A long time ago, two friends decided to settle down side by side on a piece of land near a jasmine farm. When the jasmine was in bloom, they would both enjoy the fragrance-laden breeze, when the summer came, both would wait together through the hot nights for precious dew. When the rains arrived, they would luxuriate in the life-giving showers, and when Margazhi came, both would watch the jasmine plants slowly prepare to flower. Thus a good many years went by, and soon both the friends were bigger and needed more space. They started jostling each other for a place in the sun. Their tussles were slow and somewhat chess-like. It was almost as if when one produced a new leaf, the other was watching, and it then produced it’s next branch-bud and leaf with the next four leaf-positions of the opponent in mind. They continued to grow in this way, putting out leaves and branches, and then flowers and fruits, big juicy jackfruits, and sweet green mangoes. They expanded their girth till their trunks were only a foot apart. Somewhere through the years, they evaporated their differences, and their leaves grew close together, sharing cheerfully all the sun that there was. So close were they that people were often startled at what looked like mango leaves growing on a jackfruit tree!
Then came the second half of 2012 October. The weather turned sulky and wet. The nightly rustle of the breeze in the coconut fronds acquired an ominous overtone. As the rough wind pushed their branches, the two friends seemed to huddle close together in apprehension, trying to reassure each other.
31st October. The whole day went murkily by, with dust, leaves and debris flying everywhere all the time. Towards evening, suddenly all went quiet. Only a cold still menace hung in the air. This wasn’t a calm before the storm - there is nothing calm about a moment so full of dread that no sound nor sight could express it. Then Cyclone Nilam broke on us. The wrenching, tearing sound of the roof flying off the shed was drowned in the unbelievable roar of the wild wind. We could not hear each other over the sounds of destruction all around. The soil seemed to rise up in protest, and we were caught in a dark swirling war as the soil and the wind fought it out above the ground.
The two friends stood together, no longer apprehensive, but accepting, standing tall to support each other through this onslaught. Each bolt of lightning lit them up, still standing, still surviving. Thunder and an undefined, undefinable roar that was the voice of the Cyclone tried to browbeat them into submission, but still, they stood, trunks straight, leaves flying above them in a brave halo, roots straining to hold them up. Hour upon hour they stood, as the long night passed. Wild gusts chased quieter moments, as the sounds rose and fell. Cracks appeared in both tree trunks. And slowly the cracks widened. Countless branches broke. After many hours of fearful waiting, the eastern skyline began to lighten. The watery glow seemed to lull the cyclone to slumber, and there was quiet. The birds were silent.
The morning light showed an unfamiliar silhouette of tilted trees, branches at impossible angles and strange shapes that had been buildings. And then, with hardly a sound, the trunk of the mango tree broke about 7ft off the ground and started to fall. Slowly, inexorably, as it began its collapse to the ground. But it didn’t fall to the ground - the jackfruit tree stepped in and took it’s weight instead. The entire crown of the mango tree leaned deep into the jackfruit, amidst a shower of leaves and twigs of both trees. It looked as if every falling mango branch, large and small, had its own support ready in a perfectly angled, upright jackfruit one. As if this was the moment they had been preparing for through all their apparent rivalry in the past years. After many agonising minutes, the downward movement stopped, and the mango crown stayed suspended sideways on the jackfruit. Leaves and twigs continued to spiral downwards, but the trunks seemed steady for the moment.
After we found the right machines and people, the mango tree was pulled upright again. A big poultice was tied around the crack, to help it heal. The jackfruit tree had multiple bruises too, and many broken branches. It got its own share of poultices. We did not know if they would heal, but we had hope - after all, they had made it thus far, and there were two of them. They could see each other through this.
For many days, leaves and twigs continued to fall. Soon both trees, those erstwhile kings of lushness, looked bare. The weeks and months went by in a steady stream. Then one sudden and glorious day, we noticed a new green tip on the end of a dead-looking mango branch. We all rushed to cluster around the trees and found a few more new green tips on both. If I was reporting this in a medical text, I’d have to say that from this point on, their ‘recovery was uneventful’. But since I’m not, I’ll say that both trees grew valiantly, wonderfully and vibrantly, back to their old glory :-)
I’m looking at them as I write, the jackfruit still extending a protective arm around the mango. The picture on top shows the two friends as they stand today.