Crimson leaves have been buried under the thick carpet of snow. The leaves have been stripped from the branches of this Chinar, only one around me. Chinar and its solitude. How atrocious yet mildly-soothing-loneliness has affected this Chinar. It’s stem has opened up as if it were to embrace everything it can to fill it with contentment. But nothing is gathered inside.
The bark has been bruised by the animals that run through this valley at night. There are stems of other Chinars which show the signs of the time when this was a forest of Chinars. We don’t see a gathering of Chinar in areas that aren’t for camera consumption for tourists. These trees are on their own and when the axe falls on them, rarely anybody hears the echo with every cut the sharpened metal makes.
Somehow this Chinar has been let off by the smugglers. But there is a wound if I look behind this tree. It’s a wound that I had inscribed on it. There are four letters carved into this wound.
This wound is my memory of her. She was…I don’t know what tense to use here, a beautiful woman, unlike other woman. It’s not like I hadn’t seen any before. But this was different. She at once made her home in my heart. It was so quick that I was completely caught off guard. I had refused many forays into my heart, many a times breaking others. Not that I enjoyed breaking them but their hearts wouldn’t be attached to my soul. As if my heart was a reader of others’, when it didn’t like something it would refuse. My entire sense of self would comply, the heart rules me like a tyrant. Bereft of any emotions or feelings empathized for others. No I am not a rude and horrible person. I don’t think so I am. In fact I am very compassionate. But when it comes for others to find a space inside me, my heart reacts and sends it away.
But this time it wasn’t the same. Only in my dreams, when my heart would lift its siege on my thoughts, I would think of being with somebody. This time it was daylight, and the rains were pouring on the streets. All it took were those 5 seconds of her eyes looking at mine like a spy. She made her way into my heart. I kept thinking of those five seconds for days and nights together. I was confused if it was a dream or real.
There are women who can steal your mind with just a word,
And others who can steal your heart with just a smile,
And others who can steal your soul with just a look,
But there is one woman, who can steal all of your mind and heart and soul,
without doing anything. (Qabbani, Nizar)
Somehow I managed to talk to her on a different pretext. Holding the reins of my thoughts so that she wouldn’t find me desperate, it was a long time since my heart had lost control of my thoughts. I was free and looking for an ally for my soul. Souls are conscripted soldiers if they like somebody on this earth they have met before. And if they don’t people won’t be attached to other people just because their souls weren’t of the same regiment.
Although we talked about normal things around us like weather, politics and culture. Late nights my heart wouldn’t be content. It was restless as if he was making conversation with her heart all the time. I wouldn’t know I couldn’t tell.
Somehow my thoughts found their way into my tongue. I thought this was the end. She was way out of my league. Only for her to confess that her heart was going through the same season as mine. It was spring for me; although in the place I used to live has no seasons. This feeling felt like coming of spring. The cherry blossoms, flower buds and fragrance of the soil.
A beautiful and peaceful story of life is a myth. It can’t be. Life is not like a jigsaw puzzle where pieces fit together to make a picture. No. It is like this river in front which thrashes on the rocks and washes away soil along. It comes from springs on top of the mountain. It seeps into the paths it has made over millions of years. Glaciers which are formed add to the water content down the mountain and it races away to make its path. Not worrying about what comes in its way might change it for life. In some places this river flows at a menacing pace and somewhere it splits only to join the rest of his being later. As it immerses into the sea, it is pacified and become one. That’s how our story began.
We were thrashed around cultural stereotypes, family structures, social pressures and restlessness for a future that we aspired to have.
She had left. I was here in this forest when I ran away. As fast as I could to let the pain of my limbs overwhelm that of the one burning inside of me like fire. I took a blade that had fallen next to this lonely chinar which wasn’t lonely then. The forest was still there and Chinars were embracing each other with branches as if shaking hands and hugging. I looked at the blade and my wrist. I wanted to press it against the artery. So that I leave this world without having to face another day of the same torment, the heart had fought enough with the tyranny of the society. I was breathing hard worried that my heart would just pop out of my throat. Something hit my head. I was unconscious.
I woke up that early morning when the twilight had struck my eyes. As my eyelashes lifted themselves like curtains, I couldn’t find the embracing reflection of Chinars in the river. I closed my eyes and opened them again thinking it was a bad dream. Alas, it wasn’t. The Chinars were massacred with axes and machine cutters, I was shaken. I looked up and found this Chinar that had survived the carnage bleeding with through its crimson leaves. Leaves were mourning they were falling on the feet of this Chinar as if to protect the roots of those neighbours who they had lost. The blade was still there. The smugglers had left this Chinar and myself alone as I had fallen over it. They might have seen the blade on the ground, thinking that he would kill himself anyway. They had let me go. The Chinar had saved me or had I saved the Chinar I didn’t know.
I picked up the blade, and inscribed the four letters of her name on the stem of the Chinar. The blade wasn’t sharp so I had to press harder. My fingers were bleeding through cuts. Somehow I had this epiphany while engraving her name, that there’s a reason why I stayed alive. I promised myself to be patient with the dire straits of the life I was living. My love wasn’t unrequited. She loved me too.
I became obsessed with saving the Chinars and from that day I started valuing lives of Human beings too. The Humans had tried to destroy my life and my aspirations, but they had given me a reason to live by. I would send letters to her to remind her that I still yearn for her.
The first thing I will do when you will be mine, is kissing your forehead and apologizing to you for every night you slept, wishing me by your side.
Somehow every month I would visit this Chinar, which had become a shrine for me, I would look on the mountain tops and see the course of river thrashing against rocks. It personified my life. She had fought like I had, waited like I had and endured more than I could. Thinking of her would no longer make me weak or slow my heartbeats. But it would inspire me that I am not alone. I looked down the horizon of the river as I sat in the bosom of the chinar. I saw the river splitting into the two and I knew it would merge somewhere. I also knew that throughout the separation they would constantly tell themselves that the union is near. Keep going further.
There’s no ending this story, as it just has began. The river is yet to meet its union in the sea where they immerse as one. It won’t end in the sea, as it would turn into clouds and bring rain to the cold-hearted humans and their self-accentuating beliefs. If the river is meant to find itself again, it will. No rocks or dams can stop its course.
So I wait for her across the seas and time zones which come between us. I move back into the bosom of the Chinar as the snow falls. Holding my hand out to touch the flakes from the sky as if they were the millions of unwritten letters from her.