In Igatpuri there are lots of squirrels running around the campus.
The location of Dhammagiri is amidst hills of Igatpuri and one can see the fields and hills beyond the boundaries of the place. Besides the tended gardens the entire place has such a variety of flora – Mango, Shirish, Champa, unending bushes of Hibiscus, a few Amaltas hidden away and yet announcing their yellow summer presence, Peepul, a few Banyan and many trees that I don’t know the names of. My squirrels seemed to have a lot of space to run around with so many options of malls and residential quarters in the form of these different trees. So many mangoes would be around, a gentle sweet mango aroma hanging in the areas where the trees densely stood bearing the ripe fruits, a clearance sale for the birds and my squirrels.
One the third day, as I started watching the ground more to maintain complete silence and avoid eye to eye communication with other participants, to my delight, I started seeing some long forgotten familiar little red seeds strewn around on at least two locations on the Shantipath. I realised that there were at least two trees of red sandalwood, or the tree with the Lucky Red Seeds. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adenanthera_pavonina). I had to google a bit before writing this blog to get its name and was delighted to know that it is simply known by the colour of the seeds and additionally they are also LUCKY. It took me back to the long summer morning walks we cousins would go for with our grandfather (Ajoba) – he would take us from Matru Mandir on Grant Road to the Hanging Gardens of Mumbai. In those simple days of just Doordarshan, where the TV would also go off to sleep at night, all of us would wake up early during those summer vacation days and be excited for our walk with Ajoba. We rather sleepily trailed behind him in the early morning, starting before day break along theVasantrao Naik Marg, winding around somewhere near Kemp’s corner and going onto BG Kher road. There was a short cut to get onto the Vasantrao Naik Marg from behind Matru Mandir and through the slums. That woke us up a bit, I think. We would cross the Tower of silence where we would come across many vultures sitting on the trees. My young cousin Siddesh had even named three of them as Babu, Mabu and Kabu. That made us look out for them every time we passed that spot. I hear now the breed of these childhood friends is endangered.
And as we went along the gently winding uphill road, my scanning eyes would land on those Lucky Red Seeds strewn like a casual abstract Artwork of Join-The-Dots on the dark tar road below. I never saw the tree that shed them. My eyes would busily twinkle and I would crave to own them. Sometimes I would let them be and sometimes I would give in to the craving. I would spend minutes of our collective time, collecting those seeds. My cousins would busy themselves with some trivial acts of observing around, sometimes picking a few seeds for me, sometimes expressing their impatience or sometimes they wouldn’t notice my waiting back for the seeds. Then I would hurry up to catch up with them. At the end of one vacation, I had a whole box full of these red seeds. But while returning back home to Pune, I forgot all about them in the hurry of my Mother coming to pick us up and rushing us through the routine of packing and other trivial things. I remember the disdain on coming back home, of having left the pretty shiny Red Seeds at Ajoba’s place. I would imagine my disciplinarian Ajji or someone else casually throwing away the carefully picked seeds. And that imagination would fill my mind with tinges of disappointment and sadness. Such is childhood. And such is craving.
But to my delight, during the next vacation for Diwali, when we had gone to visit my grandparents in Mumbai, my Ajoba had taken me aside and given me my box, curiously asking me with his imperceptible smile, ‘What are you going to do with all these seeds?’ And I had just broadly grinned with pure happiness to have my Red seeds with me!!! That’s how he was – our Ajoba – silently considerate wherever it mattered.
And here they were back again in my life – these little Red Seeds, like portals to a pleasant past. It brought back the freshness and innocence of childhood. They called out to me to collect them. I resisted for four days – watching them on two different locations on the concrete Shantipath everyday, smiling silently and inwardly. The Shantipath was a concrete path we would walk on to go from our residential areas to the meditation hall and the dining area. One day I keenly watched another participant spend minutes in gathering some of those seeds. I saw that in the daily cleaning of the path, the seeds were swept away as garden trash. So sometimes I would kick them gently back into the soil, hoping it would escape the sweeper and grow into a sapling sometime in the future. But a day later I gave in to their calls and spent an afternoon’s free time in collecting them for no reason. For me they were not just seeds – they were my pleasant memories.
Then I collected some more of two other different kinds of seeds – shades of brown. And my Ajoba’s question would come back – What am I going to do with these seeds.
There was a notice prominently displayed for not touching or plucking or picking the fruits and flowers. But the seeds were not included in prohibited items. Seeds are like that – forgotten as unimportant existences, but resilient – nature’s clever and deceptive strategy born out of its craving to reproduce and grow. I have heard that even the less resilient vegetable seeds don’t get degraded properly in routine home-based bio-waste processing units, allowing sometimes, a sapling to grow out of the manure created.
Dreamily I decided to take them back and make saplings out of them. And then imagined having a lot of Trees of Igatpuri. Imagine! Having so many saplings of the Lucky Red Seeds!
But what I actually did with them was something different. More about that – and the squirrels – later.