A short story for children:
The massive Tree, its girth rivaling a banyan and the branches reaching out at least a hundred feet, stood at the edge of the village beyond the water tank, set back from the high-road to the town. A host to many generations of birds and small animals – the unassuming Sparrows safely nested in the lush branches of the Tree while the Parrots in brilliant green and the Squirrels in their brown-grey fur made home in the numerous holes in the vast trunk. It was never by mistake a Parrot entered the abode of a Squirrel or the other way round!
All day long, the air was filled with the muted chatter of the Sparrows, punctuated by the occasional exuberance of the Parrots and the bouts of noisy drumming by a pair of black-plumed Woodpeckers that kept the Tree free of wood-boring insects.
The Tree ensured its lodgers had access to a generous year-round supply of juicy fruits.
I had almost forgotten all about him and how could I? There was a wise old Owl that kept the night-watch from the high branches of the Tree.
That wasn’t all. The Tree had visitors too. From the village came bathers to sit down and chat away under the Tree before and after their bath in the tank. On some days, there was even a traveler or two from the high-road pausing to rest under its shade.
But the Wind was a regular. It all started long ago when the Tree was young and growing:
‘You’re very fortunate – you get to see so many places. Here I’m standing rooted to this place.’
‘You’re the lucky one getting to stay put. Do you see there is no rest for me at all? All the time I have got to be on the move, or I’m dead.’
‘Well, I’ll lend you the fragrance of my flowers and fruits – you may carry them with you wherever you go.’
‘I’ll clean up all the grime off the leaves, remove the dead ones, and give a good massage to your tired limbs.’
And the Tree and the Wind became thick friends ever since.
It was an idyllic world until one morning…
The Wind brought the news. The heartless village Chief had, in a meeting, proposed to auction the Tree for its wood. It was expected to fetch a good price, enough to build a community center and more. And the auction was scheduled in a couple of days.
The Tree froze speechless. How could they come up with a thought like this? When the news reached them, the birds and the animals sinking their beaks and teeth into the juicy pulp of the fruits with customary gusto, drew back like from hot coal. Everyone was horrified pale. Life without the Tree was unthinkable.
But what could be done now? They felt quite powerless before the juggernaut – man’s self-interest in disregard of his eco-mates. Hours of deliberations yielded no solution. The Tree, in utter despair and mindful of its lodgers, advised them to move out to a safer place and leave it to face its fate.
They were not the one to give up. While chewing on the crisis, finally someone suggested they wake up the wise old Owl and consult him.
So they did. And they saw, for the first time, a glimmer of hope.
It was the day of the auction. The Bidders from the village and the neighboring had gathered under the Tree. There was a quick inspection poking the Tree here and there, asking a question or two.
The birds went very quiet.
As the Bidders were waiting for the Chief to come in, from nowhere a strong gust of wind blew in knocking the turbans off the heads of a couple while others barely managed to hold onto theirs. Not an auspicious beginning, it was felt.
The Chief arrived with his ‘records’ man. After a short preamble the bidding commenced.
‘A 1000 rupees.’
‘They are low-balling it. The wood is teak like and my guess is it will easily fill up three cart-loads,’ the Chief muttered inaudibly into the ears of his assistant.
Before the next bid was shouted out, suddenly, as if on a cue, there was a minor commotion from the Squirrels gathering at the base of the Tree, purposefully drawing the attention of a Bidder standing closest. As his eyes came to rest on what he saw, for a moment he was speechless. When he regained his tongue, he cried excitedly: ‘Look here, look here, I know for sure – it wasn’t there before.’
Another Bidder, also drawn to it, exclaimed: ‘This is a miracle!’
A third Bidder joined: ‘A clear sign of disapproval from the Gods.’
In a short while they all had seen it. They hurriedly conferred among themselves and turned to the Chief resolutely: ‘Drop it, Chief. We are mercifully saved just in time from committing a grave sin.’
As a vexed Chief walked up to see what made the proceedings go awry, advice came from the eldest among the Bidders: ‘Chief, let us bring offerings, light a lamp and get the priest to do the pooja and build a decent shrine here.’
The Chief too was awe-struck when he saw a panel of a clear likeness to Hanuman freshly carved in relief on the bark at the base of the Tree. There were even flowers and fruits strewn about in the front as offerings.
As the Bidders dispersed, the Tree let out a sigh of relief and thanked, from the bottom of its heart, the Woodpeckers, the wise Owl, the Parrots and the Sparrows, and the Squirrels and not forgetting the Wind that embraced them all in cool comfort.
Hanuman is the son of Vayu, the Wind God.
http://nagpurbirds.org/ has these beautiful photographs and a whole lot more of our feathered friends sighted in and around Nagpur.