Parrot Under the Pine Tree

Parrot Under the Pine Tree

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

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Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Houses:

Summary

Parrot under the Pine Tree is the powerful expression of love. In the girl’s heart; it’s subtle, sublime and eternal. But in the boy’s heart; it’s earthy, insecure and restless. The anxiety brings the two young hearts close.
In the clean and tranquil environs of Kausani, Vedanta inadvertently meets Saranga under bizarre circumstances and both fall in love with each other. After a yearlong fairytale romance, they tie the sacred knot. And a few years later they are blessed with a son. But Alas! Their happiness doesn’t last long. On one fateful night the young man falls prey to temptation. The storm that brews up in that night’s passion not only consumes his heart and soul, but also shreds that of Saranga into pieces.
On insistence of her grandma, whom Saranga holds in reverence, she agrees to give a second chance to a repentant Vedanta. But misgivings remain in her heart. The grandma asks her to go back to the place where she had fallen in love with Vedanta for the first time.

Will Kausani rework the magic again between the estranged couple?


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Summary

Parrot under the Pine Tree is the powerful expression of love. In the girl’s heart; it’s subtle, sublime and eternal. But in the boy’s heart; it’s earthy, insecure and restless. The anxiety brings the two young hearts close.
In the clean and tranquil environs of Kausani, Vedanta inadvertently meets Saranga under bizarre circumstances and both fall in love with each other. After a yearlong fairytale romance, they tie the sacred knot. And a few years later they are blessed with a son. But Alas! Their happiness doesn’t last long. On one fateful night the young man falls prey to temptation. The storm that brews up in that night’s passion not only consumes his heart and soul, but also shreds that of Saranga into pieces.
On insistence of her grandma, whom Saranga holds in reverence, she agrees to give a second chance to a repentant Vedanta. But misgivings remain in her heart. The grandma asks her to go back to the place where she had fallen in love with Vedanta for the first time.

Will Kausani rework the magic again between the estranged couple?


Chapter1 (v.1) - Chapter One

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 25, 2017

Reads: 17

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 25, 2017

A A A

A A A

Chapter One

 

From the pagans of the pre-Vedic period to the faithfuls of the post-Vedic era, only the Sun God hasn’t lost its eminence in the daily lives of the human beings. Both the believers and the atheists hold it in reverence. Heliolatry has persisted from the prehistoric times. No natural phenomenon has captured the imagination of so many people as the sunrise, which has provided intellectual nourishment to the educated for generations. 

And it was the sunrise of a divine kind that drew thousands of enthusiasts to a lesser- known place in the Himalayas. These were pre-dawn hours. From behind the snow-capped mountains, hidden under the veil of brume, the sun prepared to rise. It took time to climb those lofty peaks with precipitous gradients. In the valley below lay a sleepy little town.

A long road winding through effulgent valleys, dotted with huts and fields, approached Kausani, a quaint hamlet perched atop the ridgeline. Thereafter, it cut through the place splitting it in two unequal halves and then vanished into the Katyuri Valley, overlooking the white sentries. The two ridge-halves spread like the wings of a gigantic dragon. More huts adored the forward slopes. For centuries Kausani had loved and revelled in its aloofness. Throughout the year it covered itself in a blanket of obscurity as if it hated civilisation. Of late, the hotels and resorts like pockmarks had sprung up all over on the forward slopes and destroyed its beauty and tranquillity. Kausani resented their presence on their soil and often shed tears in the calm, dark hours, but each morning with a smile awaited the day’s arrival for itself, its inhabitants and its guests.

The dawn here was long, the day longer and the night the longest. Here the Gods controlled everything and eternized tranquillity. It was their land. The local folks in reverence called it as the ‘Devbhumi’. In this land, time was its own master and not a slave to some conceited man.

So, the sun chose its own time to rise, its own time to set, day after day, month after month and year after year. And today was no different. The natives of this Himalayan state owed their existence to it. The sun not only brought light in their lives, but it also gave life to the forest, the land and the water- things on which their survival depended.

This place had its own world—the world of religions, the world of spirits. And it drew people of the material world to it, the majority for a short period but some folks forever. Here an indescribable bliss reigned and greeted all visitors. Unlike the other places, Sunday enjoyed no special status in the folks’ lives here. It didn’t differ from the weekdays. The distinction between days had blurred so much that one had forgotten which day was what. As one soaked one’s soul in those heavenly environs in endless hours of idleness, one wished not to remember anything that in any way reminded oneself of time and bound to it.

