The last words: “Death, inevitable. My spirit will watch from this banyan tree, our home for years, dear Ka.”
Inconsolable, he cremated her, on the bank of the Ganga, along with homeless others, living off the river offerings. The one-eyed vagabond had filled in cruel details: Foundling was adopted by the granny and named Ka because he sounded like a crow!
“Any idea of my parents?”
“Naw. You were dumped on the temple steps. Granny took you—like many such abandoned kids earlier. Fed the orphans by begging alms. Always nice and caring. Even educated some, this great soul.”
No doubt, she was missed genuinely.
A grateful Ka had faithfully served the tiny woman. The tree was huge and both retired to its roots in the night. Two curs kept a watch over the rag-tag family. Granny was full of stories. She told Ka that the banyan tree was a living thing—and home to the undead.
“House of spirits?”
“Yes. Spirits reside in the banyan tree but never harm the good folks.”
The teen was speechless!
“Every tree has got a native spirit. Never hurt trees. They are our kin. If you do, their curse visits you.”
“There is destruction around. Death follows in full fury.”
Granny would daily offer water from the Ganga, tie a thread on its wide girth and pray. Ka was made to follow.
Their meager possessions—five cloth bags—would hang from its high branches. Nobody, not even the thieves, would ever dare touch them.
They were afraid of the fury of the banyan and the local spirits. Except for granny and Ka, nobody would ever sleep under its spreading branches, where owls and bats also frequented.
The banyan is sacred to the Lord Shiva! Very special.
Granny once observed.
Ka was sure the granny- spirit would protect him. So would the banyan tree. Once a junkie tried to assault him, early at night, but fled after seeing something in the air.
Ghost! He shouted and fled. Never seen again!
The legend of the tree—and of granny-spirit—grew. Villagers became reverential. And worshipped it.
Once, as per the account of another crazy addict, he saw the tree turning into the apparition of granny when he tried to snatch away one of the bags rumored to be containing gold and cash.
Ka was left in peace!
Then the skeptics arrived!
The city engineer declared the old banyan as a hindrance to their plans of the beautification and ordered cutting down of the tree bound in hundreds of red and white threads by women. Ka pleaded but was beaten by the corporation workers. It was killed brutally.
Beware of its wrath!
In the monsoon, granny’s prophecy came true.
The Ganga rose in rage, destroying the bridge and everything.
Dredging by sand mafia, pollution, debris and plastic were touted as reasons of the choking of the river but Ka never believed this version.
The curse of a murdered tree was real!
Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.
Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:
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