Here in this dreary south Indian city which I call my hometown, we don't have much variety of trees growing. In fact, we don't have much of trees growing at all to speak of, let alone variety. Coconut trees are most common. They can be seen waving their long-fingered foliage in the slightest breezes. And there are palm trees whose fan-like fronds get thatched into roofs of our simple-minded village men. And then there are tamarind trees, mighty banyan trees, summer-loving mango trees and slender neem trees, among few others scattered here and there like stars on a cloudy night sky. But recently, all the leaves, no matter of which tree they belong to, have been forming a legion - a battalion - as though they are readying themselves to wage a deadly war.
Call me insane and delusional but I see them. In the night, they talk to one another in susurrous whispers. Perhaps, they're saying 'What do we do to them? We can chop them up and use their blood to water ourselves. Maybe that'll teach them a lesson or two.' And during the day, the fallen leaves pretend they're fondling with the ground as a gritty wind grazes them so no one will notice them conniving, as if they're asking the earth nicely to not tell anyone about their secret schemes. But I notice them. I see them rustling in anger and yowling in agony as the wind carries the news of yet another deceased tree, brutally axed and murdered. I see them drop softly from branches onto the dirt like heavy snowflakes - nobody knows that they are tears. And I never fail to notice how stoic and carefree they seem to appear when truly they are seething with rage.
The weirdest thing happened to me yesterday: I was walking home after work just like every other day and two particularly large, yellowed, varicose mango leaves followed me all the way from my office to my home. First, they teetered behind me on the sidewalk, using the light zephyr to keep up with my pace, then they settled on the roof of the bus I climbed into and then they chased me home as I ran for my life, cruising frivolously in the wind.
I could hear them mocking me as they relentlessly pursued me, "Look at him, he's frightened to death! Ha! Ha!"
I called in sick today and locked myself inside my house. Even now those two leaves haven't left! There they are now, squatting on my porch, seemingly shooting the breeze together and waiting for me to unlock my front door so they can effortlessly fly in. They're up to something. I know it.
The winds are gusting and swirling outside now. And those two leaves are missing. I exhale in newfound relief and go out into the bleak, windy weather to inspect and suddenly my door slams shut behind me. Aghast, I try yanking it open frantically, but it is locked. The winds, they are stronger now; they are stirring more, rising and whipping around madly. They are forming an eddy, whirling and blowing in from all directions. Their wild howls fill my ears and I once again try to jolt the door open in vain to get back into the safety of my home.
I turn from the door to face the eddying winds and in a moment of shock I spot them, those two leaves. Turning and swirling with the air currents. They are the only leaves caught the winds. No other leaf seems even mildly rattled by this eldritch windstorm.
I rack my brains thinking Why am I the only one seeing all this? Is this really happening? Am I going insane? but no answer reaches me. All I know is what I'm seeing and it is chilling me to my bones.
The next day finds me as I'm hurrying off to work. I've showered, shaved, combed back my raven hair and dressed crisply as always. Nothing happened, I was just sick. The thought runs across my mind before I can stop it.
I'm in my office and I focus my attention at nothing but my work. But it's creeping into my mind. Lurking around and dripping into my consciousness, drenching my mind. The leaves are up to something.
A feeling of impending doom takes over me. I'm frozen in a swoon of fear and anxiety and suddenly my cell phone rings, making me jump wildly out of my chair.
I mulled it over. And I obsessed over it. So much that I dreamed it. I never let it leave my mind. The leaves are waging a war.
Maybe, there's a magic spell that could stop them or maybe it's just me - was I hallucinating? Am I descending into madness? Has the stress of my work finally got to me?
I didn't know. The only answer that flashed in my mind was: Why shouldn't they be angry, after what has been done to them?
It's been a nasty one, the war between man and nature. But the leaves have been trying to tell me something. And I was wrong, they are not waging a war. They've been trying to make peace.
If only we listened to them for one solitary second, we'd go a long way.