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Bolai feels very sad when anyone plucks flowers from plants. But he knows that his grief means nothing to the others and, so, he tries to keep his hurt to himself. Boys of his age fling stones to bring down gooseberries; he cannot say anything, he just turns his back and walks away. His friends, if only to tease him, walk in the garden while smiting plants and trees on either side of the path; they tear off a branch from the "bakul" tree all of a sudden and without any remorse - he feels ashamed to weep, lest others take him for mad. The most tragic day for him is the day when grass-cutters arrive to mow the grass. He has seen peeking out of the grass tiny climbers; nameless teensy-weensy colourful flowers; sometimes "kantakari" plants with their purple flowers; "kalmegh" vines and "anantamul" near the fence; seeds of the neem tree dropped by birds after eating away the fruit have germinated, how beutiful the tiny leaves look! All these would be cruelly torn and thrown away by the grass-cutters. They are not preferred plants; there is no one to listen to their protests.

Often Bolai sits on his Kaki (aunt)'s laps, wraps his small hands around her neck, and pleads, "Please Kaki, tell these grass-cutters not to cut my plants."

Kaki says, "Bolai, don't be foolish. This has become a jungle; it has to be cleared."

Bolai had understood that there were certain pains which were entirely his own - people around him were unable to understand them.

This boy, really, was born in an era millions of years ago when future forests of the earth, still in their nascent stage in the newly-created protoplasm that arose from the ocean's womb, let out the first cry after birth! There were no animals then, no birds, no sound of life; everywhere there were only rocks, slime and water. Plants, the forerunners of all life in the march of time, raised their hands in salutation to sun crying out, "I will stay, I will live; I am an eternal traveler, I will continue my endless evolutionary journey through rain or shine, through days and nights, and from death after death." The cries of the trees are still heard in the forests, in the mountains and in the farthest corners; it is through their branches and leaves the earth speaks, "I will stay, I will stay." The trees, mute nurses of the earth, have for eternity milked the heavens and extracted life's forces, life's juices, and life's beauty for the earth's store of nectar; they have incessantly given expression to their soul's voice, "I will live." Bolai had somehow heard that call in his veins, but we had only laughed at him.2

One morning I was lost in the newspaper when Bolai came and dragged me to the garden. There was a sapling at one spot; pointing at it he asked me what kind of tree it would grow into.

I saw it was a silk cotton plant; it had come up on the graveled pathway right in the middle of the garden.

Oh no! Bolai had made a mistake by showing me the sapling. Bolai had noticed it when it was just a slip of a seedling that had sprung alive like the cry of a new-born child. Since then, Bolai had watered it every day, and watched its growth eagerly. The silk cotton plant grows fast, but it could not outpace Bolai's eagerness. When it had grown sufficiently high, Bolai was impressed by the leafage. He thought it must be some extraordinary plant, just like a mother thinks of her child when it shows first signs of intelligence - extraordinary child! Bolai had thought he will astonish me by showing me the plant.

Notes:

2. This paragraph apparently pertains to the origin of life. The reader is once again cautioned that this is merely a personal interpretation, and may not be a satisfactory explanation. The leading theory is that life originated in water - so, poetically speaking, life arose from the ocean's womb - and that the earliest life was microbial. Thus, the plants and trees we see today have emerged from a microscopic mass of protoplasm. After originating in water, plants evolved and moved to land, and have continued to evolve. Thus, they are eternal travelers in time with a strong will to survive against all odds. The plants and trees sustain life on earth in a variety of ways, especially by making oxygen and by providing food. They, thus, extract life's forces and life's juices from "heaven" for the benefit of all on earth. Bolai's love for plants and trees is so intense that it would seem he had been their constant companion through the millions of years of evolution. Only an eternal companionship can foster such strong love! Being an eternal companion, Bolai can hear the determined cries of the trees to survive against all odds. It, therefore, hurts him whenever someone harms the plants and trees. "We", who cannot hear the sighs of the trees, laugh at Bolai's "foolishness" and tease him all the more by striking the trees and plants.

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