Like any other day, Kausani with every passing minute emerged out of the darkness, tree by tree, house by house, street by street. Every rooftop was filled with folks, the locals and the visitors. The prospect of a good sunny day had driven the native women to carry grain, chillies and clothes on the roofs for drying. But the tourists’ worries were of a different kind. For some, it was their last day in Kausani and hence they prayed for a great sunrise so that they could, for posterity, capture the divine spectacle in their cameras, in their hearts.

Also, in that motley crowd love stories, born in a short span of time, faced a bleak future as the reckless lovers readied to leave to different destinations. In spite of the uncertain future of their whirlwind romances, the lovers gave last-minute promises to one another and exchanged addresses, phone numbers and email IDs. Parting hugs and kisses filled their eyes. But misgivings remained in many a heart. For some, though, the love in such fleeting moments had been what it often was: a quick physical liaison to be had and forgotten.

As the darkness dissipated fast, the crowd rushed pell-mell on the rooftops, filling every inch of the space. Attired in colourful clothes, people with cameras—still and video—hung around their necks paced left and right, forward and backward in needless anxiety. Some women, smelling of cheap perfume that stifled the fresh mountain air, fidgeted in low quality, ill-fitting jeans that they had worn for the first time. Those in Indian dresses moved around without any constraints.

Jeans in the last few decades in the Indian society had become a great social equalizer; the rich wore it, the poor wore it. While the former wore it with diminishing vanity, the latter wore it with newfound pride.

In a corner veiled in grey mist sat a young couple waiting for the dawn. The man had a quick glance around and then kissed his wife on the lips. A stunned woman hugged her man with a question in her eyes. Back home in the orthodox land where the men walked a yard ahead of their wives and where holding of hand in public drew snide comments and disapproving glances, a public kiss like this could have created a mini-riot. In their five years of marriage this had been his most chivalrous act in public. It made her heart pound faster with thrill expecting gallant actions in the privacy of the bedroom. The sound of footsteps forced them to break off their embrace.

On the next roof stood a young mother who post childbirth a year ago could not shed as much weight as she had wished for, though she had got rid of her face fat. With a sweater tied around her waist, she tried to cover her less attractive behind. She was a single female traveller. Many nosy parkers indulged in bizarre, unwarranted guesses.  Unconcerned, she soaked her soul in those salubrious climes.

On the adjoining parapet sat a young woman, dangling her feet over the side and gazing at the misty mountains. The freshness and freedom of the place inspired her to hum a love song. Back at home covered in black from head to toe when she moved in the company of other women, she felt her beauty go unappreciated, her smile unreciprocated. And when furtive glances presuming her an old woman slipped past her face, the beauty beneath the black sheath struggled to unshackle itself. Her heart suffered a sharp pang of regret for marrying into an orthodox family when she had a choice not to.

The cool breeze kissed her bare arms and cheeks, and unfurled her hair. The mind broke the shackles, setting her soul free. Like a bird, she flew into the nearby clumps and sat on the top of the tallest pine. From there she watched the mountains, the valleys and the folks. Every time the cold wind hit her, she shook her wings to keep her warm. In excitement, she jumped from one branch to another, chatted and quarrelled with other birds. She was free to do anything she wanted.

‘Oh, what a freedom!’ the woman let out a huge sigh.

The next moment she felt a tap on her shoulder. In a voluntary motion, her right hand went over the back of the head to cover her face with hijab. For a moment she felt several known eyes pierce her face with indignation, but she regained her composure when she looked back. Her husband had returned with tea, which she drank in unusual hurry. Thereafter, she remained edgy and her face alternated between the colours of joy and anxiety. Her man’s repeated assurances failed to put her at complete ease.

On the first roof fathers taught photography to their children. On the second a few cameramen positioned the groups. On the third roof a musician adjusted strings of his guitar to compose the first song of the dawn. On the fourth a man sat with the paper and pen to compose a verse.  And on the fifth roof devotees, with none of the above accessories, waited to offer water to the rising sun, a Vedic ritual that had survived several attacks on the oldest faith.

The upcoming divine spectacle had a different meaning to different people waiting for it for the last hour. A speck of redness from behind the holy peaks emerged. Then in a steady manner the Alpenglow spread upwards and sideways. The chill in the air ebbed away. A little later, the atmosphere was filled with a loud uproar whose echo reverberated in the Katyuri Valley below. The sun was rising. It seemed in no haste. From the moment people sighted the first outline, hundreds of cameras clicked non-stop and flashes exploded until it became a huge sphere. In less than an hour it lost its redness and become a blazing fireball, unfit to take pictures of.

