Sometimes my house feels stuffy and even scary. It feels like there are strangers living within these walls ….
Strangers like the ones who side eye my mother in her religious attire reminding her that wearing that dress is a ghastly sin.
Sometimes my house doesn’t feel like home. It feels unfamiliar and uncomfortable, dark and grim. So I open the windows, and an overgrown branches of an unknown tree caresses and pokes at my face.
On the days when I feel terribly lonely, I open the windows. No matter how far away I am physically from the tree, I know its branches will reach me. This tree is situated in the front courtyard of my house. It was planted by someone in the late 1800s. Phew…. it’s that old … It’s older than all of us .. even this red-eyed divide between saffron and green which has now become a country-wide phenomenon.
Over a hundred and fifty years later, it still stands tall and proud in the same courtyard of the house, surviving numerous reconstructions and renovations around it. The city has changed over the years. The people residing here have changed too …. but the only constant thing has been the tree. It has witnessed all these transformations …. sometimes with joy and sometimes with sheer agony but has always been silent .. yet firm!
Much like this tree, my history is not some accident which can be easily erasable with time, rather I am a product of deliberate machinations of destiny.
Pangea broke apart, and the Indian subcontinent collided with Asia, and the homo sapiens followed the coastlines into the plains, and they sowed seeds and baked bricks, rivers were charted and named Ganga and Yamuna, borders and maps were drawn and kings were crowned, the Mughals came and built with marble, the British came and repainted it, my great-great-grandfather walked the 35 kilometres to a new town and planted a sapling, his children built their homes around it, and made the active, deliberate, conscious choice to stay with the tree through a partition and riots aplenty; generations flew by and I return to the same place growing closer and closer to the lowest branch every winter. I claim that tree and its roots and its earth and the country it is built upon.
That tree is more proof of my nationalism than any citizenship documents will ever be. The hateful can dig up as deep as they would like, break and burn down whatever they wish to, they’ll only find thick, winding, twisting roots of my heritage. It’s woven into the fabric of this nation’s earth. I am made of legacies.
In times where physical, tangible roots couldn’t be carried, my ancestors carried their experiences with them. We are not an unwanted burden on this country, we are the foundations of it. We have been a part of India even before India formally came into existence. Those buildings may be breakable, but these foundations are unshakable.
In a country so divided along saffron and green (it is now difficult to understand kaun sa rang zyada besharam hai?), it becomes hard to walk the white at times. Sometimes it runs red with bloodstained footsteps, other times it goes grey with the soot of damnable fires. Then the tears of solidarity and the sweat of patience washes it white again. I hope it never loses its brightness.
The pleasant, hopeful winds which carry flowers from the flag’s unfurling, breeze in through my open window; I have faith once again- this country will always be my home, just as firm and strong as this tree outside my window.