My mind has been on trees, of late. Trees are a big part of my everyday life, anyway. If there is one thing I like about my work-place, it is that there are trees there by the zillions. Untouched for years, unperturbed by changes, oblivious to college festivals, impervious to faculty-angst, they dig their roots deep, and spread their branches wide.
I gaze lovingly at them as I run past in the early mornings. I peer longingly at them as I drive past later in the day, rushing to and from office and meetings and school pick-ups, and yes, coffee breaks.
I like to touch things with my hands. I surely love running my fingers over books. I like smelling books. I am a very unlikely convert to the Kindles of the world. I do pick up the odd leaf and smooth it over with my fingers. In my garden, I found, two months ago, the fuzziness of the pumpkin creeper’s leaf, and it has stayed with me, an imprint, a memory. But I rarely touch these trees. They look really venerable. And I feel I would disrespect them with my mortal touch. My eyes, on the other hand, swallow them whole.
Chennai is a wonderful city where you will, serendipitously, run into a wonderful neem tree, if you have your eyes open. Yesterday as we parked on the side and stepped out, I saw a forlorn house in a large ground area. “Three grounds” the guy said. The grass was overgrown, and uncared for. The batik cloth hangings in the verandah were dusty, clearly unused for many years. The trees though, were spectacular. One was a wiry little fellow, all knobbly joints and defiant looking, thriving on the Chennai rains. The other was a sedate old matron, all heavy mid-section and a wide canopy of leaves, comforting, motherly. ‘Oh I love it’ I said.