reveals a Frangipani tree as it recounts how it came to Bombay or Mumbai, and more specifically to a suburban building, and made itself at home with its young residents and their families.
I came to this suburban Bombay building wrapped as a goodwill offering, designed to usher in auspicious tidings. Perhaps it was my reputation as the “immortal tree” that made it a suitable choice for the young residents and their families.
I got an optimal, road-facing location within the building compound and yet my lithe stems struggled to adapt to the urbane surroundings. You see, although I came from the local garden centre, I craved for the beachy air of the Caribbean. My parents were Jamaican, wooed to this country by a similar coastline and weather. Perhaps, now it makes sense to you why the concrete compound did not feel like home to me.
That is when this chaotic city, known for its large heart, stepped in with a giant embrace. It nurtured my tender roots and in return I grew tall, my branches offering respite on hot evenings, while staying low enough for tiny feet to climb on and sprouting flowers for the devout.
Years passed and my girth expanded, imbibing the city spirit of stoic resilience and unmatched revelry. The longing for the Caribbean was replaced by a love for the spring colours of Holi and wet Ganpati visarjans. My acclimatised roots spread under the building structure, our fates fused together for eternity, or so we thought.
Together we battled winds of change – subtle ones, watching the trams gave way to fast cars and irreverent trucks and the brutal one – the monstrous flyover arching across our eyeline, blocking us out.
By now, we were getting old and feeling it too. My concrete buddy was leaking and cracking in places and my rotting branches were becoming a nuisance. Soon whispers of “redevelopment” grew louder, sounding the death knell for many time-worn buildings in the area.
We learnt of our fate when the sign went up. The building was to be demolished to make way for an upmarket multi-storey residential complex. We fought hard, deriving grim satisfaction from watching workers grunt as they struggled to separate me from the building. They did not notice that the uprooted branches they’d flung aside carried buds and it astonished them to see the flowers the next day. That was why I was called “immortal”, for this ability to defy death. Yet, at that moment felt as if I was laying our own funeral flowers, a nod to a friendship lasting more than half a century.
A bellowing gust of wind soon displaced the flowers, and in doing so, scattered seeds of hope – to be born again, to reclaim my corner – a phoenix rising from its own ashes.
About the author: Asha Krishna writes short stories and flash fiction. She lives in the UK but spent her formative years in Bombay. She used to live in this road-facing building with the Frangipani flower tree in the front. She recently went back and saw that the building and the tree had disappeared. That got her thinking what if the tree could speak…
This piece is a part of our series celebrating trees, and welcoming the summer. Read more about it here, and you can also find out how you can contribute to the series.