Sunday, November 11, 2012

'See the tree, how big it's grown...'

This young tree, with cars supplicating in front of it at most times, is growing by a natural mound in the park just outside my mother’s flat. It was planted sometime last year, and for several months the park maali had it covered with a cylindrical wire mesh to keep animals from destroying the leaves while they were still within reach. During that time the plant was quite inconspicuous, it was easy to pass it without really registering its presence – which is what Foxie and I routinely did on our daily walks. So we were both taken aback when we saw it the first day after the mesh was removed and the tree stood revealed as a strapping, six-foot-tall thing with a personality of its own, a distinct new presence in the terrain we knew so well.

In her last two years, after her chronic medical problems began, Fox was ravenous all day long and the only thing she was interested in doing when we went down was keeping her nose to the ground, searching greedily for scraps of bread or roti or other food. (Our walks had become a little stressful by this point: I had to monitor her every move closely, pull her away when she headed for things she wasn’t supposed to gulp down, and I badly missed the old days when we spent all our downstairs time playing ball
.) But this was one of those very rare times where she showed real interest – for more than a few seconds – in something that wasn’t self-evidently connected to food. She circled the tree lightly, first in one direction and then, without breaking step, in the other. She got up on her weak hind legs for a closer look. She opened and closed her mouth repeatedly in that goldfish-like way that always seemed to us like she was muttering to herself. And she took the end of her leash in her mouth like she often did when she was nervous or shy around something or someone new. Finally, after a few soft growls she decided the tree could be permitted to stay, and shifted her attention elsewhere.

Just two or three weeks after this, she was gone herself.

At the Sai Ashram, where she is buried, we have planted a peepal sapling just behind the gravestone: it seemed to be doing well when I last visited a few days ago, though it isn’t tall enough yet for the protective mesh to be removed. I only see that plant every couple of weeks or so, but I see the one outside my mother’s house every day. It’s strange to think that in another year or two it will be a full-grown tree with a thick trunk and a life of several decades ahead of it. And it may one day be comforting - in a vague, pointlessly sentimental sort of way - to know that its long life intersected briefly with my Foxishka’s very short one.

P.S. here are two pictures from the pre-tree days. The little bench you can see in these photos – at the top of the 1st one and near the centre of the 2nd one – is where the tree now grows.


  1. This piece conveys just how much you miss your girl in a way that perhaps expressly stating so wouldn't have been able to. Very touching.

  2. What a beautiful name: Foxishka! The tree and your Fox, two lives intertwined with you. It is bewildering and beautiful.

  3. Radhika: well, no writing can come close to properly conveying that, but thanks. I have thousands of words of this sort of thing that I've written in the past four months - won't be blogging most of it, but once in a while I will probably put something like this up.

    Anjali: yes, "Foxishka" is on the dedication page of my JBDY book too. Princess Foxishka was usually the full title.

  4. isn't it time to move on...atleast for us. admitted it is your blog.........still

  5. Anon: so move on. Who's stopping you? No wire meshes here.

    P.S. that troll-slip really is showing now. The only reason I let this comment through is because it amuses me - not because I thought it needed to be seriously engaged with.

  6. Jai : the gist of a quote I once read - when you lose someone you loved, you don't 'get over' it, you come through it.It's like an injury that will always remain a little short of healing,sometimes quiscent,sometimes aching-but you learn to live with it . While the unobservant compliment you on your coping powers.
    Anon: if someone shares something personal online,the common rules of decency still bind you. Whatever your opinions are,why say something that you would never say in a personal interaction with someone?

  7. Sai: yes, the idea that one eventually "gets over" something like this is enormously overstated and misleading.

    And don't feed the troll - it enjoys it and will come back for more.

  8. Dear Jai Sir,

    Really poignant as I mentioned once earlier - All dogs go to heaven :) I am sure dear foxie is smiling at you as a star from the sky :)

    Happy Diwali :)


  9. The things that connect us. Thank you for remembering this, and reminding me that these often overlooked connections are what life is really about, while I run about chasing something else. Now I take a breath, and remember again the Foxies and the trees in my life. (Looked in vain for a donation button at the Sai Ashram site.) Lovely post.

    Come to think of it, it was a post you wrote about the young Foxie that first somehow led me to your blog, and your writing has been a part of the fabric of my consciousness ever since, a continuing and unique favorite among the list of blogs I follow. Thank you for your work.

  10. Thanks, Mahesh, Beth and Chrism929. There's plenty more I can write, and other stuff I have already written - but not sure I'm ready to put it up in a public space.