The Sacred Tree

Reads: 240  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
this is the story of a cruel society and it's victim, a woman of no importance. But even that unimportant individual can protest, raise her voice against the Supreme power.

Submitted: April 05, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 05, 2015

A A A

A A A


  The Sacred tree

I didn’t know the exact age of the sacred tree, nor did anyone from my village. If you dared to ask anybody he would definitely nod his head and say, “The Almighty does not have an age. He was there when the creation began. Even our parents, grandparents have been seeing the tree since they were born.” May be they were right. May be from the beginning of the creation the old sacred tree was there to protect the first human child sleeping on the tender grass, dreaming of the untold future. Centuries after centuries passed, from the heart of dying father the newborn seedling rose his head, then he expanded his branches toward the open sky, connecting the material world to mysterious heaven above.

The sacred tree was the heartbeat of our village. From the bedtime story of our grandmothers, to the beginning of any rituals, the sacred tree claimed his omnipresence. Every evening when the ladies of our village used to light candles on the sacred stone beneath the tree, I often went with my mother and startled by the ferocious look of the huge tree in the reflection of the candle light. There were strange feelings of fear, beauty, and mystique growing inside my little heart I was unable to explain whenever I saw the sacred tree.

As I was growing up, my interest in the sacred tree was also growing bigger. Although we were very little children then, most of us eight or ten years old, we all were very good climbers. There was hardly any big tree left in our village where we did not put our footprints, except for one ,mostly because of the elders’ restriction of not even go near the sacred tree, and also because some of us had the weird idea of the tree being able to move, and even talk.

One day I left all my fear behind and decided to do the unthinkable.

The tree was at the furthest corner of the village with a large field attached in the front and a small pond at the backside. Except for one small hut, you won’t be able to find any other house nearby. We used to play in that field for some times on our way back to home from school. That day when all my friends left the field after the play was over, I went slowly near the tree. I didn’t know why but I had this strange feeling that the tree was watching me very closely. After a while when I managed to gain enough courage, I just started climbing. Not a few minutes passed, suddenly a gust of wind shook the whole tree, nearly making me loose my grip. As I hung myself very closely to the bark of the tree, I could even hear the very sound of his breath. I was just about to put my feet on the thick brunch when suddenly I felt that something was pulling me by my shirt from behind. I was so nervous that moment I didn’t even dare to look back. Without any hesitation I just jumped from the tree. Luckily I was not hurt too much, but my hands and legs got scratched.

Suddenly a woman came out of the old hut. She must had heard the noise. She exclaimed,

“O my goodness, what on earth is wrong with you….are you bleeding? Let me see.”

She nearly dragged me inside the hut. I was just about to black out in fear.

I remembered I had seen that woman before, but never too close. She used to clean the sacred stone, sweep the ground beneath the sacred tree, helped others to lit candles. I never knew she lived in that old hut, I did not even have the idea of some normal human being living in that deserted hut all alone. But there she was, and as I closely observed her, I even found resemblance between her beautiful and gentle face and that of the abandoned queen in my storybook.

“Aren’t you Madhuri’s son?” she asked me while she was pouring some peculiar medicines on my wound.

“How do you know my mother?”

She smiled and said, “I know everyone in this village, besides your mother is like an elder sister to me. She is a very generous lady.” She paused for a little while, “You cannot remember now, but ask your mother, when you were just a little baby, I used to take you on my lap.”

I blushed at that moment. I really could not recall anything.

“Now, why did you try to climb the tree? Don’t you know it’s sacred?”

I told her everything happened, and she became silent for a while.

“Please don’t tell anybody, my father will beat me if he knows,” I was afraid.

“I won’t tell anybody, but promise me you will never do anything stupid like that again.”

“Never.”

……………………………………………………………………………

My mother became furious when she saw my wounds. After telling her a lie, I told her about the kind lady and what she said to me.

“Her name is Mira…Did you thank her for her kindness?”

Our neighbor Mrs. Banerjee was there with my mother. When she heard her name she scolded my mother,

“Are you still letting your son near that woman? How many times I have to tell you she is not a good lady.”

