Friday, 1 February 2008

Wasteland

Something happened over the past two days.

Our next door neighbours, or rather one particular family (like all metrizens in this cramped city, we live within literally, touching distance of the others in our neighbourhood), have decided to demolish their home. Fine, so what, you ask. They see how valuable land now is. Who can blame them?

But along with their home, they have also decided to kill off the two trees -- a mango tree and a coconut tree -- in their compound.

I used to look at those trees from my kitchen window. The mango tree, in particular, was a welcome sight. Bunches of ripe green fruit used to hang heavily from it. Looking at it, I'd think of my home in Kerala -- of the time when I was a little girl in a white petticoat helping my father pluck mangoes as they slowly changed from parrot green to a golden reddish-yellow-orange shade.

That was our annual summer ritual, you see. My father plucked mangoes using a long stick with a hook or a 'kokka' (in my colloquial malayalam) and a basket attached at one end. He'd expertly loop the hook over a particularly promising bunch and the fruit would fall into the basket. My job was to pick them out, wipe off the sap and later, arrange them in rows. We had mangoes in every room. Their fragrance lingered for days, even after we'd eaten them or distributed them to friends and family.

I used to think of that time looking at my neighbour's mango tree.

Yesterday they cut the coconut tree first. I heard the sound of wood falling as I prepared my morning filter coffee. The sound hurt my head and closing my eyes didn't help. So I closed the curtain. The dull thuds kept ringing through.

Today morning, the mango tree was gone too. Now there's nothing. Some might say there's more space to build on now. There's more money to be made.

To me, it looks just like a wasteland.