I could be made into anything. A bookmarked page of a racy bestseller, a revered chapter of a Holy Book, or even the outpouring of a smitten boy in love. To be read and tossed aside, or to be cherished in acceptance. I could be the cover over chocolate, that first gift exchanged between lovers. To be looked at fondly, crumpled though I would be, I could spark a memory and be cherished.
These are the graceful ways to go. An after-life of meaning.
After-life because beings of my ilk have no life. Only the one after. Even then, our identity is scraped over by the commonness of paper, no telling which tree the paper came from.
I’m no special tree. No leaves that can be rolled up to kill lungs. No fruit of taste. No arousing odor to fill the coffers of smugglers. Just a simple tree.
I once knew this arrogant fellow tree. An anomaly among us common wood. He was a teak. Very early into his leaf, he drew more and more people to him. He grew himself wide and stately with the adulation the humans seemed to bestow on him. He knew he was affluent. Knew he would make it in life.
I laughed my leaves off when I heard what had become of him. A grand four-poster bed. A gift from a bride’s father to the amorous newlyweds. He had not a single moment of respite, they went at it day and night. He sighed with them in tandem, though not out of ecstasy but from tiresomeness. Not many days later, I heard that he had started creaking.
I’ve never held any claims of grandeur. I was just looking forward to an after-life of usefulness as paper.
But then providence struck. I was discovered. A big caravan shoved itself into my shade one summer day. I had been basking in the sun, glowing confidently from root to leaf. I was intrigued by the interruption though. The band of men lugged out various kinds of machinery from the caravan. The humans milled around busily as if they had not a minute to waste. It amused me. Why wouldn’t they take a minute to breathe under my cool shade? After all, that is all I could offer, as a simple tree.
But soon, lights came on. Chairs were put out. Soon, a brightly decked up woman ventured towards me. She let her soft hands brush against my skin. Never had I felt human touch so soothing. I immediately started feeling conscious. Would she like the shape of my leaves? Was my trunk well endowed?
A man came up to me next. But did not even spare me a glance. The pretentious snob. While I was surveying the area and the flurry of the humans, still trying to figure out what was going on, a shout rang out, “Action!”.
For years after that, I was on a roll. I was an integral part of the biggest blockbusters of the industry. As I stood rooted to the spot, pairs in cinematic love flung themselves at me, twirled around me coyly and played hide and seek using me, usually to the beat of some music. Though the girl was the first to caress me, later on, I had much more distinguished fingers feel me up. It was all very dramatic and I enjoyed the attention. I even let a few of them carve their names into me. Usually with a symbol of the human heart etched along with them. Much love.
Alas, a new wave of cinema was ushered in. The visits from the crew dwindled at first and then eventually stopped altogether. My cameos and my career were thus ended by the well-meaning cinema. I was disappointed but I consoled myself. My run-in with the glamour industry was no mean feat. I should be happy it happened at all.
Soon the fateful day dawned on me. My time was up. I took in the whirr of the approaching saw with as much grace as I could muster. Trees such as me should be satisfied to just provide shade and shelter to the traveling human. But here I was, having had a successful career under the lights! I looked forward to a now useful stint in the after-life and gave myself up to the saw to cut into me.
Ugh! Another entrant. He was still closing the door behind him when he started prancing about. He was doing his dance of urgency. He seemed to be on the verge of the outburst. Still dancing, he got the shoes and the pants off and got down to business. I survived the noisy ordeal. Soon, he reached out to me, sighing with relief. I unfurled myself first onto his hand and then down under to fulfill my purpose.
Write Club Hyderabad – Into the Woods – October 14th, 2017.