This short story by Ananya Mahapatra attempts to depict, how a four-year-old boy tries to navigate the concept of death, of loss of a loved one in the event of the death of his grandfather.
The ju-ju trees turned a dusty shade of ochre last month, then red, and finally a baked sort of brown. As the moisture in the air dipped and the temperature took a plummet, the russet brown leaves shriveled in twists and turns, like cork-screws. As the winds gathered speed, the leaves shed in spurts every time the branches were rattled by a gust. The brisk October winds now rustle up an armful of brown leaves at the breezeway every few minutes.
There is a story Dadu tells Abhi at this time of the year, about an army of wood-dragons, nimble and needle-like, that first invade the trees and afterward march onto everything that is green within the farthest reaches of the horizon. Now is the time when they fall off the naked boughs furtively and conquer the roof tiles and the vinyl awnings (green-and-ivory striped) over the windows. A full regiment of them invades the sidewalk, crackling with the wind, laying siege in heaps. In the evenings after school, Abhi stomps on them with fitful bursts of energy. The wood dragons crunch under his suede boots, like fried shrimps. Usually, Dadu is settled in an armchair on the porch cheering him on. He makes a big whooping noise and yells, “Go, go! Lieutenant Abhi!”. And Dad, if he is back from work, hauls him up and zooms him around in a zig-zag trail like a fighter jet, always around the ju-ju trees.