Most kids clung on to their mothers who, unlike fathers, shared their children’s joy. A girl of six when ignored by her father complained to mother, she wouldn’t talk to him and then walked away to a secluded corner. Reclining against the parapet and gazing at the mountains, she murmured to herself, “Wish we could stay in this place. It would be so much fun going to school here.” It wasn’t her wish alone. The hearts of other children, born and brought up in the concrete jungles, echoed similar sentiments when they arrived in the hills. 

Some pine trees greener and taller than the others vied for visitors’ attention but remained resigned to the fact that the holy mountains grabbed all the attention. But they drew comfort that a few leisure travellers would walk in their midst and sit under their shadows. A writer would gaze at them for hours appreciating their individual and collective beauty. The children would pluck pine leaves and brush them against their tender cheeks, and feel them between their palms. 

 A stone’s throw from that crowd, a few makeshift teashops had come up in the wee hours. Their owners did a brisk business. Amongst them sat a middle-aged Kumauni man under a plastic lean-to that neither protected him from the rain, nor the wind. The tea seller with a freckled face and sunken cheeks looked older than his age. Poverty had stolen several of his youthful years. A worn out shirt and pant, and a faded sweater did not diminish his pride. Out of a faded cap hiding his bald pate blew out his scraggy, grizzled hair in every possible direction. From the grey-white stubble it looked the man cared little for his looks. The man smiled with cracked lips whenever a customer came to him.

Beside him sat his sari-clad wife, the mother of two children, in a diligent supporting role. The ten-year younger woman had big blue eyes, thick lips and a sharp nose with a large circular ring. Bright lipstick, dark kajal, face powder and perfume were proof enough that she, unlike her husband, she took pains to look attractive. Her brocaded blouse, designed to cover the bosom and cleavage, failed once a while in its duty. As more customers thronged to the shop the woman, unable to handle the rush, panted and light beads of sweat dripped down between the cleavage of her perky breasts. Every time she bent down to pour tea in the glass, her cleavage flashed, attracting glances; some abashed, some unabashed. A few elders were sympathetic to her present existence but indignant that such a good-looking woman deserved a better fate. Unmindful of this, she went about her job as usual.

In between she stole a glance at a young couple who fed each other bun and drank tea from the same glass. It amused her. She remembered her husband feed her once during the marriage ceremony ten years ago. Thereafter he ate alone and she ate with the children. This kind of love was alien to her and quite mystifying. What kind of feeling did a woman experience when her husband fed her? She stole a glance at the couple who were busy feeding each other. The sight filled her heart with a tinge of envy, which vanished when the couple left. ‘If her husband ever fed her, she would bite his fingers’, she thought. A naughty smile ran over her face.

A yard away the baby boy, sitting on a piece of tattered rug, had been crying for a while to draw her mother’s attention. The spit oozing down the corners of his mouth had dried up, and so had his tears and snot. Unsatisfied eating tears, the hungry boy let out a huge cry. Concerned, the mother stood up to attend to him. Sitting on the ground with folded knees and back towards the customers, she lifted the boy and put him in her lap. The hungry boy with his tiny hands tried to raise the blouse, but failed and cried in pain and hunger.

“Wait,” the mother admonished him, “You are as impatient as your father.”

Then she, covering her breasts with sari, thrust the nipple into the mouth of the baby who after a few bites drew out milk. After a quick glance around when she saw no one watched her, she heaved a deep sigh. Every time the wind blew her sari off and exposed her golden legs, she pulled it down. The boy after the fill fell asleep. And before she could have a breather, an unwashed four-year girl, with running nose and itchy head, shouted for help. She went over to her, wiped the girl’s nose with her sari palloo, and then sat down to search her daughter’s head for lice. In between the man looked at his wife and children. The customers’ faces lit up when the woman returned to serve them tea.

Hours of hard work under the sun had weathered her skin so much that her normal eyes looked bigger and enticing. And whenever they fell on a man, even the strongest couldn’t escape its magical spell. Some men at the teashop had had more than one cup in the hope of getting her tempting glance. While the others were contend with spending a few minutes more in her warm presence.

Over the years she had watched how young and old couples, hand in hand, hand over shoulder, walked around the place and sat in secluded corners expressing their love to one another. And she had learnt that people whispered, ‘I love you’ to the person they loved. So one night she put on her best sari, wore bright red lipstick and said ‘I love you’ to her husband, and waited in excitement to hear the same from him.