“I don’t understand why you people are so mean to that poor girl all the time. She always tries to help others. Why don’t you just leave her alone?” my mother was angry.

“All villagers know she is a bad luck for us. When she was born her parents died of cholera soon after. Her poor uncle thought it would be a relief if she got an early marriage, but within a year her husband died and she gave birth to a dead child. Since then she is living in this village again, crying to everyone that she has nowhere to go. Even the God does not like her, and you are telling me to love her!”

I didn’t know but I was so upset that I held my mother’s hand too tightly. My mother looked at me and said softly, “Just go inside your room.”

……………………………………………………………………………

When it was noon and my mother took some rest, I used to run to the riverside where I spent the rest of the time watching closely small fish swimming very close to the bank, sometimes I drew my hand quickly to catch one.

One day I was concentrating on a reddish-yellow colored fish when suddenly I heard a woman’s voice from behind, “Hey, little fella, what kind of mischief are you planning for today?”

I was surprised when I turned back and saw that kind woman again. She brought lots of clothes for washing. When I stepped aside to let her do her job, she asked me,

“What did you say to your mother about the wound?”

“I said I fall while playing”

She was smiling.

I asked her, “Did you tell anyone?”

“No, I won’t tell anybody….But you have to do one thing for me.”

“What?”

“You have to come to my house.”

I was silent for a little while when she stopped her work and looked at me, “Do you like sweets?”

At that point I had to surrender, “Yes, very much.”

After a while I said, “You have lots of clothes.”

“No no, these are not mine. That young daughter-in-law of Mr. Roy is too sick. She cannot do this kind of hard work.”

……………………………………………………………………………

I used to go to her hut often after that. She never let me leave without eating sweets. When I came back home I only told my mother in her ears so that nobody could listen.

One day when I went to visit her I saw the chief of our village Mr. Sarkar sitting on a chair in front of the door and talking to her. She was inside the room and answering from there. Mr. Sarkar didn’t even notice me, probably for is weak eyesight and continued,

“Are you doing your service to the Almighty properly? Just make sure your devotion please the sacred tree, then only you will be relieved from all your sorrows…watch for the domestic animals, don’t let them near the tree”.

“Yes sir, I always make sure that,” She replied.

“Very good.” He was pleased.

“Don’t be afraid. Those were sins of your previous births, that’s why you are repaying in this life. Always remember that you are like my own daughter. I can understand your sorrows……ok, I should leave now. The sun is setting, can’t see a damn thing in dark.”

When he stood up from his chair he noticed me. He adjusted his glasses to see clearly and asked, “Who is this boy?”

She came out of the room and replied, “I told him to come, to take the sweets given as offerings to the sacred tree.”

“Oh.” Then he left.

“I am pretty sure Mr. Sarkar came here to invite you .Didn’t he?” I asked her quickly.

“For what?”

“Birthday.”

“Whose birthday?”

“His youngest grandson. Don’t you know?”

She remained quiet. I asked her again, “Aren’t you coming?”

“No….I don’t usually go to such kind of celebrations. You see, I am a widow now. I wear white Saree.”

I didn’t understand. She smiled and said,

“Isn’t Mr. Sarkar’s little grandson very pretty?”

“Yes, He is…..”

I did not finish my words and suddenly Mr. Sarkar’s second son Suresh da entered the room saying, “What are you doing dear…” and paused as soon as he noticed me. He gave a little smile and said, “How are you doing Raju? “

Before I say anything she asked him firmly, “Do you need anything?”

“Oh, no..nothing important, umm..just…something about the ‘Puja’. I will talk to you latter” and he was gone.

………………………………………………………………………

My summer vacation started and I spend nearly a month in my uncle’s house. When I came back to my village I felt there was something going on, the whole village became too much quite, but some anxiety, restlessness were inside everyone. They were whispering so that you could hardly listen.

One day my mother asked me if I went to the woman’s house after I came back, and I said no.

“Listen, don’t go there again.”

“Why?”

“Don’t you just listen to anything I say?” She was too angry.

