Blow after blow, the trees bore. A few weaker ones succumbed but the majority of us stood. The wind began to blow fiercely and the Sun, in its rage shone harder to make life as difficult as it could for them. The animals roared from the inner circles sending shivers into the humans. They were scared but did not stop. One of them came close to me with his weapon and examined me. He then signaled to some others and made a mark on my trunk with a soft blow. They did this with a couple of other trees. Then they resumed hacking at the unmarked trees. They animals roared and cried. The whole forest  shook in mourning. It was getting dark and the humans were tired. Finally a day of massacre came to a halt. The cries of the forest only got louder. The trees that lasted the day sang dirges for the ones that passed away. My mother lost her arms but stood firm rooted into the ground. The plight was unbearable yet there was nothing we could do but bear it. The whole forest went from being full to being chopped down. My friend fought his battle bravely. He too lost a couple of his branches but did not give up. We did not know how much longer we could hold out. In the darkest hour of the night, I felt a branch reach out for mine. It was he, he held out one arm and I lent one of mine to support him. He did not say anything but the moment did not require any words.

Soon, the sun began to rise and the humans rose along with it. They all gathered for some discussion. After their discussion, they seemed to have agreed upon something and split into groups. Some groups started collecting long branches from trees that they chopped down the previous day and other groups were making fire. This was their last resort. They would have thought that hacking down a bunch of trees would be easy but they did not know that the forest was prepared for them. There were no animals or birds for them to feed on, they were all drained out. We knew what was coming. They did not want to waste more time and energy with the hacking routine. They wanted to burn the whole place down and start their activities. Tools and weapons we could handle but fire, we wouldn’t stand a chance. The clouds were all poured out and could not help us now. The wind stopped as it knew it would only fuel the fire if it blew. At about mid day, the branches and fires were ready. The humans began to torch us one after the other. My mother was one of the first ones to fall. The one I revered most, the one who taught me and most others the meaning of kindness and care was being burned down for the selfish needs of a group of insolent beings. Within a couple of minutes smoke filled the entire outer ring and rose into the skies. Tree after tree began to burn. And now it was our turn. The humans marched towards us with torches in their hands. I was not afraid for myself but for him. He still had his arm on mine. “If we were going down, we would at least be burned together ” I said in consolation. The humans set fire to his trunk, the fire began to spread slowly. They now came to me and stopped, they saw the mark that was put on me and the moved away towards other unmarked trees. My heart broke, not for what would happen to the forest if they got into the core but for him who was they only reason I had any hope until now. He was on fire but some reason they spared me. He was dying and I stood beside him helpless. The humans were now almost through with the outer rings and were standing at the edge of the barricade. With the torches in their hands, it would not be long before they burned the barricade into ashes and found their way into the heart of the forest. I was struck in shock and before I got out of it, I heard loud screams but this time of the humans. They were screaming and running away from us, leaving their torches. Chasing them was a fierce flow of water – a flood that could no doubt sink all of them in minutes. It was the stream. All this time he was silent, we mistook for inaction but we did not know that he was saving his strength for this day. With all his might he chased the humans and in the process put out the fires. It all happened so fast that no one had any time to react. The stream jumped from the rocks down to our valley forming the most beautiful fall and washed out the fires. Some humans perished in their attempt to escape but some survived and ran away. The stream engulfed all the tress that were on fire and took away the heat. Though it was too late for most of us, some stood severely burned. The stream calmed down gradually. As it returned to its normal state, I saw the damage that was caused. Every tree I grew up with and every other tree I knew was hacked or burned down. There was not even one sapling to be found on the burned land. He and I were the only trees standing in the once full region of the forest.  He was badly damaged but he was there hanging on with me. I took his damaged branches into my arms. I was both sad and happy. Sad because everyone I knew and cared for had perished but happy for the one ray of hope that I still held in my arms. I was somehow apprehensive if he could withstand the pain. I held him tightly. He did not respond. I could feel my heart racing. I tried shaking his branches but I was too stunned myself to move. Everything seemed to be lost. I held onto him as lifelessly as he seemed to be. A soft wind whistled by and all of a sudden I felt some movement. I felt life blowing into us. He moved his branches, still very weak but gave a wave signaling he was alive. He was a weak as a sapling but he was alive. My happiness at that moment had no bounds. I held him as close supporting his branches for the rest of the night making sure he was not hurt. In the coming days things got a little better, he regained some of his strength. The wind brought us news that the forest was now safe and the humans evacuated this area. As time passed some of the birds and animals returned to us and small plants began to take root where my family once stood tall. The stream never left us. The world was finally getting better. I knew we could never go back to how things were but this was not the time to mourn. I knew I had to accept what happened and had to plan for the future of the forest.

And now…

It has been a great long time since the incident. The saplings have now become fully grown trees – strong and tall like we once were. Greenery, that seemed to have abandoned us slowly returned to the outer rings of this great forest. For many years we had not seen humans. But there was one group of humans that came by pretty recently, they did not have any weapons or tools. They stopped by to rest. The stream was cautiously watching them. A couple from amongst them went to the stream to savour the cool water and quench their thirst. Some of them stopped there admiring its beauty and others stood in front of a device with the stream flowing behind them. They all seemed to belong to a different generation and did not know the atrocities of their ancestors. The wind tells me that humans are still foiling forests and waters for their own causes. He says that they have been cursed by the land and the crops do not grow well any more. Mother Nature has punished them numerous times for their doings with earthquakes, storms and floods. The Sun is very annoyed with them and is bent on teaching them a lesson. The wind also says that these humans are very intelligent and advanced. That they have tamed many of nature’s forces to use them to their advantage. But my husband (yes we have been married for a long time now) laughs at this saying how can one claim to tame something he has no clue about. He says humans do not understand the nature of balance. No matter how intelligent or advanced they are, if they do not change their life style, they will pay. They might have tamed some of nature’s creations but when nature comes after them there is no place they can hide. Humans have to change if they want to last on this planet. They have to respect nature and play by its rules. The wind tells me that there are some groups among the humans that have realized this and are fighting for us. But that number is small. I look at the children that pass me and I try to see what kind of humans they will turn out to be.

The two of us have seen the worst that human kind can offer; only love and care have helped us see off tough times. Love is the only reason we are alive, alive to tell this tale of two trees…


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