A dim light shone in her room. He heard sounds of sobs. The whole family had gathered around his daughter’s bed. He pushed everyone along the way.
By Amrit Patnaik
And yet another leaf fell bringing back old memories. He was sitting, lonely on the uneven ground with thorns pricking his rough hands. He looked sideways. Three graves lay beside, three corps sleeping peacefully in them.
The winds have rained down beautiful coloured autumn leaves on those graves, a parting gift to them on his behalf. The beautiful yellow and red leaves were the only witness to his blissful life years ago.
It was an autumn evening just like this day. The sky burst open and made way for a torrent of rain, the rain his mother loved, the rain that erupted a luminous sparkle in her eyes. A car honked outside the house. He ran out to the window and fixed his gaze on an old 3-storeyed building, his father’s family heirloom. A large tree stood beside the house. With its yellow and red leaves, it attracted Adhiraaj like never before. ‘Beta, come inside soon, you’ll catch cold.’ shouted his mom.
With a light kiss on the huge trunk of the maple tree, he ran back inside. The cuckoo sitting atop cooed, indicating the start of a beginning which was destined to go till the end.
Years passed by, the old heritage was soon turned into a sprawling building. His father, though just a pilot had amassed huge wealth from his ancestors. He decided to change every old thing around, except the maple tree. The large tree attracted everyone’s attention. Adhiraaj would always play around it with his friends. He would tell them that it was his best friend. They were friends for life.
“He loves the maple tree more than us” his father would tease him. He would curtly reply, “It also loves me more than you do.”
Adhiraaj would always roam around wearing his father’s pilot cap. At school he would wait for the last bell to ring so that he could run home and hug the maple tree. His mother waited for him to run into her arms first but was always left disappointed.
His teacher at class once asked him, “What do you wish to be Adhi, when you grow up?”
“I want to fly around the maple tree on my dad’s plane and discover its huge mane.”
The whole class burst into laughter. He gave them a cataclysmic look.
Adhiraaj never had any attraction towards the beautiful artifacts around his house. It was just a soft and gentle relationship, between him and the tree. They shared a soul-to-soul relationship, one that was inconceivable of ever being broken.
Adhiraaj’s father on the other hand was seeing a turmoil going on in his life. The huge wealth accumulated over a century by his family was soon dwindling. The large taxable property had been confiscated by the government. He knew times would come when they would be in tatters. He tried to contact his wealthy friends who he believed would help him restore his property. Yet none came forward. He would always remain worried. He was a freelance pilot. Flying plane was a passion, never an occupation. He knew if he could not get back his confiscated property; there was no external source of income.
It was still all around. A tinge of moon light came through a narrow window pane. Adhiraaj’s father was lying on the bed with his wife and little Adhiraaj in-between trying to sleep, the sleep that constantly eluded him. He was trying to go into a deep slumber, to get rid of the mayhem in his mind. Yet the thoughts of a poverty-stricken future stopped blood from going down his veins. He decided to tell his wife of the turbulence going on in his life.
He stroked her a little and she woke up abruptly. It was never before that her husband had asked her to wake up at the middle of the night. Something was wrong for sure. Seeing her petrified expression, he decided to free his mind.
“Are you fine? You never woke me up at midnight before” his wife uttered before letting him speak his mind.
“It’s not the same anymore, Neha.” saying so he burst into tears.
His wife put her hand on his.
“Calm down and tell me what happened. You are a grown up man now. What would Adhiraaj think if he wakes up?” Saying so, she wiped away the tears with her pallu and a half moon appeared on her lips. She used to be a beautiful woman when young and it was often that her smile would not revamp his sully mood. This time the rarest of things happened.
He continued with a broken voice “We are going to be on roads soon. We have to get Adhiraaj out of school. Our life would never be the same anymore. Our wealth is plummeting. Our property is not ours anymore. Except this house, we have nothing more left. We would be all alone.” saying so he broke down again.
“We would never be alone. I have you, you have me and we have this little life to take care of. He is ours and no one can take him away from us.”
