Way back in the seventies, when we bought a piece of land and began to construct a house, I was promised that I would be able to set up a 22 yard cricket pitch in the empty space within the compound. Though friends and cousins were envious; we made elaborate plans about the matches that we were supposed to play. But soon, when five to six coconut trees occupied the empty space I was aghast! It was a promise broken and a loss of face with my friends.
Today the trees have grown tall; two of them bend towards the neighboring compound. There were complaints that things falling from these trees broke tiles and woke people at night. When I came home, the neighboring lady first enquired about everyone's general health condition and then gently asked me to arrange for a person who could climb the two errant trees, tie metal wires around them, pull them to our side and tie them to another coconut tree. I was again reminded of the broken tiles; and was offered some leftover metal wires that the neighbors themselves had used to tie their own naughty trees.
These days it is difficult to get men who climb trees, exclaimed the friendly Shekara. A few days later a person whom I thought had seen before, mentioned Shekara's name and offered to do the job. He looked at the trees, made mental calculations, pointed out at directions, took a loan of of hundred rupees, promised to return the next day and never came back. It became THE news of the neighborhood. The guy from Bombay was duped of hundred rupees. Shekara too chided me; took responsibility and fixed a date where he could directly supervise the operation.
But the coconut trees would have to wait, for on the D-Day two of my family members had a tryst with a hospital. Gentle general health enquiries of the neighbors soon turned into critical health queries. The coconut tree operation was postponed. The trees can wait, health is important; exclaimed Shekara again. I apologised to the neighbors for the delay. They said, they understood.
The tryst with the hospital ended, but one family member, my mother, had a tryst with her destiny - ambulance, frantic doctors, tense phone calls and a heart beat that stopped. And then the usual stuff - mortuary, cremation, emotions, condolences, glum faces etc. In between I made a feeble attempt to re-arrange the coconut tree operation, but was vetoed by Shekara. Let the last rites get over. If in the process a few more tiles get broken, so be it. The lady of the house upon which the errant trees had leaned had tears in her eyes. She said that my mother was like a mother to her. Well, her son was of my age, she had a couple of school going grand children and it was she who first complaint about the trees. To 'be' with her, I had to drop a few tears myself.
And then this morning, another man whom I vaguely remember, knocked at my door, uttered Shekara's name and offered to rein in the wayward coconut trees for eight hundred rupees. Not to be undone, I called up Shekara. In came Shekara on his bicycle. Eight hundred for two trees is good enough. We should fix him before he slips away. Remember, these days it is difficult to get men who could climb coconut trees and do work for you. Buy nine kilograms of 8 mm metal wire, we will do it in the afternoon. In the forenoon my niece is getting engaged and I would be busy, exclaimed Shekara yet again.
I hired an auto roamed around the hardware shops only to find out that none of them had 8mm metal wires. How tall is the tree? Is it slanting too much? Is the tree worker waiting? Maybe try that shop... and why do you want 8mm? It breaks. Everyone uses 6mm. It is stronger, thicker and sturdier. Well if they say 6mm is thicker than 8mm, it better be. Remember, I am not an agriculturist. And here am I sitting in front of fifty grams less than nine kilograms of sturdy but difficult to tie 6mm metal wire waiting for Shekara and the coconut tree climber to arrive. It is coffee time, its pouring cats and dogs, the trees would be too slippery to climb by now and I bet directing a film would have been easier.