And there was a swing suspended from a branch with thick ropes, as if time had stood still.
“Thinking of trying a hand?” my wife asked from behind.
It was difficult to imagine that she was the same ten-year-old girl who had come running from behind the old temple on the adjoining plot one sunny evening, sat on the swing uninvited, and asked me to give a hard push. I was meeting her for the first time.
“I’m your new neighbor. My father was transferred here recently,” she had explained, amused by the baffled look on my face.
She must have spent almost an hour on the swing that day, flying high as much as the swing would allow, and asking me to push harder every time she returned to the starting point.
“May I have some fruits?” she had asked me, dead tired after all those pushes, at the end of the session, and selected one from a heap lying nearby, without waiting for my permission. She had removed the skin expertly and put the fleshy bulbs into her mouth, sucked them clean, and spat out the seeds.
It was then that someone yelled “Durga!” from the compound behind the temple. For a moment I was confused. The deity of the temple was also goddess Durga.
“Mother. See you tomorrow. And show you how to swing.” She had run towards the temple before I could tell her I didn’t need any lessons from her.
She had become a regular visitor afterward, spending a lot of time swinging and talking about the schools she had attended and places she had seen thanks to the frequent transfers of her father.
Nothing seemed to have changed after all these years except that the tree had grown thicker and higher.
My brother joined us soon. “Have your final look. The tree won’t be there when you visit next time,” he told me. “The local school building is being extended and they need a lot of timber. When they came asking for a contribution, I offered this tree and they were happy.”
The next day I visited the school, handed the manager a cheque, and told him about my attachment to the tree. A look at the amount on the cheque convinced him that buying timber from the market would be preferable.
“I won’t touch the tree as long as you wish,” my brother promised me later.