by Livneet Shergill
Sitting under the banyan tree, B… was half awake, half asleep. His mind was shifting like a pendulum, thoughts of the city life he had left behind were trespassing the thoughts of his childhood and youth spent under the banyan tree in his village. As the pandemic set into its third month, B… lost his job. Without a job, heading back home was inevitable for him. This time it took him three days to get back home. Earlier it would take him only one day. The journey was even longer than those three days. The journey didn’t end when he reached his home — it just started. Although his village was five hundred kilometers away from the capital city, it’s stark isolation belied this reality.
Suddenly, out of nowhere black clouds engulfed the burning summer sun that had been shining brightly. Then began a game of hide and seek between the mighty sun and the black clouds. B…, like a silent hidden spectator, was watching the game and wondering whether life is more predictable or the weather. Probably there was an uncanny resemblance between the two.
Someone was gazing at him from a far distance, the gaze made him uncomfortable. A pair of dark brown eyes ringed with yellow penetrated his being as if every part of him was up for an examination. Unknowingly he began to walk in the direction of those eyes. The sun was again visible and also moving in that direction. It seemed as though he was following the sun, he walked for about an hour. In all, he had walked four kilometers. But he was exhausted.
The residential area of his village was behind him. He was standing on the dusty pathway between two fields and on the tree before him the pair of mesmerising eyes were still continuously staring at him without blinking. To B…’s immense amazement, it was a falcon sitting on Gulmohar branch, hidden between the red flowers, with only its eyes visible. The falcon and B… gazed at each other as if they were long lost friends who had met after many years. Tears began to roll down his eyes.
The falcon took flight. B… followed. One, two, three and within five minutes there were six falcons flying in the sky in a triangular formation. The falcons in the sky and B… on the ground matched their rhythm. Sometimes, they hurried and at times they were steady. It started to drizzle. That didn’t disturb their synchronization. After six hours of this rhythmic exercise, B… collapsed.
The sun had set, and it was beginning to get dark. He was lying unconscious in the fields with falcons circling him — rather unusual a sight. Lightning struck the village. Some of the homes were set ablaze. The blaze from the burning houses was visible from a distance. It had started to rain heavily now. The falcons had disappeared and B… was lying prostrate in rain. Heavy rain had put off the fire.
Next morning, the villagers found him in the fields, burning with fever and still unconscious. The village was too remote for a doctor. The village elders took on themselves to heal B…. After twenty-four hours, he regained consciousness and he was a new man.
In the past two days, his entire life had unfolded before him.
The city lights that once bedazzled him had lost their glitter. He realised lights that do not illuminate were pointless. They only tired the mind and the eyes. The earthen lamp dimly lighting the room was to be his guiding light. The dusty by-lanes of his village were to be his high streets.
It had taken ten years and a pandemic for him to understand that the village life he had left for a better life in the city was the same off-grid life many city dwellers aspire for. The peace and tranquility he was experiencing could not be found anywhere else.
The way a storm with high winds blows down a tree and reveals the tree’s hollowness; the barrenness of the city life was uncovered by the pandemic.
The branches of the banyan tree had grown long enough to reclaim the Earth beneath. The branches were one with the roots again. B… had finally found his footing, on his own land.
B… was sitting under the banyan tree, dark brown eyes ringed with yellow were gazing at him from the treetop. A group of children encircled him, engrossed in the story he is telling.
At long last, he is home.
Livneet Shergill is a PhD in Economics. She works as an independent researcher and writing gives her unmitigated happiness. The childhood literary bug has never quite left her.
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