Under the Elm Tree
Many years ago, there was a popular comic character by the name of Mandrake. He had a beautiful, magical house called Xanadu. Anyone who grew up reading Indrajal comics certainly hoped and wished to live in a house like that. Second Chance House is situated on a cliff top which is an almost perfect circle. The genius who planned the house planted around it some trees which were to act as windbreakers to protect the house.
These are the majestic Chinese Elm Trees. Standing as sentinels, against the harsh winds, rowdy intruders and indeed time itself, the trees have done their duty well. Over 200 years old, the trees have seen many people come and go. They have seen Selim Hill Tea Estate when it was just planted, they saw it prosper and flourish and then the decline.
Amongst them all, there is one that is a favourite of the family. It seems to have walked out of a fairy tale. The girth of the tree trunk would need at least 5 people to play ring-a-roses around it. The leaf structure allows the sky to peep in and out as if you are viewing something through a veil. Gnobbly and gnarly, it has moss and lichen all over it. There is a nook perfect for a cushion and a good book. A deep pocket like hole in its trunk seems to hold so many secrets. Its huge canopy houses our dining table.
Never in my life could I have imagined such mealtimes with friends and family. As we sit and chat about deep philosophies and shallow gossip, the tree absorbs it all. Often, we are distracted by a grasshopper that joins our laughter, or unknown, colourful, beautiful insects that hop in and out of the discussion. The tree participates with some leafy comments and fruitful ideas in the form of small berries. The birds on its branches put in their two-cent advice too. It seems to be our very own Faraway Tree (A book by Enid Blyton).
Sitting under the Elm tree, you can see the rolling hills all around you. Sun and shade dappled, the colour green becomes more like poetry. If you are lucky, you may even see the elusive Kanchenjunga. As the clock strikes the hour, you will hear the toy train whistle. All conversation stops as you see it laboriously chug up the Hill cart road. The moody sky keeps changing her colours and apparel, never quite satisfied with how she looks.
The table laden with nourishing, wholesome food, people with joy and laughter, nature in all its bounty, I heave a sigh of sheer contentment – there is nothing more that I can wish for. As the wind blows, I can almost hear the dutybound sentinels whisper to all of Selim Hill – “I have heard their conversations….and they just may succeed and Selim Hill will prosper again.”
I lift my cup of Dorje Second Flush and say, ‘Cheers’ to that!
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