23 January, 2009
The Giving Tree...
A very interesting short yarn was narrated to me recently by a dear friend of mine...It is a simple anecdote and under ordinary circumstances, I would have brushed past it without so much as a second glance or a even the bare effort to try and scrape off from the surface. But for the fact that I am completely in awe of the wit and profundity of this friend, I read it again to reach to its right magnitude and surely there was food for thought. This is how the narrative goes:
The story is a short moral tale “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. It’s about a relationship between a young boy and a tree in a forest. The tree and the boy become best friends. The tree always provides the boy with what he wants: branches to swing from, shade to sit under, apples to snack on, and branches again to build a house with. As the boy grows older and older he requires more and more of the tree. The tree loves the boy very much and gives him anything he asks for. In the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, the tree lets the boy cut her down so the boy can build a boat in which he can sail. The boy leaves the tree, now a stump. Many years later, the boy, now an old man, returns and the tree says, "I have nothing left to give you”. The boy replies that all he needs is a quiet place to sit and rest. The tree happily obliges.
This is by far the most basic of tales I have ever heard which could hold well the grains of eternal truth in its amazing simplicity. My friend knew I would be rubbing my hands in glee on getting a new subject for the blog. He said I could argue from the boy’s side or argue from the tree’s side like any woman or mum would do. I could argue from neither side and say both are dumb or argue from sides and say exploit, exploit, exploit...love, love, love....
So many new dimensions you gave me and like you knew I would...I did delve deeper.
The roles do represent a man and woman...however in the present context and scenario the roles keep interchanging. To say that the man is out there to exploit alone would be as wrong to say as if the fire only knows how to burn...hmmm...bad metaphor...but then fire not just takes...it also provides. In all fairness to the boy or man....when he demanded favours from the tree...he also provided her the joy of giving. This concept again was explained by my friend....like a son-in-law feels embarrassed to accept gifts ever so often from his wife’s father. Based on modern and changing perceptions, he feels it is demeaning for both concerned...a redundant formality, where expressions of the heart need not translate into expressions of materials. However, he gradually perceived the joy on his father-in-law’s countenance while in this act of giving. He connects to the pure gratification experienced by him for being able to do something...whatever big or small to express his appreciation.
Thank you my friend for sharing this beautiful concept with me...only you could have seen beauty in something so mundane.
So there it is...while the boy continues to derive material gains, the tree continues to beam within, for being able to do something for the one she loves. It is an un-named, eccentric parameter of give-and-take that is difficult to fathom, analyse or meditate on. Had the boy not been there...what worth would have been of the tree’s beneficent branches, the ripe fruits or the benevolent shade? Their destinies brought them to each other and marked an exchange system that suited them and their sensibilities perfectly.
Try as I want to...I cannot pick out the boy’s fault here...metaphorically speaking...he did what anyone in his position would have done. Don’t we all at certain levels, irrespective of our sexes, are exploitative of things and situations around, to redeem them to our advantage? And as is most true in case of love...I heard it somewhere...if you truly love somebody, just set him free... if he comes back, he is yours...if he doesn’t...he never was!
Ah! So women...mothers, wives should continue to pine and wait...continue to keep on giving, with no sense of their self respect being offended, as the man in question just walks all over them? There as I said...thankfully in our present day scenario most of the time there are role reversals for the same. We cannot in absolute surety point out which is the tree and which the man or how long they shall remain in that status. It’s just as difficult and disconcerting in being constantly at the receiving end as is on the giving side. Change is the only thing constant. The equilibrium hence reaches a balance...just bending on one side could have got it toppled. The tree has realized to hold back her fruit till the boy appreciates its worth...to seek recourse in autumn that takes its leaves away, as an excuse to ask the boy to water it more and with care. The boy may go...but has to return to its roots...the tree may have to wait but must do so by extending and showering its splendour on other things around.
So my dear friend...I don’t know how much justice I did to the thought you provided me with such magnanimity of your trust. Maybe I succeeded in diving deeper...maybe I just drowned in my own interpretations. But here’s hoping the giving tree continues to give and we like the boy, continue to take in, with all our responsibility and with all our abilities and strengths.