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Temple Tree (Prof. Sreedevi Krishnan)

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Pushing back the car seat to make room for me to get into his sports car, Cheenu hurriedly but very gently pushed me to my seat, muttering,” Hope we’ll be on time this time. Remember how they sent us back for being 5 minutes late once? They may not do that as it’s the Covid vaccine but still, they may make us wait till the last person is finished.”
After helping me fasten my seat belt, he looked up at the sky and remarked,” Look, how cloudy it is... it’s going to rain for sure
.
When we reached the doctor’s office, Cheenu went to find the nurse ,to see if she could bring the vaccine to our car because of the heavy rain.
 Rain has always fascinated me. Back home in Chennai, when it rained, I used to call my husband to watch it with me. This was a practice I started after our ‘Monsoon-wedding’ in Guruvayur temple , where we were married in the pouring rain! We had enjoyed rain together for about 40 years with the same enthusiasm as our first Kerala rain.
 
Tears rolling down my cheeks I thought to myself- Here I am inside Cheenu’s parked car, watching the pitter patter of the-raindrops on the windshield.. “alone’.
 
“Who said you are alone, Am I not with you? We both loved  Kerala rain. Remember how drenched we were in the temple?Remember on the very next day of our wedding, I dragged you and ran to the spacious Naalukettu of your home? How I was fascinated by the deafening thunder, lightning, and heavy rain? Remember how you closed your eyes in front of the window and started your chanting of ‘Arjunan, Phalguna, Parthanan,Vijayanum’, ignoring all the amused onlookers?
Did we ever think then that, one day we will name our first grandson, Arjun? We’re so lucky..
C’mon, wipe off your tears. Cheenu will come and he will be upset to see you crying. Or are you crying for fear of the injection? I know you don’t like injections but Cheenu will hold your hand..
 
Remember, back home, when you were at the Dentist's  waitingroom, pleading with the Doctor to wait for another half an hour till I got there from my workplace. Dr.Mohan was so puzzled at that and asked, “ Why should Captain be present for your tooth- extraction?”
As usual, without thinking you answered, ‘He is coming early to hold my hands!’ Remember how the other patients chuckled atthe doctor’s reply? I’ll hold your hands, as my assistant extracts your tooth, ok? And then how I suddenly appeared on the scene muttering “Sorry, I’m late”. Remember?
 
Don’t you think we’re so lucky to have very loving, caring son?Both our children are always with you to hold your hands whileI look on..
Be a good girl, wipe your tears right now before Cheenu comes.
 
Trying hard to divert my attention, I looked around. The rain seemed to be subsiding and I watched the raindrops fall on the geranium bushes. The beautiful flowers drooping from the weight of the pouring rain were fighting back by closing their petals. They are great survivors, I thought to myself.
 
“ Ma, wind down your window, the nurse is here to give the shot”. The nurse’s smile reflected in her blue eyes , despite her mask.
“This won’t hurt you Mrs. Krishnan. Don’t worry. You must spend half an hour here to see any reaction for the shot’ she said,as she injected the vaccine through the car window.
Winding up my window, I looked around, the rain was subsiding.What a calming sight- the drooping geraniums were now gently caressed by the gentle drizzle.
More or less like our lives, it gives you so much pleasure But without warning, it brings you a hard time. To survive we should fight back.
 
My thoughts were interrupted by my son’s opening his car door and starting the car. “So, no reaction to the vaccine. Thank God,” he muttered.
What’re you thinking Ma? Are you okay? , If you want, we will order food from a restaurant- My son’s voice interruptedmy philosophical mood. “I‘m fine, We’ve everything at home.Instead of stopping on the way, we will drive back home.
 
