“If you walk down a street full of hongai trees every day you’ll never fall ill – the air is so good, you know? They protect you, like a mother’s womb.” Says the old park sweeper, the friend of my mornings.
All those years of reading various philosophies, so much poetry, wandering alone, observing. Maybe they prepared me to be this person walking down the entire length of a street looking up and smiling, following a squirrel as it moves from one hongai treetop to the next, not worried about anyone watching.
Coming across a small tree full of red small clustered blooms in the park, literally quivering with hundreds of birds chirping and jumping from branch to branch, I stop in surprise. Who are they? What is this tree? Then I see an old man also watching this miracle along with me, and ask him if he knows. [I have decided I will not hesitate to talk to strangers anymore. We share the same planet – isn’t that introduction enough?]
And he tells me this amazing thing, lapsing into the local language – these birds come every year only when this tree blooms. He doesn’t know the name of the tree or the birds – but he knows that there are three of these trees in this park, and a couple in Lal Bagh. And he picks up a flower and shows me how it is filled with water, literally.
We watch this amazing sight for a while, standing together under a canopy of bird chirping, and then go our separate ways, hoping to be around next year to see this again.[With the help of friends, I find out that the tree is Schotia brachypetala and the birds the migratory gray-headed starling, or chestnut-tailed starling. They pass through Bangalore every year in this season.]
Twenty-six years of familiarity, and yet a city can still hold so much magic, revealing new sides, new wonders. Just like all the people I think I know since years ......
The season is changing, so visibly. The dry leaves of the mahogany and the hongai fill up the streets. And the new leaves are budding, opening, resplendent in the perfect light. The rain trees are already filled with fresh green oily leaves shining in the sun, their delicate pink filament-like flowers nearly lost among the green. The yellow tabebuias are going crazy lining our streets with gold, and the pink ones have just begun.
To think I am still here, yet another year, to see all this. How did I get so lucky? So many did not make it.
"How terribly sad it was that people are made in such a way that they get used to something as extraordinary as living."
All around I see people dreaming of leaving the city and living peacefully in a quiet place far
away, away from all this madness. But I seem to revel in it. I don't want to go away. I am peaceful right here.
I walk among
crowds, listening to barbets and random bits of conversations, rubbing
shoulders with strangers, aching for their loneliness, their myriad hopes for a better life, their thirst for connection and belonging, doing what I can to help make the journey a little bit easier. I feel like a drop of
water returned to its ocean*.
I find my Zen in the middle of the market place.
* "How can one prevent a drop of water from ever drying up?* By throwing it back into the sea." from the film Samsara
by Pan Nalin