The neighbourhood park, where I walk regularly, turned very quiet. The trees shivered, though it was not windy. The shivering turned to shaking, as if there was a big storm building up.
Seeing the tandav nritya (wild dance) of the trees and hearing the birds cry, I became afraid. I thought the trees might fall on me. I started running.
Suddenly, I heard a deep voice say, 'Stop. Don’t be scared.'
Before long, I heard other voices.
'Don’t run away.'
'We want to tell you something.'
'We know that you love us. We want to say something,' the voices said.
I stopped running. I was touched to see that the trees trusted me.
'OK! What do you want to say?' The tandav nritya had stopped now but the anger was still palpable. .
The shirish, pongamia, ashok, mango, gulmohar, neem, shalmali, akash neem and kailashpati trees started speaking together as people on TV talk during debates.
The kailashpati tree told the other trees to be quiet. He said, 'We have noticed that trees are being cut in great numbers in this area. Soon we also will be gone.'
'Oh no! I will ensure that you are not slaughtered,' I said firmly.
'Shade, flowers, fruits, fragrance, manure, oxygen, medicine—we give people all that they need and your neighbourhood looks beautiful because of us. Why are the people felling us? Old, majestic banyan trees are endangered. Chandan trees have been chopped and stolen. Beautiful tamarind trees are disappearing. Cities are becoming like big concrete jungles. A tree needs many years to grow but is cut in an instant.'
'It is true that there is a need for more houses, and more flyovers mean trees are cut to widen roads,' I said. 'We can plant more trees but do we?'
'Women worship the majestic banyan tree. Mahadev is man’s deity, but how many people have seen or know about the beautiful kailashpati?' asked the pongamia tree. 'People have planted some trees,' I said. 'Look at this little hill. It was barren a few years ago but is now full of trees. I know that the trees are not indigenous. They have short lives but something is better than nothing.'
The trees began shivering again.
'Today you are in the mood to take up cudgels for humans, it seems! Not everyone is ruthless but if you hear what we are saying, you will know why we are angry.'
'In the last few days, people in big cars have been coming here. They will cut the trees to build large apartments.'
'Are you joking?' I asked.
I decided to speak loudly so all the trees, birds, bees, dogs and ants would hear me.
The ants said, 'Let them come. We will bite them so hard that they never come back.'
The honeybees said, 'We will attack them from the air.'
The dogs said, 'Let them try and enter this garden. We will make them miserable by barking.' The birds flew in together and cried, 'We will do the needful with our droppings.'
I was taken aback by the reaction. 'Please don’t be so violent,' I said.
'I will give you a slogan. I will also invite drummers. They will play the drums and we will shout, "Nahi hatenge, nahi hatenge, hum yahan se nahi hatenge".'
The ants, honeybees, dogs and birds accepted my suggestion.
The next day, people arrived in their fancy cars. One said, 'What a beautiful place! The lake in front and the hill at the back! Let’s name our project “Lake-and-Hill Apartments”.'
The drums started. The birds were not in tune. The dogs were at their best, barking. The trees and I joined in with our slogan. 'Nahi hatenge . . .'
The visitors were scared. One mustered his courage to ask, 'But why?'
In a deep voice, the kailashpati tree said, 'We know of your intention to build tall buildings by cutting us. There will be no insects left, no shade for dogs to rest. People will have no place for their walks. We will not allow you to carry out your plan.'
'We will uproot you and plant you somewhere else,' another said.
'We have been here for many years. This place is beautiful because of us. If it remains so it will be good for your children and their children.' The drums started rolling to 'Nahi hatenge . . .'
The visitors watched the fearful drama and slunk away in their cars. The drummers became quiet. The birds sang happily. The kailashpati tree looked calm, but I was not. I said, 'Don’t be too sure that we can keep them away. We have been successful today in telling them what we felt. But we must continue our fight.'