 
I continued to look out of  the window at the beautiful, lushgreenery and rows and rows of pretty flowers decorating the winding path to our home ... After retirement, I had rekindled my almost forgotten love for gardening .. . In no time, I had lots of plants and flowers, I was particular in collecting multi-colored hibiscus and soon hibiscus flowers of various hues were my beautiful garden's speciality
Though Krish was initially not interested in gardening, he helped me with the it-more for pleasing me than that of interest. When he hurried through the garden to his car every morning , I would often remind him to look at the flowers. Annoyed at his indifference, I used to quote ‘ Dull would he be of soul who could pass by a sight ,so touching in its majesty”.
Later on, I remember how he would recite those lines as he walked to the car ..even before I asked him to look at the flowers!
 
I remember how on one very similar rainy evening in Chennai, when Krish came back from the office fully drenched, with a foot-long broken branch in one hand. He asked me to get the small ax from the kitchen. The one that we used to dehusk the coconuts. Not bothering to wipe off his dripping water from thehead, with the towel I had brought, he said loudly,’ Bring me the ax; I will wipe my head later “
He found a perfect spot in the center my colourful hibiscusbushes and planted the branch there. He told me that he had found it on the roadside on his drive back from the office, He remarked,” This tree will yield bunches of beautiful whiteflowers and it also has a very pleasant fragrance ‘
After his gardening feat, all I could say was, “Why did you plant a tree in the center of the garden It is blocking the view of my potted Bougainvillea and hibiscus plants This tree you have planted is called Kattady (kite) plant because it would sway in the slightest breeze like a kite. It is a sort of wildflower tree. In Kerala , we don’t even plant it!
Hiding his disappointment he said,’ Okay, okay I‘ll remove it tomorrow”.
But, it never happened due to the torrential rain for a couple of days. The very next week, Krish left for Japan for an year ….
 
Meanwhile, I developed a special affection for the Katady plant which  not only survived but was growing with long leaves, with their strange-looking branches resembling the letters Y and L When it started flowering the leaves fell off and white bunches of flowers came in its place. followed by a period when there no flowers and only leaves showing off its shapely body.
Children named it the Appa tree. I wrote to Krish in Japan giving him vivid descriptions of its beauty..
 
After an Year, my husband returned to enjoy the fruit of his labor and to tell me how short-sighted I was and how that small branch now lent considerable charm to my front yard.....................
 
I said to Cheenu, “After reaching home, let me walk around the garden. You usually never allow me to open our front door because you are afraid I may trip down the front steps. So I only get to see our garden when we leave the house through the garage door!
 
When we reached home, I got out of the car to walk through our garden. While I bent down to examine the yellow rosebuds I happened to see through the corner of my eye, the “Appa’ tree had its first blossom. I knelt and plucked it, telling my son, “See! The tiny branch which your sister smuggled through customs, is giving flowers. It is a branch from the Appa tree in our Chennai home..
 
I rushed to my bedroom and put the plumeria flowers from the Temple tree near my husband’s smiling picture. Then I heard his voice ,
 
“How many times have I told you that our love is immortal. we are  immortal as long as we live in each other’s hearts though invisible to others. Look at our son doing everything he could, to make you happy”.
 
Tears welled in my eyes. Wiping it off quickly, I said to myhusband, ‘These are tears of joy.’

 
Prof. Sreedevi Krishnan
 

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Comments

  1. sharila

    2021-09-17 12:33:33

    Her style of writing is comparable with Pulitzer prize winning novelist, Jhumpa Lahiri's...love it!! Keep them coming, Sreedevi!

  2. Dr Sringara Nicklas

    2021-09-16 18:59:11

    Poignant,nostalgic, dewy-eyed and touching is this charming narrative woven through the threads of the past and present.Told with such aplomb and chutzpah,Professor Sreedevi tugs at the heart strings of the reader in a most beguiling way!Love is immortal indeed!

  3. Sudhir Panikkaveetil

    2021-09-16 01:06:10

    A sentimental anecdote narrated in an emotive language ! Good wishes Prof. Sreedevi Krishnan.

  4. Samgeev

    2021-09-15 16:04:31

    Beautiful recollections.

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