Watching Vaishali and Bindiya carry the utensils inside, to the kitchen, I also got up from my chair, wearily, and ambled inside. ‘Where is Asit’, I asked Bindiya, fishing around the refrigerator for my can of beer. ‘He has gone to meet some people, boss, to arrange for a replantation drive. He wants to cover those bald patches on mountain sides with trees, and is trying to organise a replantation drive to do this’, Bindiya said. ‘Bald patches?’ I thought, now mountains also have bald patches, and Asit is trying to replant the baldness with some trees, not unlike hair transplantation for baldness in humans. Being a plastic surgeon we saw several such people requesting hair transplantation for their ‘bald patches’. However, what Asit was doing was much more important than cover a few bald pates with some curly hair. ‘Bald patches’ on mountainsides led to soil erosion, landslides, lowered water table and aridity of the once green mountains. And the cause was the rampant felling of the trees for use in house construction and as firewood.
Asit had also arranged for ‘seed bombs’, Bindiya informed me. Seed bombs were seeds wrapped in a layer of compost and mud, an organic cocoon, which could be just ‘bombed’ over the bald or arid areas from a height, just at the beginning of rains. The mud shell made these bombs stick wherever they fell, and when the rains came, the seeds sprouted, drawing their nourishment from the water and the wet compost which made their cover. ‘What a brilliant idea,’ I thought ‘Whoever thought of it should be given a Nobel prize.’
By this time I had managed to latch on to a cold can of beer inside Bindiya’s fridge. As my fingers clasped the chilled can, I could feel the thoughts of ‘bald patches’ and ‘seed bombs’ melt away, replaced by a serene happiness at the thought of the ‘good times’ about to come. Clutching my treasure in my hand, I sauntered out into the balcony again and sat down on the reclining chair. ‘Crack’ said the can, as I opened it up, and then the familiar happy fizz of the amber fluid inside. I sat back, smelled the beer and listened to the clatter of utensils inside the house. The children played on the first floor and their happy chatter and pitter patter of busy feet floated down to me on the balcony. All was well with the world.
As I sipped my beer, the light in the sky started to dwindle. The sun glided ever so gently to its destination in the western skies and stood there over the hills, poised, hesitant. The air had grown cold, and a few mischievous clouds flitted over the mountain crests and tried to hide the sun, unsuccessfully. The sun turned orange, then amber, then a deep crimson; still it did not move from its perch atop the western mountains. As the wind picked up pace and grew colder, the darkness increased in the sky, creeping in from the east, trying to push the sun down, to swallow it; still he resisted. The mountainsides had started to grow dark, and a few electric lights twinkled in the growing dark, like hyenas peering at a kill from inside a mountain shrub. The darkness in the sky had now started to invade the clouds too, colouring them and pushing them towards the stubborn sun which had turned red, like an angry eye. Together they pushed…the clouds and the darkness, and suddenly he was gone, vanished behind the western ranges, the crimson sky his only remaining sign.
As I sipped the beer, letting it wash over me, push the tiredness out of my body and unshackle my mind, the mountain started to sing again. It opened its multiple eyes, which twinkled from its sides, and it sang its song in its cold, sweet voice. The swish of the trees, the rustle of the leaves, the fragrance carried on the fumes which the mountain exhaled from the chimneys of the houses, the deep throb of the distant lake, I could hear them all. The beer was gone, my eyes nearly closed, the dark blanket enveloping me, the cold fog shielding me from the evil eye, the mountain whistled and sang its song, and I listened… ………………………………
‘The Battle of Panchavati‘ a new Amazon Bestseller by the author, now available at Amazon as paperback and ebook.