“Cut every one of the trees!” I said.
The men looked at me to check if I was serious.
I was planning to build a house, and the land needed clearing up.
In a couple of hours, they had cut down what had stood there for decades.
After paying the woodcutters off, I went to check if everything was in order.
I was satisfied. With all the tree stumps finally, construction could start.
Then I noticed something strange. All along the boundary walls, I could see birds. Crows, magpies, pigeons and even a kingfisher . All looking in my direction.
“You cut down our home to build yours!”
They seemed to be saying.
I felt uncomfortable under their scrutiny.
“Once my house gets built, I will plant more trees. I promise.”
I said it out loud.
Not convinced, they kept watching me.
The front door was stuck, and I had to push with both hands.
A cloud of dust descended upon me.
I had grown up in this house.
Rooms full of sheet-covered furniture, with tonnes of dust on them.
The last one was my old haunt.
It was empty except for a wooden box in a corner.
I remembered the box. I used to call it my ‘treasure chest’.
My heart missed a beat as I opened it.
All the trinkets I had gathered as a child were still there.
A broken wristwatch, a torn kite, spokes from the wheel of my cycle, iron nails and screws of all sizes and shapes, a hammerhead without a handle, they were all still there.
Each of them had a story to tell.
A story from the past.
“Are you lost?”
“There was a shop managed by an old man here. He used to sell oil lamps, ” I said.
“That was my grandfather. He died a few years back. Please do come in.”
“I am sorry. I just returned after two decades.”
The shop had a vast range of electrical appliances on display.
“Your father is still in Mumbai ?”
“He has settled down there. I like this village better,” he said.
As I walked out with a purchase, he said, ” I was a pleasure serving you.”
The comment made me smile.
The boy’s grandfather used to say that when a customer left.
“He taught me how to treat customers,” the boy said.
“You learnt well. You learnt from the best,” I said.
My village was more of a town now, but I was happy to see that some of the old world traditions had survived.