The first rays of the sun streaked the sky announcing the first day of spring. A little cuckoo bird perched on me cooed away in glory. Irritated by the cooing, I stretched my branches and rustled my leaves. Undeterred, the little bird sang with all its might, the responsibility of awakening the world resting entirely on its little shoulders. My helplessness was echoed by an inmate of the girl’s hostel that faced me. She slammed the window shut trying to block the sound.
I have been here for a very long time. Many centuries ago, this place had been covered with wilderness. Slowly men cleared the forest but left me. In India, Banyan trees are considered sacred. Soon a temple was built a few yards away. Villagers would come to pray. A bell was hung from one of my branches. Women would ring the bell three times, apply vermillion on my trunk with their thumb and then tie a sacred thread around me. The thread symbolized their love for their husbands. It was a prayer for the long lives of their better halves. The village grew into a town and then into a city. I stand in the outskirts of the city. The temple is no longer there. However red coloured threads still adorn me.
Every day from morning to evening, I am surrounded by beautiful and energetic young girls. Few swing on my roots, few sit on the branches and others sit on the ground munching snacks. At night few come back to secretly meet their lovers. Of those hundreds of girls, I remember two very clearly. One had short hair and beautiful eyes. The other was tall with long hair. They were inseparable. I can still hear the echoes of their laughter. The mischievous girls would hide on my branches and scare away the lovers at night. Then they would roll over with laughter. Their laughter breaking the eerie silence of the night. As days passed, my affection for them grew and so did their attachment to me. They would be seen around me all the time. Playing, gossiping and pranking. Soon those two pests grew up to be beautiful women. Their friendship too blossomed into a relation that was ridiculed by the society. The friendship that had once been cherished soon grew to be a love, condemned by many. I remember them confessing to each other. Then holding each other tight,they wept. My heart was heavy that day. Why was the beauty of their love not visible to human eyes? The sacred threads tied around me seemed too tight that day. I had seen many broken hearts. Encouraged many lonely girls weeping for the love that had been only an infatuation for their lovers. But for those two, I wished to be able to do more. That day, being an unspeakable tree stranded in one place, frustrated me. They left the college as two graceful ladies attired in beautiful sarees. They left my lap to face the world.
I missed them dearly. Pinned for them for months. Then one day, they came back. Oh! How I wish they hadn’t. I remember the scene clearly. The look on their faces was identical. It contained a mixture of distress, despair and determination. Two strong women who had fought the world for a long time. Two women who had loved each other passionately. Though excited to see them, the expression in their eyes pained me immensely. There was no pleasure on seeing me. But the short haired one wrapped her arms around me, letting out a sob. What happened next would haunt me forever, making me curse my long life . I stood there, as they took out identical ropes. My heart breaking slowly, my soul screaming and my branches flailing uselessly. Entire night their corpses hung from my branches. Those very branches on which they had sat, pranking lovers, held them for the last time. I squirmed that night trying to loosen the threads that bound me. Those very threads that labelled me as a sacred tree and declared their love as impure. From that day onwards, I stand alone at night. Rumours of their ghosts haunting me scare all but me. I wish they were true. When the wind blows and my leaves rustle, I imagine their spirits hugging me. I imagine them together in a place so sacred that a love, only as pure as theirs, can exist.