On 24th March 2020, 10:00 a.m., parakeets called through the balcony door streaming in sunlight and breeze.
Time, like a flood has filled our home and stands stagnant in our hall. Hyper-aware, one has no way but to address this elephant in the room. The house seems to have shrunk in size, as the elephant’s silhouette grew larger engulfing the sunken sofa seats, the posterior-warmed-chairs and the rapidly stacking tea cups. Out the window, in the balcony, is where the house loses its concreteness and becomes a home, spacious again and the elephant’s presence less anxiety-inducing.
Noise, is an alien now. And alien sounds, from an erstwhile (yet evergreen) era, are now familiar. Roads are deserted and chattering from other houses, loud. Life, in all its meaning, had stopped.
But on 24th March 2020, 10:00 a.m., parakeets called through the balcony door streaming in sunlight and breeze.
Slow time and longer sleeping schedules get interfered by the hub-a-dub outside. A society of creatures was hustling around on the Pimpri tree; chirping, twittering, swaying, scrambling, scratching, spinning webs, rustling and swooning.
Within the freedom of the house, the balcony becomes its threshold to the world. And since time these days seems to have become expendable, my sister and I decided to sit out and watch, research and learn about the two massive trees in our street, canopying our house; Estd. Time Immemorial. The Pimpri or the Indian Bat Fig and the Peepal tree or the Sacred Fig, both sisters, like us, from the family Moraceae, and genus Ficus, reach out to each other across the road between them.
We recollect the story our father told us about the temple across our home, which was demolished before either of us could ever see it, leaving dear Peepal alone on her side, amidst rubble and tales of hear-say. We wondered about Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi, a peepal tree, in Gaya. Our thread of wonderings weaved into a fabric of possibilities, of a past bygone; of ethos bygone. Which temple was it? Did the tree have a spooky, supernatural story? How old is the tree?
Opposite the Peepal, against one side of our home, the Pimpri leans in, for a hug or to crush, we’d never know. Bearing fruits in season, its invited bats to screech and swoop every evening, restricting our access to the balcony. The bats would disappear one day and along with them, the fruits, leaving no trace except for the memory of their nocturnal eyes.
The black of the cables entangle with the brown of the Pimpri’s branches, building bridges to ferry across squirrels and their busy snouts from one building to another. Crows and pigeons, the extroverts of the lot, move around in abundance, picking on food and leftovers, whenever the opportunity presented itself. The sparrows, tiny yet loud, are hidden and few. Their call the only reassurance of their heartbeat. A wasp, busily scutters around, its web glinting in the morning light. At night, a glorious white swoon of the barn owl spreading apart its lofty wings was a rare sighting. Over a late night in the balcony once, its eyes, hypnotically beautiful, seemed to reveal the mysteries of the night while its head tilted in mockery of this certainty.
Under the arms of Pimpri and Peepal, a neighbourhood bustles with activity outside our balcony door.
As the day nestled in amongst the tree branches and the birds returned home, two sisters swayed to the breeze; two sisters rediscovered home.