Thenmavu : The Honey Mango Tree
‘ What you have heard is all nonsense. I adore no tree; neither do I worship nature. But I have a special affinity for this mango tree. My wife Asma has it too. This tree is a token of an exceptionally great endeavour. I shall elaborate..’
We were seated beneath that mango tree. It was resplendent with mangoes. There was white sand spread out in a big circle all around it. Roses of various hues were planted on the outlying fringes, protected by stone and cement sentinels.
His name was Rashid. He lived with his wife and son in the house nearby. The couple were teachers in the neighbourhood school. His wife sent over mango pieces- peeled and cut exquisitely- on a plate carried by their teenage son. We relished the fare : it was sweet as honey.
‘How does the mango taste?’
‘ The tree is undoubtedly Thenmavu!’
‘ That we are able to savour this mango fruit… I am awed when I reflect on it!’
‘Who planted this mango tree?’
‘ Asma and I, we planted it at this place. I shall narrate the story of this tree. I have told it to many. But they forgot the incident, and propagated it as tree worship! There is no worship involved, just the memory of a great deed.
My younger brother is a Police Inspector. He was working in a town almost seventy five miles away from this place. I had gone to visit him. I was out strolling one day. It was the peak of summer. Even the wind that blew was hot.There was a scarcity of water at that time. It was then that I saw an old man, lying exhausted, underneath a tree, on a by-road.
He had overgrown hair and beard, and seemed around eighty years of age. He was extremely fatigued and was on the verge of death.
As soon as he saw me, he said, ‘ Alhamdulillah! Son, please give me some water.’
(*Alhamdulillah: Praise be to Allah!)
I immediately stepped into a near by house and seeing a woman reading a newspaper, requested her for some water. The beautiful woman got some water in a brass tumbler. Seeing me walk away with it, she enquired about my destination. I told her that someone had fallen by the way side, and I was taking the water for quenching his thirst. She accompanied me. I gave the water to the old man.
The old man got up slowly. Then he did something astounding! He staggered to a dry mango sapling- drooping in the heat-on the road side, and reciting Bismi, poured half of the water from the vessel over it.
( *Bismi: Bismillah or Basmala means ‘ In the name of God’. Usually invoked before any action soliciting the Lord’s grace)
Someone had eaten a mango and thrown away the seed carelessly on that roadside. The sapling had emerged. Most of the root was visible above the ground. The old man dragged himself back to the tree shade. He recited Bismi and drank the rest of the water. He praised the Lord again : ‘Alhamdulillah.’
Then he said: ‘ My name is Yusuf Siddique. I am more than eighty years old. I have no relative. I was wandering the world as a fakir. I am going to die. What are your names?’
I replied, ‘My name is Rashid. I am a school teacher.’ The woman said,’ I am Asma. I am a school teacher.’
‘May Allah bless us all,’ said the old man and he lay down on the ground. Yusuf Siddique died in front of our eyes. Asma stood guard while I fetched my brother. We hired a van to carry the dead body to the mosque. After bathing the corpse, we enshrouded it with a new cloth and conducted the burial as per norm.
There was six rupees in the old man’s bag. Asma and I pitched in with another five each. Asma was entrusted with the task of purchasing sweets for all that money and distributing those among the school children.
In the course of time, I married Asma. She kept watering the plant. Before we shifted our residence to this house, we uprooted the mango plant carefully and shifted it into a mud filled sack. For two or three days it stayed like that- leaning against the wall- in Asma’s bed room. Then we brought it here and transplanted it; adding dry cow dung and ashes. On regular watering, it sprouted new leaves ; then we added bone meal and green compost. Thus the mango sapling turned into this tree.’
‘Absolutely marvellous! The old man, before dying , gave water to a mango sapling which could not voice its thirst! I shall remember that.’
I had just said good bye and started walking, when I was hailed from behind. I turned to look.
Rashid’s son was approaching me. He wrapped four ripe mangoes on a paper and offered it to me.
‘For your wife and children.’
‘ Are you a student?’
‘ Yes, in a college.’
‘ What is your name?’
‘ Yusuf Siddique.’
‘ Yusuf Siddique?’
‘Yes, Yusuf Siddique.’