He stood under the tree, taking in a deep breath and feeling refreshed. The sun burned just beyond the canopy. He felt safe under the shade of the tree. When he was a few years younger, he would stick his tongue at the bright sunshine and heat that scorched the earth, feeling triumphant as he basked in the shade. From here, he could safely walk up to his house without meeting his enemy much – just glimpses here and there.
They looked harmless like the stars as they played through the gaps in the trees. He picked up berries and other fruits on the way. After sating his hunger, he stopped by the pond to drink water. Tempted, he removed his loin cloth and slipped into the cool water. Then, realising his wife would be waiting for him, he plucked some flowers on the way and handed them to her shyly.
When his children were born, they climbed the tree, plucked the fruits and the flowers, threw the seeds on the floor and watched the saplings grow. When their children were born, they would proudly say, “That tree came up when the seed I threw fell the farthest away.”
But the space was not enough. The population was growing and the food from the trees was too less. They cut some trees and grew only those that gave the fruits they could eat. They cut some more trees to make houses. Now, even if saplings grew from the seeds children threw, they were cut before they took root.
They did not notice that they had destroyed the food and homes of many animals, birds and bees.
As the village grew, so did the distance between families. They needed to travel longer distances to meet each other. They walked sometimes, but that meant too much time. So they learnt to make the cart that they could use. They cut some more trees to make the road and the cart.
They did not know that the trees were transit points for some of the animals, birds and the bees.
As they moved away from the core village for livelihood, many villages were set up far from the water body. People from there needed to walk till long distances to get water. They cut some more trees to make canals.
They did not notice that because there were less trees, there was less water and fish were dying. The life that depended on the fish was vanishing too.
They blamed the gods – or believed he was not there – because the rains had lessened and nothing would please Him enough to send rains. Their food plants were withering. So they had to find other ways of getting water and food. So they cut more trees and set up food and water factories. They needed to take this to the other villages and more carts were required. So they cut more trees to make more carts and bigger roads.
Now there are very few trees, very little water, and lots of mouths to feed.
“Let’s cut just one more tree. Let’s set up just one more factory. Let’s build just one more cart,” they said and cut the tree. The number of trees dwindled some more till there was but one. Now they want more carts, more factories, more people.
They looked at the lone tree, the last soldier, braving the sun and their gaze. It waved its branches to work up a breeze. It swayed, inviting them to take rest under its canopy.
It fell as the axe chopped its trunk.