Sunday, March 05, 2006


Warm wind blows across my face. It’s the onset of summer. I stand by, looking out of my window.


Another one bites the dust.

The southern states in India have been blessed with the majestic coconut trees. And come summer, the leaves begin to fall down one after the other.

What follows after every leaf-falling episode is an enduring debate, an open debate, participated in by beedi smoking grandpas, children hardly up on their feet, aunts, uncles and roadside ‘uncles and aunties’.

All the houses in my neighbourhood have coconut trees flanking their entrances. And thus, I am sanctified with the hallowed distinction of prying into their conversations.

Immediately after the fall, the entire neighbourhood arrives to grace the occasion to ascertain the cause of commotion. Then, the person closest to the fallen leaf declares his fortitude, remarking how he was standing right below the monstrous leaf before Chunnu or Munnu had beckoned him inside. He then hugs Chunnu or Munnu and thanks the almighty. Then, the other person nearby looks up to the tree with wide eyed wonder and thinks out, aloud, as to how grand the leaves are. He goes on to stare for a few more minutes as though a few more leaves might come crashing down. Content that there would be none, he moves to the nearest parked vehicle and examines it with an eye of an insurer for a scratch. He too, then blesses the almighty.

Then, the aunt comes along to drag away her children who are playing nearby, even though they may be miles away from the leaf. She too looks up to the nearest tree, nods her head in disapproval and wonders why a coconut couldn’t have fallen instead.

The nearest roadside idle ‘uncle’ or ‘aunt’ then come along to grace the occasion, with a toothy smile and a graphic description of how their neighbour’s brand new scooter was smashed to smithereens by another such rogue leaf. The listeners nod their head in approval.

Since all conversations eventually always end up with the government, the teenage whiz kid arrives and exclaims out aloud as to why the government does nothing about these rogue leaves.

Spirituality finds a place in the discussion too. Grandma, flanked by her two grandchildren comes along to explain how coconut trees never fall on people and that the tree is mighty and intelligent. On protests by some less spiritual hooligans, she adds a clause that the trees make an exception for those who sin. She then stares up at the sun and asks beckons everyone else to do the same. She, playing ‘Simon Says’, asks everyone to then look down. All do so in unison.

Finally she declares that whoever can see nothing but black needs to mend his way else the coconut tree shall ensure his/her way to hell. Before anyone can retort, she walks off, grunting.

Grandpa acknowledges, chuckles, and puffs out another beedi.

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