“Mapeee triiiii….” mumbled little Adhiraaj in his sleep. It was often that he would utter of it in his sleep. Perhaps he never wished to part from it, even in his dreams.
She smiled, “Yes, we have the maple tree too.”
It was a glorious spring morning, calm and cool. When it dawned, Adhiraaj knew, it was time to greet the maple tree. The tender leaves were moving dilly-dally in the breeze, elated, thrilled and proud of the love Adhiraaj carried for it. His father’s agony touched the breeze. The breeze came near and whispered in his ears. Yet he kept talking to his best friend, unaware of the turmoil going around.
Inside, his mother had conceived a few ideas to get rid of the bad phase.
“We may not have any property left around. But why don’t you sell this large area around our home. Adhi surely does not need so many acres to play.” she shouted from kitchen.
Her husband remained silent. The seeds of hope that this idea had sown in his mind made his eyes sparkle. He decided to call an old friend who wanted a large piece of land to establish his showroom in the area.
Keeping the phone down, he told his wife, “I am going out to meet, Mr. Malhotra. He has promised to help us.”
The maple tree watched Adhi’s father pacing away in his car. It stood strong, smiling at the fate of the family. It was the only witness to the times gone by and the appalling time that was to come.
Hours passed and he returned with a dark man sitting behind, gazing around in awe. Adhiraaj’s mother came out through the huge door carrying the attractive half-moon on her lips as ever. Both of them decided to show Mr. Malhotra the place, half of which was going to be his in a matter of time. He stood gaping at the beautiful site, the tall building, the greenery around, yellow leaves falling on the ground.
So, say, my friend. Do you like the place?” Adhiraj’s father enquired. Mr. Malhotra put his hands into his pocket and brought put a cheque. “Fill as much as you want.” And all of them burst into laughter.
The grandfather clock struck 2. It was time for Adhi to return. His mother went inside to complete her cooking. Adhi ran through the huge garden gate. Mr. Malhotra caught him and lifted him high. He shook his body, and jumped off his arms. How could he ever embrace anyone before the maple tree!!
“I’m sorry Malhotra, he is becoming impolite day-by-day.”
“He is just a kid. He will learn over time” he shrugged him off.
Happiness returned to the beautiful home beside the maple tree. Bliss returned to the face of Adhi’s parents. He was happy seeing them smile. “Ok, you can start your construction from today and mark the area you own” his father said over phone.
It was noon. Adhiraaj was at school. Workers were busy cutting the trees. Adhiraaj’s father stood watching them. Mr. Malhotra entered in his black Benz. He had advertised in every newspaper of the upcoming showroom. It was going to be his biggest one, the biggest in the town, which he had promised to gift to his son-in-law after he marries his daughter. With his chest held high, he looked elegant in his demeanor. He asked the chief worker to mark the area to be cut with bricks. Measuring the land, facing the road, they paved a path with red bricks. The bricks went on in their path until they trampled the yellow leaves scattered around.
“Stop, don’t move towards the maple tree. It is my son’s prized possession, his best friend. It has stood there for years. It is a part of our family.”
“You have to get rid of this small part of your family. Else, this site will lose its value. Unless our shop faces the highway end, we are not going to get clients.”
“It is not possible Malhotra, my son loves the tree more than he loves us. He can never live without it.”
“If you want me to buy this plot, you have to get rid of this old tree.”
“You are free to leave this plot but being his father, I know what would be Adhi’s condition. I don’t want to send him to hospice.” Saying so, he tore apart the cheque and with that any hopes of revamping his life.
Mr. Malhotra boiled with anger. He clutched the key of his car tight and shouted at the top of his voice.
“With your decision, you have not just broken my hopes associated with this piece of land but also my daughter’s marriage. I won’t spare you. Be ready to face the consequences.”
Adhiraaj’s father stood shell-shocked, unable to believe the sudden turn of events. All his plans had come to a pause all of a sudden. His wife stood beside the door petrified at Mr. Malhotra’s warning.
