There were two of them in our ancestral home in Pindi. Tall enough, and majestic in their spread. One had a thicker trunk than the other. I remember being fascinated by them, particularly the one with the thicker trunk, since it was closer to the house, and you could reach into its branches if you leaned far enough from the roof. Which of course, one would try to do regularly during those afternoon hours which had to be filled.
It was near impossible to climb either of the two amrood trees. The trunks were slippery, so you would fall right down if you tried. In that sense they were unconquerable, and therefore untamed.
The trees had dual personalities. By morning they were spectacular. Branches spread over a large area, their thick leaves providing shade down below. In the fruit season, parrots would descend upon them in the early morning, to nibble upon fresh guavas.
By night, they were mysterious, and loaded with chimgadars (large bats) which would swoop into central Pindi from somewhere unknown. The bats would sit there through the night. If you tread carefully you could hear their rustling sounds. If one was feeling adventurous one could also throw a stone into the tree and wake up the chimgadars! They would normally take flight, as would their assailant, yelling “bhaago bhaago” (run, run) as he or she skirted across the lawns.
It was always difficult to actually get a hold of the guavas themselves. I cant remember ever having eaten one which was just right. Either they were too young and green, or they had ripened, and already become meal for the parrots and bats.
Growing up, trees were an important part of outdoor recreation. They were a natural version of jungle gyms before jungle gyms were invented. You could try to climb them, swing from their branches, make things out of their leaves, or simply sit under them. They remained life’s silent spectators, guardians of time, watching over the days. Never asking for much nor craving attention, but always providing (perhaps that is why ‘Mother Nature’ is often depicted as a tree in common literature) – fruit, shade, clean air, the infrastructure for play.
In later years, the trees were cut down, and now the forces of unplanned urbanization have laid siege to the very plot itself. Their absence can always be felt, if one stands in the front lawn again.
Some may say that they were simply trees, and wonder what possible greater significance they had. However, I think that these trees and their participation in our childhood had very important implications for one’s relationship with the natural environment. I could not imagine growing up without green space within which to be able to play and be free. How is the experience of children, many of whom grow up in concrete jungles in our rapidly urbanizing world, different? Do they feel the same attachment, and responsibility for their natural environment? What is the impact on their perception of the importance of preserving and protecting this environment? What does the detachment mean for their creativity, and respect for things not man-made?
I think we probably know the answer.