“Have you gone mad?” the man snapped back. “Today you speak their language, tomorrow you will wear their clothes and bring shame to the family.”

“Forgive me,” she apologised at once.

Arey, pagli,” his voice was calm. “Their world is different from ours. We are better off the way we are. We don’t have to imitate them.”

Those words made sense to her. That night her husband showed patience and care during lovemaking. Satisfied, she fell in deep thought.

But the poor woman didn’t know that amongst educated people, longing and love were vocal, demonstrative and celebratory. In the poor folks’ lives they were tedious and dreary. She recalled her husband saying she was beautiful on two occasions; one, when she dressed up for the marriage and two, when he made love to her. He spoke the word ‘beautiful’ as fast as he did the act. She had noticed that he always made love in complete darkness and with a sense of guilt, and wanted her to lie still during the act. Perhaps all men behaved in the similar way. Like washing clothes, working in the field, cooking food and raising children, sex too was part of her duty, she thought. What the city women thought about it remained a secret to her simple mind. And it was one secret she wasn’t much keen to discover.

 Theirs was a small enterprise run by the husband-wife team during the sunrise and sunset times. In between they cultivated a small piece of land in which they grew vegetables and farmed goats. The five-rupee tea served in a glass was an instant hit with the tourists. And for those not used to having tea on an empty stomach, they had a wide variety of biscuits to choose from. If the tea seller wanted he could have hiked the price to ten rupees, which people would have paid without a fuss, but he wasn’t greedy like his brethren in the city.

Contentment was one thing the hill folks had in plenty. 

Shivering from the cold, people thronged to him for hot tea. And a few old people, perhaps the second or third time visitors, sat with him for an abridged version of a folktale or two that he narrated to them with a smile and with no hindrance to his work.

Wrapped in layers of woollens, an old man, after holding the cup, commented, “A hot tea in this cold is a divine experience.” Then his gaze fell on the broken wooden stool on which lay a crumpled newspaper. His eyes lit up. Reading newspaper with hot tea in the morning had become a habit since past several years. He stretched his hands and picked up the paper. For a second he forgot tea and flicked through the pages. It took him some minutes to realise the paper was almost a week old. With a shrug he put it down and picked up the tea gone cold.

“Is there a better place to watch the sunrise?” asked the second man, sipping tea. The question was directed at the tea seller, but he looked at everybody sitting there in anticipation of the answer.

“No. Though there are places higher than this from where one can get a better view, this place is the best as it offers hot tea,” said the first man.

“Ah! What a way to watch the holy Himalayas rise from deep slumber with tea in hand,” sighed the second man and dipped the biscuit that fell in the tea. After a quick glance around he took out the sodden biscuit with index finger and ate it. Then he sipped tea.

In walked a professor, rubbing his hands, and asked for tea.

The tea seller, putting the pan on the stove, said, “Babuji neither is Kausani’s cold so biting, nor is my tea so refreshing. In the past five years things have changed.”

“Yeah, things have changed,” the old man repeated and had a large gulp, fearing the tea might go cold. “The summers have become hotter and the winters milder. Global warming is the cause of all this.”

Unable to comprehend it, the tea seller argued, “Babuji, Dharti Ma is angry with us, because we consume more than she can produce. And on her complaint, the Sun God is threatening to destroy us all. We’ve to have to change our ways.”

What a simple explanation to a complex problem faced by the world! The retired professor thought as he gulped down the last sip, gone cold. The man was dressed in grey trousers, green shirt and a tie, and brown tweed coat and a Kumauni cap, as though he was going to the university to take a class. Even after eight years of retirement the man had not reconciled to the fact that he no longer worked. He missed the chalk and duster, and mushy ambience of the classroom. The old man missed his pupils more, his children less. Where every male was dressed in casual the professor’s formal attire drew people’s instant respect. And today he seemed to enjoy every moment of it. He wore cap to hide his pate, which in recent years had developed in him a sense of inferiority complex and caused a severe decline in his libido. Here, in the salubrious climate of Kausani, he chose to forget this and many other stresses.

Who said the wisdom lay in books? The professor mumbled to himself. Then a few seconds later, he complimented, “You make nice tea. What special thing do you add in it to make it so refreshing?”