Days went by and Adhi would always find his father worried. He could not find a way out of the rising debts. “Why did you not let them cut this old tree? It may have hurt Abhi but eventually he would have got a secured future. He would have realised that money does not grow on trees.”
“His happiness is more important for me than this piece of fortune and the money. He does not need money. He requires happiness, which always grows for him on the branches and leaves of the maple tree.”
It was a dark night the half moon shining glimly over the night sky. The cricket continued its nightlong chirrups. Mr. Malhotra walked up and down the corridor. He was in no better condition than Adhiraaj’s family. His would-be son-in-law refused to marry his daughter as he was unable to gift him a new showroom. He was worried.
and wiped out the sweat drooling from his forehead. He failed his daughter, he failed his friend. It was not an implausible offer. Had he accepted his offer of not cutting the maple tree, the land would have been his and so would have the marriage been successful. He took out his mobile. He had to ask for his forgiveness. He couldn’t afford to lose a friend for his business benefits.
He dialed the number. It started ringing. “Saaaaaaaabb…..” The sound did not come from the phone but it was the voice of one of its maids. He ran at the top of his speed to the second floor. The shout came from his daughter’s room. He kept pursing his lips on the way, praying that all the dreadful imaginations that he had had after hearing the noise would not come true.
A dim light shone in her room. He heard sounds of sobs. The whole family had gathered around his daughter’s bed. He pushed everyone along the way. The whole bed sheet had turned red. The blood turned his senses off. The dim light turned dimmer and the people around him lost shape.
After an hour when he came back to his sense, he searched all over the room through his round eyes. Sensing that he was worried, his brother consoled him. “She is in hospital, bhaiyya but don’t worry she would be alright. Keep faith on the almighty. He never does bad with the good people.” “God has done what he had to, now it is my turn. What that bastard did, he has to repay it. I will make him drip every drop of blood that my daughter lost.”
The sky had taken a grey hue, an indication that the little rain drops were to touch the maple leaves. They smiled in joy, not just because the soft drops would fall on them but also because they knew Adhi’s mother eagerly waited for the rains to come.
This time they were wrong. Adhi’s mother felt an uncanny silence in the air. The rain did not carry happiness; instead it was an indication of an impending disaster. The clock struck 2 again. She ran to the temple to pray for her family’s wellbeing. Her heart ached thinking what more mishappening could happen to their already so miserable life. The gate opened and in came a black benz. Adhi’s father watched with surprise as he saw Mr. Malhotra come out of the car, with Adhi holding his little finger.
He ran towards his destination. In his race, he did not notice the bricks still lay over the maple leaves, he ran like a child bereft of his mother. ‘Thuddd.. .’ fell Adhi on his stomach and his forehead hit the tree trunk. His mother ran towards him and picked him up. “Cut the tree” shouted Mr. Malhotra as a herd of fierce men holding axes appeared from behind. Tears started to roll down Adhi’s cheeks. He ran to hug his best friend, the only friend he had known for the last six years, for whom he awaited every single for the last school bell to ring.
Mr. Malhotra took out a revolver. “Now, you will have to go through the pain that I had to suffer as a father. I will take revenge. You will have to lose what you made me lose.” Anger was apparent in his voice. His eyes had turned red. He wished for the blood of the pilot’s son and even a pair of wings could not have saved him from his ire.
Adhi’s parents ran towards him. Four bullet shots could be heard. The maple leaves got soaked in blood. The rain water ceased to be transparent. The mason lifted its axe and struck the trunk. Back to present…. A tear fell from his eyes on the maple leaves. The leaves were no longer red. He stood up and walked towards his friend. There was poise in his steps, the poise that he never possessed. Yet he stumbled upon something. He sat down to take a look. It was not a brick but a piece of rock on the grave.
Engraved on top,
Born- 01- 08- 1996
Died- 28- 11- 2004
— Learning&Creativity (@LearnNCreate) June 20, 2014
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