I didn’t ever notice that tree. There are old trees among us that one gets quite used to seeing and notices them only when they’re gone. So that day, a week or so ago, I saw something missing in that busy car park in Gulberg’s Main Market. I realised it was the shade of a tree. The signboard of the departmental store and the billboard next to it were a lot more visible than before.
Was I even right in thinking what I was, because there weren’t any traces of a lost tree. And I was in a hurry, too.
Next day, I stopped at the rehriwala at the corner for fruit and asked him about the tree.
“Yes, they cut it in the middle of the night.”
“Who did, and why?” I asked.
He pointed at the departmental store, and started talking as if he cared a lot.
“I was here till 12 that night and the tree was there. In the morning when I came it wasn’t.”
“But why can’t I find the exact spot where it stood?” I asked again.
“Because they removed and cemented the place so no trace was left.”
He left his cart and clients, and took me to the place where the tree used to be. I hurriedly took a photograph with the phone. As we returned to his rehri, an old pakhtun man came, stood next to us and said he had come in the morning, at 4am, for namaz that day “and the tree wasn’t there.”
“It all happened between 12 and 4am,” he said.
The fruitwala regretfully said the taxiwalas and others used to sit under the shade of that tree. It was a banyan tree, not too old but big enough to provide ample shade. There are a few more in that roundabout.
I went back to the market the next morning, determined to dig more on the tree. I started asking the car parkingwala about the tree. He said he had gone back to the village but when he returned the tree wasn’t there. He too pointed a blaming finger at the supermarket but wanted me to ask their guard for more details.
“My duty starts in the morning, so I don’t know who cut it; maybe the city managers who are keen on putting [surveillance] cameras!”
“But why does everyone outside believe it’s your store people who did it?” I asked him.
“I don’t think so. I used to water that tree when it was small. People have a tendency to take our store’s name for any criminal activity in this market. If there is a dacoity, they say it happened in front of this store.”
I returned to the parkingwala. “You see if a tree is weak, you are supposed to take a picture and show it to the authorities and then they come and cut it,” he told me as I marvelled at the level of information he had got.
Inside the departmental store, where I regularly do my groceries, I spotted an old hand. I asked him about the owner but he had not yet come. I asked if they had reported the stealthy felling of tree in front of the store. “Which tree? There was one that was broken maybe!”
I looked him in the eye but he avoided looking back.
“So who cut the tree? Don’t you want to know?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said, and turned around to do his stuff.
I almost got my answer.
On Twitter, some random person from across the border replied to my rant: “as per hindu superstition, a banyan tree is an omen of perennial/undying prosperity. The tree=has no death.”
I so wish we were a little superstitious when it comes to saving trees. Businesses flourish and that’s what is called prosperity, no?