Not Mere Rituals

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Once upon a time 

when I was under five, 

in evenings, I’d often accompany

Ajiya, my old grandmother, 

to a nearby garden 

studded with plants and trees of all sorts.   

She’d carry a lota, brass pitcher, full of water 

and our destination would be

a huge peepal tree.

 

With childlike curiosity, I watched and gazed 

as she poured, emptied the vessel 

at the root of the cool, shady tree. 

And then touched the spot reverently,

and carried the imagined holiness

to her forehead. 

 

The child in me would ask 

‘Why Ajiya do you pour water

at the tree, and why touch its foot?’

To that, her crisp reply would be

‘Because we worship it’.

And before turning back, I too would follow the ritual 

and touch the tree’s foot

with all seriousness and reverence 

a five year old can put on.

 

Growing up, it gradually dawned upon me

we actually worship,

whoever give us something, 

and trees happen to be our prime givers,

sustaining our very existence. 

We are not to cut green trees…,

ought to protect them, and conserve the flora en-masse

 

Alas, it appears we came down to this wisdom too late, 

after vanquishing such a

huge population of trees, 

inviting the wrath of Mother Nature.

After all, I’d say, our grandmothers

were not all that dumb, and

the rituals they handed down to us, 

not mere rituals!

Not mere rituals!

*****************

Ashok Misra   

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