The seller, with a grin, replied, “My father told me about an herb with which he claimed to cure constipation, however chronic it was. A glass of the mixture for a week was enough, but he forgot to pass me down the formula. When I opened the tea shop I thought of adding the herb to change the taste. My customers liked it and the tea became an instant hit. It’s a rare herb that grows in this place.”

Hiding disappointment behind a smile, the professor thanked and left. He had hoped to get the cure for the constipation that had slowed down his pace of life.

A newlywed couple in the late twenties on honeymoon trip had chosen to stay indoors and observe the sunrise from the privacy of the bedroom where a large window opened out to the snowy peaks. They were up at dawn and awaited the sun’s arrival. The husband wore a lower and a cotton jumper, while the wife a top and jeans. Colourful bangles, interspersed with gold ones, dazzled from her wrist up to elbows and vermilion sparkled in her hair parting. On her body the orient and the occident cultures blended in a bizarre harmony. Those unwieldy glass bangles pricked him while making love, but his feeble protest to remove them were brushed aside by her who, like thousands of Indian brides, loved the sight of glass pieces on her forearms. During free moments she played with them as happy dreams filled her heart and soul. It was their eighth day in that place. Every day they awoke to the sun and had an exhilarating experience that it arose for them and no one else. It was a unique feeling they savoured, alone.

In tight embrace, they stood at the window to welcome the day. As the first rays fell on their faces, they with closed eyes prayed for each other’s long life. They would have continued to be in that position had the door bell not rung. Both opened their eyes and looked down. It occurred to them then that they had forgotten something. He ran for the bathrobe, she in the bathroom. The waiter walked in, placed the tea on the table and went back. A little later they, sipping tea, watched the sun grow from a tiny crescent into a red fireball.

Their daily routine, as one would expect it to be of a newlywed’s, had been predictable. After waking they did everything together; watching the sunrise, eating breakfast out of each other’s hands and going for long walks in the woods. The sunset, on the contrary, was witnessed from the gentle environs of the pine forest, which for over a week had provided them with newer and wilder venues for their passion play. Small hillocks located behind larger mountains where local folks didn’t venture out that at time of the year and where silver brume swirled through the maze of pine clumps and billowed after each shower, were the perfect love-spots. They, during their little adventures, had found a few such secret locales.

Between meals they were fed on the passion of unbridled kind; physical dimension of which had stifled the emotional component. Such was their love. Such were the lovers; mad and wild about each other. And they had constricted the whole world around themselves, to exist for them and them alone.

As the sun made its voyage upwards, the day heated up. By eight many visitors had boarded vehicles for the return journey. A small percentage of them, however, had stayed back and after breakfast loitered around the market. The honeymooners had slipped out of the hotel and made a dash for the forest. It was their last day in Kausani.

Ten days that they had been together they had spent the first day in knowing each other mentally and emotionally. In such a short time they wanted to savour the bliss of a lifetime, because they knew that once at home, the husband would be sucked into his family business and the wife into looking after his large family. In subsequent years they would get so caught up in their chores that they would get lesser time for each other. With greying hair and bulging bellies, he would end up devoting more time to the business, she to their children.

It wasn’t their story alone; it was of so many others’.

Between this time and the evening nothing significant happened. The natives got busy with their daily lives. The visitors went around on a shopping spree, buying handicrafts and artefacts. The interaction between the locals and visitors made one rich and the other wiser.

The day had begun to roll up fast. The clock struck five. New sets of buses and cars started to roll in. In the beginning thin and warm valley mist, which glared against the weak sunlight, met them with feigned warmth. But on the upper reaches its cousin, denser and wetter, piggyback on the cool mountain wind, greeted everyone with a smile, full of genuine warmth.

The two mists revelled in their little rivalries.

And as soon as the new arrivals arrived at the Chowk, the light drizzle sprayed them. It was an ecstatic experience for them, who were escaping from the sweltering heat of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. It was June, the hottest month in the northern India. But here it was pleasant, divine to be more precise. What an escape it was! Everyone thought as they alighted from the vehicles and strolled towards their accommodations.

“Oh, God! This place is a heaven,” exclaimed a young male voice. It made several heads turn in his direction and nod in admiration. Their hearts echoed the same sentiment.

Intoxicated by the petrichor, the man stood there and let the rainy mist swirl around him. One moment he would show out of it to disappear the next moment. Had somebody not pulled him by the arm, he would have continued to play with the mist with which his relationship went back to his childhood days. 

Escaping the monotony of mundane, Vedanta had arrived in Kausani.


© Copyright 2017 Surendra Pratap Singh. All rights reserved.

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