Ze fine print: is not working as Blogger refuses to go into compose mode! So I am absolved muahahahaa! Offers to teach me HTML are hereby refused.
Reading about the Taj Mahal Hotel and the significance of some buildings to people, I am reminded of an edifice that is as venerable and as beloved to me and my friends, as the Taj Mahal Hotel is to the rich and famous err I mean ordinary Indians. The edifice that I am talking about is the Tree House our Dad fashioned out of a plywood carton for us when we were small. It has given me and my friends’ hours of cramped pleasure and played host to several of our tea parties, snack-ins, sulk-ins, cry-ins, sleep-ins, sneak-ins to read comics etc etc. The building has lost some of its former glory…correction, most of its former glory actually….okay to be completely truthful it has lost all its glory and plywood to the ravages of time and a determined little girl and her friends and several attempts by my ammachi to pull it down and take it to Kerala to serve as a kozhikoodu (chicken coup).
All that is left of the structure is a few planks that were the floor at one time and a few planks that made up the walls and the roof. I have some lovely memories attached to the tree house. My dogs have some horrible err nice memories attached to the tree house. I remember how my doggies would cringe the moment I said ‘tree house’ and would run away and hide. It gave me great pleasure to chase them and drag them out of their hiding places and haul them up whining, to the tree house. Those were the days…sigh.
There was this time that a bunch of honey bees took over the tree house. My Dad announced that we could not use the tree house till the present tenants had vacated. This made me mad and my second bro M madder. This meant that me and my friends would come in the way of his silly games instead of sitting safely out of earshot in the tree house. So he and his friends decided to smoke out the bees like they had seen the local bee keepers do. They piled up some dry twigs and grass and stuff under the tree house and set it on fire. The entire house burnt down. But the tree house and its occupants remained unfazed. Later in the day, as my parents collected what they could from the charred remains of the house, he i.e my brother was heard remarking to his friend that they should have considered wind direction before lighting the fire. His friends reply was lost in the wind as he fled at top speed with my enraged Dad in hot pursuit.
The tree house was fashioned out of the plywood carton that housed the washing machine my Dad had bought down from the Middle East. It was a roomy carton you know, the type that can house a washing machine, a fridge, a car, six double cots, three televisions, a dining table set, a sofa set, several wall to wall cupboards, two blenders, several tonnes of books, crockery, furnishings and a huge barbecue set and still look like it was carrying only a Washing Machine. The Customs never suspected a thing and waved my Dad on. We furnished an entire house when it was unpacked and even now, there are chances that you may find a Two in One or a Rotisserie Grill or a Casio if you look carefully in between the plywood boards. The other day my little cousin brother found a toaster. It was still in good condition and working. We shook our heads in amazement and promptly threw it in the dustbin.
After the evacuation of the carton which took roughly two months and six pairs of hired hands, the carpenter resized the sides, redid the floor with sturdier wood and added a roof to make it look like a house. The door on each side was a gap made by removing a couple of planks of plywood and viola…our tree house was ready. The tree house was housed on the forking branches of a horribly deformed Banyan tree that grew in every possible direction but up, leaving us with lots of low hanging sit-able branches. It could seat four little girls and two dogs at a time. Guests sat on the branches and depending on who were very nice to me, they would actually get an invite to sit inside the tree house. We had lots of doll parties there and later as we grew older we simply sat around on the branches and talked about the latest fashion, guys, expensive cosmetics, guys, orthodox parents, guys, designer shoes, guys, strict Nuns, guys, tough exams, guys, stupid teacher, guys and so on.
Those were wonderful days and the tree house reminds me of carefree times when our greatest worry was a honeybee attack and an AK 47 was a couple of alphabets and numerals. Pakistan was the nation to the upper left of India not to be confused with Iran a nation we were told we would not be studying due to lack of time to finish the Geography portions. We heaved a sigh of relief. That was one capital, one flag, many crops, many more minerals, several industries, types of agricultural produce, major ports and cities, GNP, type of government, national religion, language and sport…less to cram. Whew!! Besides we did not have to by heart the names of its neighbors too. Whatay relief!!!!
Today the Tree House is a remnant of its old self. Its splintering edifice is hidden by the overgrowth. The banyan tree has since learnt that it is a tree and not a creeper and has grown in stature and girth. The sit-able branches are now not so sit-table unless we hire a really tall ladder and an exterminator to rid the tree of its entire insect eco system. According to the gardener it looks like a bhoot bangla on a Banyan tree. He finds that mighty funny and cracks up every time the old plywood of the tree house creaks in the wind! The maid in the house thinks it is not a good omen to keep a Tree House on a Banyan tree. According to her no self respecting ghost will like to be seen alive in it. I have since hammered a couple of more nails to ensure that it stays on the tree. My bedroom overlooks the Banyan tree you see. Besides you do not want any peeping tom-ghosts peering through your window do you? brrr
The other day an incident made us decide that the tree house remains no matter what the neighbor or the maid or the gardener says. It so happened that my Dad’s old enemy, the forest department wallah came a visiting to check on the trees in the house. He drops in randomly whenever he feels like irritating my Dad.
Now if you are wondering what the Forest Dept (FD) has to do with our trees, think again. Every tree you plant outside or close to your premises it automatically becomes the property of the FD. It doesn’t matter if they cannot distinguish a Jackfruit tree from a lamp post. It is still theirs! I suspect they wait till you have bought the seedling, planted it, watered it, fought off pests and tree disease, firewood gatherers, tree robbers etc etc and then, sneak up behind the bushes where I guess they were hiding and watching, and plant a seal on the tree and say “Viola the tree is now OURS hah!!!” And right after that you live in mortal fear. You inspect the tree every day. If it shows any sign of dying, you pack up your bags and migrate, cos the FD is gonna get you and put you in the slammer for damaging a tree that is protected under the rule 456, section C, sub section 1A on page 4567899234 of “The Karnataka Forest Department Rule Book”. (The 900th Edition of the book is on the way with reportedly 5567899234 pages covering the Jackfruit tree alone.)
Now my dad and the FD have a love hate relationship spanning a few decades, several litigations and notices, suites and counter suites.
Court Clerk: Mr P you are hereby directed to appear before the Lower Magistrate for cutting down a Tectona grandis.
Dad: Tectona grandis? What on earth is that!!!
Clerk: A Teak tree!
Dad: But I don’t have a Teak tree!!
Clerk: Oops then I think it must be a Santalum album!
Dad: And what on earth is that!
Clerk: Sandalwood tree
Dad: I don’t have that either!
Clerk: hmm how about Punica granatum, Pomegranate?
Clerk: Saraca asoca, Ashoka tree?
Clerk: Okay okay I am going!! Some people are so crabby! Tch tch
Now as the Forest Department wallah walked around inspecting the trees with a I-am-gonna-get-you-air, the old tree house creaked. Forest Department wallah turned a few shades grey and nearly jumped out of his skin. It was late evening you see. The wind blew again and this time good old tree house let out an even longer creak! Forest Department wallah suddenly remembered that he had something urgent to do and scooted out of the house at top speed. He was never seen again.
Nowadays the FD minions skip our house in their rounds. They are definitely not coming to a house with a creepy and creaking Banyan tree that rumor has it is infested with ghosts (origin of rumor err not known). Even a die hard Forest Department wallah will not go near a tree infested with ghosts. The government isn’t paying him enough to do that you see. Suffice to say that peace has returned to our front yard, back yard and other places where we have planted trees. And all because of our good ol Tree House!
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year 2009!!