My Pensieve

The Peepal Tree


There is a peepal tree outside my room. It was bare when I first moved into this flat in February. Since then I have seen new leaves appear and flourish, and now the tree is full, even though I still see new leaves appear.

The tree was home to pigeons when it was bare. There would be at least twenty pigeons perched on the branches, swaying in the wind, enjoying the natural swing.

Now there are few pigeons, and crows have occupied the tree, quite literally; they have made nests and they caw incessantly to protect their young when they see my cat in the french window of my balcony.

Sparrows have also started coming to the peepal tree. They hop from branch to branch in a cautious, circuitous path to the bird-feeder I have hung in the balcony. Usually a pair comes together. They chirp softly and eat hesitantly, always afraid.

The koel is a rarer bird. I have seen it come to the peepal tree only once. I hear it calling from other nearby trees in the distance. They coo with periodic celerity, each coo building up an urgency in the listener. They remind one of passing time and merge the idea of death with orgasmic potential.

There are parrots too, in those nearby distant trees that koels coo from. But the parrots don’t come to our building. They know that birds have been caged on the ground floor by a right-wing small-time business tycoon.

The rarest bird that comes a-calling is the Grey-faced Woodpecker or the Picus Canus. It is small and green, with a red head and it pecks at one of the stumps of the peepal tree. I have seen it twice and have never been able to capture a decent photograph of the bird.

The three-month old leaves of the peepal tree have been stained by the shit of the pigeons perching on higher floors. But still my peepal tree is green. It covers me from the prying eyes outside. Its leaves rustle in the wind providing a music that competes with the different horns blaring  and tires screeching down below at the busy intersection. I break its dry dead branches off, pruning the tree. I find uses for these branches to make my room more beautiful, putting them in vases and making macrame hangings with them.

I do not know if having a peepal tree is lucky or unlucky in Hindu dharma, or in Vaastu. It is not as fortunate as having a neem tree, blowing in anti-septic clean air along, and I will forever miss the neem tree at my balcony in my Delhi home. But I am less lonely in Mumbai, for having the green life of the peepal tree outside my room.

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