This place helped him cool off his anger, every time he had a fight with Kanta. He would barge out of the house at these impulses. These were regular scenes, and Kanta would eagerly wait for Mangal to come back home. He thought of one such fight he had years ago.
"How long before you switch off that television and finish your food?"
Kanta was eternally tired of running after Mangal for every little thing.
"Bastards, all of them!", Mangal yelled.
"Why can't they catch a ball falling at an arm's distance? These cricketers are way too complacent for the money they are paid"
Kanta sighed, looking at Mangal shift tensely on the cane chair, reacting to the Match India had just lost.
"Such an abysmal performance. Leeches!", he frowned.
"Eat your food, so that I can wrap up before the maid comes", Kanta called out one more time.
Mangal took to his cane and hit angrily on the floor. "Coming!! Didn't I say!"
At 80, his voice quivered. His anger, not so much.
Kanta stayed mum, knowing this will take a while to settle down.
Babbling incoherently, Mangal inhaled heavily and began to sit for his meal.
“Finish this fast, the maid will come anytime”, Kanta reiterated, exasperatingly.
He slid the plate away from the table, “Let her come”, he said and furiously walked away, his cane tapping the floor.
Sitting at his favorite place, Mangal, looked up, at the intricate designs of the tree, and wondered, how beautifully the sunshine seeped through the gaps and distributed its chunk into beautiful rays. Today was not one of those days, though. Monsoons had rendered the city devoid of sunshine for over a month. Mangal detested overdone things. Seasons, too, sometimes, when they stayed superfluously.
Brooding over what’s what and why was not his nature. Mangal would sit under the tree and observe things around him. He would add the numbers on the number plates of the vehicles parked or going past him. He would sniff tobacco every now and then, and, do nothing.
It was hard to know what went on in his mind. He kept looking up, at the tree, wondering why he did not observe it this closely before. It was like an unfathomable maze. He picked up one branch and started tracing it from the trunk to its end. But he lost it every time. He failed to figure out which branch went where.
After minutes of staring at the tree, he groggily stretched his neck and looked down. He felt the pull in shoulders and spine. He drew his attention to the trunk of the tree, and saw how beautifully it held all the origins of the branches.
He imagined Kanta.
He realized, he had not acknowledged how dependent he was on her.
“Mangali Uncle…Can I drop you home? Aunty must me waiting.”, said a kind passerby, interrupting Mangal’s business.
It had just been 1 day, and he had to start informing everyone about her death. Perhaps there were many who did not know.
“Sure. Thank you”, Mangal said.
He turned back and took an earnest look at the tree one more time. He tapped it as if it was a reassurance that he was giving to someone who sought it from him.
“Let’s go”, he said and started walking towards the car.
“How long does it take for a tree to grow, if I plant it now”, Mangal asked the young man who had offered him a lift…