The market is crowded. Nobody seems to be scared of the virus. As the mechanic will take about half an hour to repair my phone, I decide to take a leisurely walk. There is no point standing here crowding the shop.
I am reminded of the house nearby, where we used to live. As I start walking towards the small house perched between the other small houses, I am reminded of many faces, the park on the side that ran parallel to the road and my dog, Chelsea, who used to walk alongside without a leash around her neck. Also, the steel railings where I would sit smoking. Sometimes, I would also carry my cup of tea to the railing.
As I walk, I am reminded of you too. Hope you are still there. After ages, I have come here. As I walk closer, the place grows in familiarity. Nothing seems to have changed. Only the Sardarji, who repaired car tyres beside a petrol station, has greyed. A lab has come up in place of the hotel. Must be another casualty to Covid! The rest is all the same. People are casually walking around, many of them with masks hanging at their chins.
As I take the last turn… there you are! Wow, you have grown so tall. I have to lift my face up to have a complete look. You remember me? Maybe, yes. I look up again, proud of you standing firm and tall. I am reminded of the times when you were vulnerably small. I would water you every morning and adore your new leaves. Today, you need no support, no watering. Maybe you are not even aware that I am standing here under your shade, so proud and happy with my eyes brimming. Yes, I am sure you now know of my presence.
The old mango tree is also there. You two seem to have become friends, hugging each other with extended arms and dancing to the tune of the breeze and chirping birds. That one was quite impertinently naughty, never bore any fruit. I wrote about him once. A feng shui and vastu expert, standing right under that tree, had recommended cutting it down or killing it by putting acid into its roots, because according to him, it was blocking our fate as it stood right in the middle of the outer gate. We refused to do any of that. And the very next season, it was fully laden with big delicious mangoes. Thereafter, it never stopped doing that. Season after season, the fruit grew sweeter. See, he remembers me and the incident. It is waving at me with the top branches.
I walk back remembering Shiv Batalvi: Kujh rukh maenu putt lagde ne, kujh rukh lagde maavan; kujh rukh noohan dhiyan lagde, kujh rukh vaang bhravan; kujh rukh mere baabe varge, pattar taavan taavan (some trees look like sons to me, some like mothers, daughters, brides and brothers; some are like my grandfather, with hardly any leaves left).
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