Whispering of a Banyan Tree

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Last month, we went on a drive to Dodda Alada Mara, located 28 kilometers from Bengaluru. ‘Dodda Alada Mara’ literally means the Big Banyan Tree. During the drive, I told my daughter what a banyan tree is, how big a banyan tree can be, and about the aerial roots that start from their branches. I myself visualized a big banyan tree with its roots finding the way down into the soil.

There are mentions of banyan tree in religions, that originated in and around India. Earliest mention of it is in the Rig Veda, that originated around 5000 B.C. Lord Buddha was enlightened while meditation under a huge banyan tree, called Bodhi Tree. Great sages knew some secret that makes this tree something special.

As we entered the gate, my daughter shouted, “Jungle!”. It did look like a mini jungle with many happy monkeys screeching and jumping around. As soon as I entered the gate, my eyes fell on the information board just and started reading. My jaw dropped! What we assumed to be a ‘mini jungle’ was a single tree, spread around 3 acres. “This is huge!”, I exclaimed, and moved on to explore.┬áThere is a tiny temple in the premises of Dodda Alada Mara, outside of which, many people were offering prayers. Monkeys were happily climbing up and down the roots. Somewhere in between those roots and those branches, I was lost. Lost in thoughts: A moment of introspection. As we grow old, like the roots of the banyan tree finding its way in to the soil, we too find ourselves going back to our roots. Like the banyan tree grows high up and spread its branches wide, we grow, spread our presence in the social circles we live in. After we mature, like the roots of the banyan tree, we start to find our way back to where we belong – a journey backward. We want to be close to our home land, where we were born and spent our childhood. Our people and our cultures, from where we started our life’s journey seem so dear. I was snapped out of it by the bells in the temple and I heard my daughter ask, “Why are you smiling mommy?”

 

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Mr. Caterpillar.

“Mr. Funny caterpillar where are you going…

Mr. Funny caterpillar what are you doing…”

Sang my daughter as she got ready for school and the thought flashed in my mind like it did a hundred times in loop. “Had I placed the caterpillar elsewhere it would not have been alive”, I thought again.

IMG_20161207_094228A few days back after dropping off my daughter at school, I went for my walk. The pavement surrounding the apartment complex is good 500 meters, an excellent walkway. While walking I saw something moving on the pavement beside the parking lot. It was a big beautiful caterpillar wriggling towards the road from the pavement. I have never seen such a big caterpillar. I was amazed at the different ways in which the Almighty brings out life. So beautiful, so unique! I wondered how the butterfly or moth that was inside would look like. I clicked a picture of it on my phone and continued to walk. As I passed the little voice inside me said “help it reach the garden on the other side of the road”. “May be during the next round, the busy hours of traffic are over, so no worries” I replied to myself and left. As I came closer to the corner, where I found the caterpillar during the second round, I started searching for it. There it was smashed on the road. My heart broke into a million pieces. It was not far away from where I found it. Some car smashed it right after I left. I wish I had listened to the little voice. I stood there for some time as all these thoughts passed. Feeling guilty I walked towards my apartment.

While dropping my daughter off to school today, I saw another caterpillar. A cute little colourful one wriggling on the pavement going in the direction of nearby bushes. I started to search frantically for a twig or something to pick it up and place in the bushes. My daughter’s and her grandpa’s chorus stopped and the duo gave me a what-is-wrong-with-her look. I told I want to help the caterpillar. “Not needed” said grandpa, “I will tell you why, after we drop her off” he added.

On the way back, my heart was in my mouth as I neared the bushes. I searched for the caterpillar, there was no trace of it. I was worried and told my dad why I was trying to save the caterpillar. After hearing the whole episode, dad said “You do not have to feel guilty of not saving the caterpillar. The energy that kept the caterpillar alive must have gone into some other body to keep that alive. That caterpillar’s time on earth had to end, to take some other form. If it had to live, you would have just picked it up without even a thought. It was meant to die, as another form was waiting for its life energy. It is alive in some or the other form. Why worry? Lord Krishna says that in Bhagavad Gita. I think you need to read Gita again”. We both went silent thereafter. The song my daughter sang played with a very different meaning in my mind since then.

“Mr. Funny caterpillar where are you going…

Mr. Funny caterpillar what are you doing…”