Anna’s family had just moved to the neighborhood.
She loved the new house, It was bigger than their old one.
She even had a room of her own with an attached bathroom and all.
The best thing she liked about the house was the balcony.
A big mango tree stood just by the balcony.
A branch of the tree grew towards the balcony and Anna could touch the mango leaves ,if she extended her hands a little.
“Mamma, why are there no mangoes on this tree” She asked her mother
“Beta, there will be no Mangoes in winter.By the time it is summer, there will be lots of mangoes” Her mother replied
“So Mamma, when it is summer, there will be lots of mangoes on this branch too?” she wondered.
“Yes beta” her mother replied smiling
“Then I will be able to pluck them with my hands!!” The idea excited her.
In her mind she pictured ripe mangoes dangling down the branches of their Mango Tree.Anna couldn’t wait for the summer to come.
One Saturday morning Anna sat in the balcony and watched the birds perched on the tree.
“Mamma, do you see how many birds are sitting on our Mango tree?”
“Yes beta, when it is summer, there will be even more birds!”
“Is that so Mamma?”
“But why Mamma?Why will be there more birds?”
“Because when it is summer,there will be lots of mangoes and the birds will all come to eat them.”
“Birds like Mangoes too?”
“Yeah, birds love Mangoes.So do squirrels”
“Squirrels?Will squirrels sit on this branch?‘
“Yes, if you don’t scare them off, they will sit on this branch and might even come down to our balcony”
“I won’t scare them off, I want to be their friend”
“You can be their friend, they will love you”
“Mamma, who else will come to eat our Mangoes?”
“Lots of birds, squirrels and ..”
“And may be bats”
“Bats..yuck…I don’t like bats.I won’t give them even one mango.Will monkeys come to eat the mangoes, Mamma?”
“No beta, there are no monkeys around here”
“But Monkeys love mangoes, don’t they?”
“Yeah, they do”
“May be we can pluck some mangoes and take them to the Monkeys in the zoo!”
“Hmm..may be we can do that”
“Mamma…,Nimmi and Anju loves mangoes too. I told them that they could also come to our house to eat mangoes”
“Sure,sure…you can bring all your friends,it would be nice”
“Won’t it be fun ,Mamma?We can all play in the balcony and pluck and eat mangoes when we are hungry”
“And Mamma will make you Mango shakes and Mango kulfi!!”
“Will you, Mamma?? Do you know to make Mango shakes and mango Kulfi..??”
“I very well do...”
“Will there be enough mangoes for all these?”
“Sure..,there will be lots and lots of Mangoes”
“Yeah..lots and lots and lots and lots..right Mamma?”
Anna used to go to school and fill her friends with the tales of the Mango tree.
“You know it’s big big tree, it is the biggest tree I have ever seen.And there will be lots and lots and lots of Mangoes. Mamma will make Mango kulfi for all of us” she used to beam.
The unseen Mango tree became an integral part of their daily conversations and they could almost visualize it, laden with countless golden yellow Mangoes , through Anna’s words.
Everyday morning Anna would run to the balcony to check if the tree had bore any mangoes yet.
“No beta..it doesn’t work that way” her mother laughed when she caught Anna one day in her tree inspection act.
“First you will see flowers, then they become small mangoes and then will grow into bigger ones”
“But I have never seen Mango flowers” Anna looked doubtful.
“Yeah, there are mango flowers and they are very pretty”
“Really?? What color are they, Mamma?”
“They are greenish or I could say creamish”
Anna’s face fell “But I don’t like cream color.”
“Wait till you see them,you will love them”
One day in class Anna learned something wonderful.Her teacher was teaching a lesson about response to stimulus in plants.He was explaining about how plants grow towards sources of light, how touch-me-nots close their leaves in response to touch.
He went on to talk about a research by Dr Jagadish Chandra Bose which proved that plants grew more quickly amidst pleasant music and more slowly amidst loud noise or harsh sounds.The teacher told them that plants can feel pain and understand affection , as per Dr Bose’s research findings.
That evening Anna couldn’t wait to reach home and tell her Mother about her newly acquired knowledge.
“Is that so?” her mother asked wide eyed , with mock surprise.
“Yes Mamma, you know what I am going to play songs to our tree”
Every evening Anna would sit in the balcony playing her favorite movie songs in the tape recorder. She sometimes recited the poems in her text book. She even tried talking to the tree, she knew it would understand affection.
