Guest post by Jyothi Jayaprakash
My parents JP and Prabha, married for love. Their relationship stood strong amidst loud protests from families. But mom and dad came through, unscathed and more deeply in love than ever before.
Right from our childhoods, my sister Jyothsna and I, have never witnessed a fight between our parents. I am sure they had fights, because otherwise, it would be just weird. I mean, which couple does not fight! But mom and dad did a great job of hiding their fights from us. We would only know that there was some trouble in paradise when there was a loud clang of vessels in the kitchen, or if dad was unnaturally silent for long hours. But after the storm in the teacup, there was the calm, and the affection for each other was always acknowledged. I remember one instance when I was asked by a friend in school,
“What issues do your parents fight about?”
I remember thinking very deeply and remarking,
“My parents don’t fight.”
My friend was wide eyed in surprise. She said,
This picture perfect romantic love story of my parents lasted almost my entire life. Until…..there came along an ant in their paradise, in the form of a fig tree!
Dad and mom are absolute nature lovers, as you will see when you visit us at home. Mom has a sprawling garden with all kinds of flowers, fruits and vegetables. And dad has a fascination for all things wild and wonderful. Mom’s dream is to have a well curated garden, and dad’s is to grow a jungle in the backyard. Do you see the problem yet? Read on.
One fine day, we visited a nearby nursery and bought a big bunch of tree saplings. There was avocado, almond, gooseberry, jamun, and…. a fig tree. We are a democratic household and everyone has a say in everything. After planting all the saplings, we pondered over the location of the fig tree. Dad suggested that we plant it at the edge of the lawn in the courtyard. I seconded it. Mom said, it might grow too big and engulf the whole lawn.Jyothsna stayed neutral. (Thinking about it in hindsight, smart move!)
So, the majority won, and we planted the fig tree ceremoniously at the edge of the lawn, with mom participating grudgingly.
Before long, the fig sapling grew into a beautiful tree. And it was a treat to the eyes for everyone who sat watching it from the veranda. There were all kinds of birds and squirrels happily making homes.
The leaves and branches fanned out in all directions and mom kept rolling her eyes way into her skull trying to get dad’s attention, until she could roll no more. Meanwhile dad, the all-knowing, cleverly dived deeper into the Economic and Political Weekly he was reading. Then, one fine day, like mom prophesied, the fig tree engulfed almost half of the lawn.
Mom had tried planting all sorts of roses, lilies, and zinias around the lawn. But alas! Underneath the shade of the fig tree, none survived! Season after season, mom tried desperately to see at least one bud on the rose bush, but soon, they all died without the sunshine that is so essential for roses. Occasionally, mom candidly suggests that planting the fig tree in the lawn was a bad idea, and that we should at least prune the tree so the rose bushes can survive. Sometimes this is met with, “Why do we grow roses under the fig tree?” Other times, it is, “Who? What?”
Some days, I walk into a silent veranda, with mom and dad sitting on their chairs, with a faraway look. I look at Jyothsna cautiously,
“Fig tree?” I mouth to her.
“Yes” She mouths back, nodding her head.
But a few hours later, everyone is back to laughing and giggling and discussing the weather, politics and literature. Meanwhile, life goes on as usual. The birds are making more homes, and the squirrels are scampering all over, enjoying the sumptuous figs that have recently sprouted along the branches of the tree. Tejas, Jyothsna’s daughter, has built a whole empire around it. Sometimes it is her pretend-house, and other times she ties a long rope on one of the branches and swings from it like a monkey.
Tejas and her fig tree swing!
As the tree continues to grow bigger, engulfing more and more of the lawn, the fig tree conundrum keeps cropping up occasionally, causing some hiccups in paradise, while giving us kids some comic relief! Meanwhile, at the edge of the lawn, the fig tree is the elephant in the room, or in this case, elephant in the lawn!