Short story: Insentient
By Srinjoy Bhattacharjee
I was axed a couple of days ago. I now lie on the bank of the muddy river that had swollen up a few days back, thanks to the rain. Dumped in the open in the wet weather with a pile of objects, all a part of the same thing – logs chopped off a parent tree. I was part of a branch not too long ago and birds perched had on me. Now I am at the mercy of a drunk who might opt to reduce me to cinders when he pleases.
However, this is not about me, this is about the dead. Strictly speaking, I am dead too – inanimate so to say, but people don’t care much about trees – neither for the ones standing in the woods nor for those chopped. In fact, at times, rather most of the times, they don’t probably care for each other – even for the living ones, leave aside the dead. I don’t care about the dead either. Because I don’t see the point in caring for them, and besides, they don’t need your care — they are dead. But this is not about any random dead person, it is about the one that is about to be brought here in some time. Ah! There she comes.
There were leaves once that stemmed out of me. And from time to time they shed, giving way to new ones. On one such occasion a leaf drifted afloat from my branch down the aerial path to alight softly on her hair; that was when I first saw her. And I fell in love with her. Juvenile she was, probably thirteen, as old as the tree I presume. That made us coevals.
Now you must be wondering how I, an erstwhile branch and now a log, can express my love for a female of the human species, so organically different from me. On the contrary, I would say that it is quite logical and believable — if you can so easily emote this feeling called hatred towards our kind and strike us to pieces day after day, what stops you from believing that we cannot emote this feeling called love towards one of your kind? And now if you ask me how I dare have the audacity to express my feelings for her so unabashedly? Then my answer is — I just do — make peace with it, just as we have made peace with all of you. If you humans can decide in your utmost discretion to cut me, burn me and regulate my germination then I too in my utmost discretion can decide to love one of your kind and so, unapologetically, profess the same to all of you. But none of that should bother you now, none of it at all – because she is dead. And as I said, no one really cares for the dead.
She used to come to play in the grove and I used to see her from above. The wind that passed through her locks rustled my leaves and that is how I felt her, her fragrance, her touch. She used to run around the trees like a mesmerising fawn and I hopelessly yearned for trees to be given the ability to frolic with her. While playing hide and seek, she would hide behind my trunk. Sometimes, she would rest in my shade when she felt tired. I could go on and on with this — you know how it is to be in love. Don’t you?
Probably you do. But what a pity, they didn’t – her parents. They got her married to someone else and I never saw her again. But I did get to know that my beloved got married to a man who was not exactly a coeval as I was, in fact he was older than her father. How do I know? The log that was to be burnt at her wedding altar told me so. I sometimes wonder whether her parents’ heart was as cold as the steel of the axe that strikes us to pieces. Why else would anyone trade their daughter for a few pieces of paper that you humans so respectfully call ‘money’.
I don’t get why humans value it so much. The green leaves that I once bore might have brought more value to you than those pieces of paper you all die for. Anyway, so it transpired that the parents traded their daughter to an old man for money because they were poor and foolish. They thought that money would make them less poor and happy. Honestly, if a daughter like her couldn’t be the cause of their happiness then nothing in God’s world could have made them happy!
The man who was five decades old was predictably elated to have bought himself a wife — his second — the first one having been chased away many years ago for having failed to bear seed. How do I know? The stick that used to beat her up told me. However, the fact that his latest wife was hardly of age to bear his seed was not a matter of concern to him compared to more pressing issues, such as where would he get his nightly quota of liquor. And then it did not take long for the stick to find its place in the house — on the back of my beloved. Oh, and do I also need to remind you that violence can also be sexual in nature.
Soon enough, a bird that once nested on me told me that she saw tears rolling down her bruised face, a face that I longed to see.
One day the father of the girl came by with his axe and the tree knew that the time had come to be felled. With his new found money, the father had the urge to repair the roof of his hut, and then all the pieces of wood that were leftover, like me, found ourselves sold to the drunk by the bank of the muddy river, who so indifferently sets us up in the pyre whenever the dead were brought in for cremation.
As I waited patiently and by the river bank for my time to come, I was told by the pouring rain that they were mourning the demise of my beloved. Now she belonged to the dead. She had let her spirit leave her body through the slit on her wrist because the burden of her existence was too much for her to bear. Blood had poured from her vein as her tearful eyes slowly blanked out.
After learning about her fate, I was not saddened because, as I said earlier, the dead do not care. And if you couldn’t, or rather didn’t, care when the dead was alive, then there was no need to pretend when the living had died. I mourned when she was traded in the name of marriage and also on the days when she was abused — but not today.
Today, I eagerly await her arrival wrapped in a white sheet with garlands decorating her corpse. I hope to see her face now, even though her eyes would be closed, but that’s alright, she is in a state of eternal rest and no one can violate her. The drunk tossed me in the pyre along with many others of my kind and together we bore her weight, light indeed she felt, relieved of her sorrows. How happy I felt to be united with her after all that we went through, together we embraced the fire and the engulfing flames bound us as one; it was a union unlike any other.
The ashes that lay scattered in the end whispered to the wind that at last I was able to convey my feelings to her and that she valued it with all her heart. Because she finally felt love for the very first time.
Srinjoy Bhattacharjee is a corporate lawyer based out of Mumbai. He likes to pen short fiction and is an avid reader of both fiction as well as non-fiction. He also has a deep interest in travelling and photography. Often he goes missing with his backpack and camera, especially on extended weekends.
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