Anna stopped plucking the leaves of the tree, which was one of her favorite past time. She used to jump and tear off leaves from the tall branches before.
“Mamma, it can feel pain , so will it get hurt when I pluck the Mangoes?”
Her mother resisted an urge to smile and replied seriously”Hmm…you know, when the Mangoes are ripe enough, the tree throws it down so that others can eat it”
“But then the Mangoes will become squashy…” Anna looked dissapointed
“Ok..then may be we can pluck them softly, but we will make sure the mango is ripe enough and will never forget to put the mango seed back on the ground.The mango tree will be happy then”
“Because new Mango plants grow out of the Mango seeds”
“And we will have Mango trees all over??“She smiled at the thought.
As days progressed, the Mango tree bloomed with flowers.
Anna did find them very pretty, and she loved them as her Mother had predicted. She would everyday stand in the balcony and watch them with pride. More birds and small bees flocked around the flowers.
Soon flowers grew in to small green mangoes.Some of them fell down.
Anna loved collecting the small mangoes from the balcony and the ground. She would bite into them and an ecstatic sourness would flood her mouth. Her father taught her how to cut those tiny mangoes and mix them with salt and a pinch of chilly powder.How she loved eating them!!
She used to take them to school for her friends and her friends couldn’t wait for the Mangoes to grow bigger.
Anna’s mother had put a few Mangoes in salt water in a bottle. “You will love it when it is ready” she had whispered to Anna.
“When will it be ready, Mamma?”
“In a few weeks Beta”
“But may be it is ready already, can I open and eat just one?”
“No beta, it will be ready soon” Her mother laughed, ruffling Anna’s hair
Anna’s dreams as usual was filled with Mangoes and squirrels.
On one very windy night,a big branch of the Mango tree broke off and fell on Anna’s house.
A window was broken and the roof of the car porch also collapsed, causing considerable damage to Anna’s fathers car.
The incident was an eye opener for Anna’s father and Mother.
“The tree is too close to the house and it is too old too.Better not take chance”
The neighbors offered their warnings.
“Once the monsoons hit, there are chances that the tree might fall down on the house” Anna’s father confided his fear to his wife.
His wife nodded her head.
“Isn’t it going to be expensive cutting down the tree, its huge!!”
“Yeah, but see, the window, car porch and the car repair is going to cost a fortune.What if the whole tree fell on the house?We have not even paid back half of the loan on the house.Some timber mill surely buy the wood, the tree is indeed huge and will definitely fetch us something decent“.
“It is a shame that we have to cut it down.It was full of mangoes.Poor Anna, she is going to be heartbroken”
“Naah..she is a smart girl, she will understand”
But Anna did not understand.
“Mamma,but it will hurt our tree.Remember, it can feel the pain too”
“No..I don’t want Mangoes from the shop.I want our mangoes”
“But Mamma, you had told me that squirrels will be my friends.How can that be possible if you cut the tree?”
“Mamma, that is my tree, I had promised my friends that we could all play under it”
“Mamma, how will we make Mango Kulfi and take Mangoes to the zoo?”
“But Mamma, the tree was here first.We build the house close to if.It is our fault right?”
She cried, threw tantrums, went without eating.
Her parents did all that they could do to cheer her up.They were helpless too, they couldn’t afford any more damage to the house. But it broke their heart to see their little one in such a state.
Anna was send to her Aunt’s place that weekend. She knew she will not see the tree when she returned.
Before she left she went and stroked the branch that caressed the balcony.
“Bye friend, hope it does not hurt much.Thanks for the mangoes” She muttered.
She returned home with her uncle after two days. As expected, she saw that her tree was cut down.
Tears streamed out of her eyes.Leaves were scattered in their courtyard and few twigs lied in a heap. A stout stub remained where the tree stood.
She heard her father’s voice
She turned.Her father and mother were standing behind her, watching her nervously.
“..we want to show you something”
Her mother whispered.She held Anna’s hand and lead her to the other side of their property.
Anna reluctantly followed.
and there on the ground was a small Mango bush.
“Look Anna, this is going to be our new Mango tree.You will have to give it lots of water and sing lots of songs to it. And in no time it will become a big tree and will give us lots and lots and lots of mangoes”
Anna wiped her tears and through her sobs asked
“Is that so Mamma…?“