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Sunday, 23 June 2013

55. MAGNIFICENCE INCARNATE, MY FISH TAIL PALM: AN OBITUARY

It was more than two decades ago that I had bought a pair of Fish Tail Palms for placing in my Living Room, a job they did commendably well for a few months. But the winter came and the frailer one dried up for want of light. Concerned for the well-being of the surviving one, I carefully planted it on the ground. Perhaps being closer to mother earth, it received all the love and affection it needed and started growing like a teenager. Soon, it was strong enough to withstand the vagaries of nature bravely. The leaves became huge having a lovely hue of green and the diameter of its trunk kept expanding. Within no time, my precious Fish Tail Palm had become the pride of the place!


Although we were busy with our respective jobs, official duties, domestic chores and handling growing children, it was not easy to ignore the phenomenal growth of this beautiful tree. Each year, it used to develop a ring around it making it easy to count its age. And lo and behold, one day we noticed that there was a queer growth coming out of its trunk, which did not look like a normal leaf. We soon realised that our tree was flowering. Soon an inverted dome-like growth with thousands of dangling buds was in place. These green beads hanging so gracefully were actually its flower buds which bloomed in due course and then acquired a burnt red hue. Later, they turned into small fruits showering honeydew all around.


During the last twenty-five years, this beautiful palm stood in front of my house like a strong sentry overseeing our daily activities and keeping an eye on whatever happened under its shadow. It watched my sons growing up from young kids to tall young men, studying hard for their exams as well as holding bar-be-cue parties under its loving shadow. It saw my mother-in-law and father-in-law growing frail in the evening of their lives and finally leaving this world. It witnessed our tears when we had to put our dear pet Peter, a black Labrador, to sleep to save him from unbearable agony. It saw us growing from a youthful couple into mature stable people. It saw all the ups and downs of our lives and stood by us through thick and thin.

On one Diwali, I saw those beautiful decorative lights and brought home a long yellow one to  wrap around its trunk. It brightened up the place on festivals like Diwali, on birthdays, on weddings of our children or whenever my spirits were sagging.

During last few years, its beautiful leaves all dried up and it was reduced to a leafless 60 feet tall trunk but still looked majestic. Now it supported the money plant creeper that started growing on it and developed unusually large leaves streaked with white and yellow stripes. We saw kittens playing hide and seek around it when the colony cat brought her litter to my flat.

“Neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride”, I said repeating the Onida TV ad.  It had again become a beautiful landmark in our colony.  
But with its unmanageable height, my neighbours became apprehensive of its unpredicted fall one day and started suggesting that I should have it chopped lest it should fall and damage their property. Much against my wishes, I went to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi requesting them to trim it down. Was it some kind of euthanasia I was requesting? They said they are not empowered to do so as it was within the confines of my boundary wall and advised me to go to the Forest Deptt. Now what has Forest Deptt. got to do with it? It was not in any forest. But such are the Govt rules. I requested them too to chop it citing very valid reasons that its roots were eaten away by white ants and that it could fall off any day and was the danger to lives. Would they listen? Indemnity Bond, affidavits, additional plants, maintenance money for the plants etc is all that a remember now. I gave up and came back, but I was happy within. Neighbours kept warning against the potential risk but I pretended helplessness.


Recently, the trees in our colony were being pruned by the Forest Deptt. and the guys merrily pruned huge parts of the Neem tree in front of my house. It suddenly dawned on me that both the trees were planted almost at the same time, the Neem by my neighbour Geeta and the Palm by me. Both had grown to unprecedented heights and stood tall in their respective places. Seeing the Neem tree being pruned so ruthlessly made me sad. Looking at my Fish Tail Palm also made me sad as if time, for it to go, had come. Was it like an elder of the family who was sick and helpless?


We were going to Mumbai last week when my husband said, “Don’t you think the palm is getting inclined a bit?”
“Yeah. But nothing can be done.”


Last week, we returned from Mumbai amidst torrential rains and it continued to rain cats and dogs the whole night. I woke up to a pleasant morning and went out to see the big green parrot which at times used to sit on top of the palm in the morning. There was none, but the palm stood tall and magnificent.



A couple of hours later when hubby came out, he was surprised to find it reclining gracefully on the Neem tree across the road. It had uprooted naturally and had fallen slowly on the shoulder of its friend, the Neem tree. It did not make any sound, it did not damage the boundary wall as was our apprehension and it did not fall on any neighbour’s house. It did not even block the road. The life of my Fish Tail Palm ended so quietly, I could not believe it.



I called a few people to help me out to take it to its logical conclusion. When they brought it down from the shoulders of its friend, the Neem tree and lay it on the ground, we realised that the angle, at which it had fallen, was the safest possible position.



It went away without causing any pain or discomfort to anyone. The helpers had to chop it into at least eight pieces to be able to lift it as it was extremely heavy. They have now stacked it in a corner of the colony for using it on the next Lohri or Holi where it will once again provide happiness to everyone. 


The huge money-plant creeper with massive leaves which was a sucker on it had to be taken off. I have got it planted in each and every park of the colony where they will continue to grow and remind all the residents how they once clung on to the Fish Tail Palm in my front yard.


Four days have passed, but my eyes have not got used to the vacuum where my Fish Tail Palm once stood for over 25 years. This place will one day be filled with other plants but the vacuum created by my Palm will perhaps never be filled.
*****