One afternoon when I was coming back from school, I saw a huge gathering in front of the sacred tree, as if everyone in the village was there listening to something. I guessed it could be a panchayat where people used to seek justice. When I managed to get inside the crowd, I was surprised no one even bothered me. They all were standing still and listening to the chief Mr. Sarkar who was giving a speech,

 “What She did, even the God cannot forgive her…..I always treated her like my own. I even gave her the opportunity to serve the sacred tree, but I was wrong….whose heart has been poisoned, she cannot offer to the God. Her father, mother, husband, son everything have been taken, still she has not learned her lesson….she is even blaming my innocent son, can you imagine that!”

He continued without any hesitation, “No….I cannot give her any punishment, but the God will, definitely. I just only want to say one thing to her, leave our village tomorrow morning, and for God’s sake never come back again.”

The woman was sitting on the dust motionless like a wooden doll. She didn’t say a single word, maybe she didn’t even listen to anything. Her tears had been already dried up long time ago, now she was looking straight at the sacred tree, the God she never been able to please for her whole life.

I didn’t understand what was going on, what she did, or why everyone was blaming that kind woman, but I felt I was crying in my heart. I was praying in my mind, “O Lord!  why are you so silent? Please do something, why don’t you come alive like that day I jumped from your branch? “

But no, there was no wind blowing, not even a single leaf moved.

Suddenly somebody pulled me from behind, my mother grabbed my collar. She dragged me home by holding my little hand. She didn’t say anything in the entire time.

The whole night I tried to figure out “Why her again and again?” but I didn’t find any answer. When I felt asleep after being tired of thinking, I dreamt that the sacred tree was trying to hold me with all his branches, I was crying loudly,

“Help, Help.”

But nobody listened.

……………………………………………………………

When I woke up in the next morning, the whole village was restless. People were running and shouting. My mother asked Mrs. Banerjee what was the matter. She replied anxiously,

“Have you not heard yet? We are all doomed. The God will never forgive us…..oh! I still cannot believe.”

“What happened?”

“That selfish dirty woman has hanged herself from the branch of the sacred tree!  Go and look. Oh! What could possibly save us? Didn’t she find any other tree suitable to hang herself? ” She grieved.

………………………………………………………………

Our village had certain rules, that we all were bound to follow, just like the rule that says we had to cut down the branch from where anyone hung himself. When the woodcutters pushed their axes deep inside the big branch of the sacred tree, no villagers were able to hold their tears. Each strike on the tree left a deep wound inside everyone’s heart. Mr. Sarkar even refused to drink water for two days.

That night, nobody went to light a candle there. The whole village was mourning for their God, silently in the darkness.

The next evening, the young daughter-in-law of Mr. Roy became unconscious, when she was trying to put a light beneath the tree. She told everyone whenever she was trying to light the candle, a wild breeze suddenly blew it. It happened for three consecutive times. When she was shivering with fears, she heard the sound of weeping of a woman coming from the darkness behind the sacred tree.

After that, nobody dared to go near the tree.

…………………………………………………………………

Days have been passed since then. I left my village long ago. The sacred tree, the woman, that story everything are just like little threads in my memory now, which sometimes floats in the surface and makes me think about lots of things I am trying to understand.

I still remember the last time I visited my village. It was changed. Most of the older people were gone by then. Mr. Sarkar died long ago, he didn’t really recover from that shock. His family left the village.

I went to see that tree. It was not sacred anymore, dying like an old man breathing his last breath. Wild trees and bushes expanded their kingdom throughout the entire place, nobody bothered to clean it for long time, nobody ever lit a candle to remove the darkness. Some lightning may have struck it few days ago, leaving it die from inside. There were hardly any leaf left and its naked braches were ruled by vultures and eagles looking for dead meat. If you listened carefully you could hear the noise of cricket, and the hiss of poisonous snakes even in the daylight.

Standing in that place I wondered how it happened so quickly. How the most powerful thing in the world could be grounded into sand, how the kingdom of eternity could be destroyed in a moment. Who did this? How this unimaginable, incredible thing happened? And then I saw a woman standing behind the dying tree wearing a white saree


© Copyright 2019 Kaushik Joarder. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

More Literary Fiction Short Stories