Monday, March 21, 2011

Under the Green Wood Tree . . .

I have been watching television, I confess, when I should be doing worthier things, like grading or updating this blog! I apologize, but not too sincerely. You see, I have been watching a specific kind of television: the Indian channels, redolent with recognizable characters, lush landscapes, and colorful sets. But there is one other aspect of these serials that has me enthralled, their roots in folklore, tales and archetypes that one cannot dismiss as accidents flashing on peripheral vision.

I have found just the threads I've been looking for, to maybe embroider my stories with: vegetation. Like all other lore peculair to our species, Gujarati lore is rich with references to trees, flowers, creepers, grasses, leaves, twigs, bark, trunks, roots of trees. I find myself contemplating on those.

Street corners are defined by the all-too familiar Banyan, Peepul and Neem, with the coolest, kindest shades for the weary. Now close your eyes a bit, reader, to see the well in the shade, with its creaking pulley and fraying rope, fragrant with many tales; careful with those always-damp steps, though. No shaded well is complete without the serenly masticating bovine population, and the lazy buzz of meandering flies.

Now, reader, let your half-gaze wander up into the branches; that's where the stories live. Surely, it is the sigh of those dead lovers that moves the still afternoon air and worries those heart-shaped Peepul leaves, she the beloved daughter of the widow, he the traveling minstrel. That Neem bough is never still, as the spirit of the pot maker's youngest daughter-in-law laughs maliciously on it, and no wonder: her body was fished from the well's depths and no one quite knows what hour of the moonless night pounced on her. These aerial roots of Grandfather Banyan sway in memory of those childhood lovers, still alive, but flung afar from their monsoon swings, neither capable of contentment or joy anymore.

These are silent, arborial songs of the history of our collective experiences. It seems logical, then, that they should find their way into the stories we tell of who we are, what shades define and shelter us, what trees gave us dreams of far-off places.

So I shall explore some ways of weaving these elements into my stories.

After all, it is important to keep one's wells freshened with cool water, in case some way farer from a distant land may taste it and warble out a familiar, forgotten tune to stir lost hearts and spirits.