The story behind a single glass of water on my table. This story is dedicated to the students of my final year English, where I taught Robert Frost’s ‘Spring Pools.’
I sat under the shade of a tree.
I had been in tree shades before, but that was only to catch my breath after tedious hours of walk through the woods, skirt the sun, or perhaps to take a nap in the cool air. I never bothered to check which tree I sought shelter under, for I hardly knew anything beyond the ones most of you readers could also identify – jackfruit, coconut, pines, mango, banyan. For the one who snores like a hog after an arduous plod, does it really matter whose bed he had abandoned himself to?
But, once I became alive to the wonders around me, I hardly could sleep anymore. I began to lie there, peering at the crumb of sky I could catch through the canopy. I perked my ears up for the unheard blabber of an invisible river, flowing up from the emerald heart of the blue planet. What river am I speaking about? What river can stream up from a tree?
Put your ear on the bark of a tree. Can you hear anything? Hundreds of liters flow through the trunk of a single tree in the Amazon every day. The thirsty sky uses the wood like a straw, to sweep away our pools, rivers and water locked deep down in the soil. Now think a rainforest. You’ll see a mighty green river flowing skyward from the canopy; water raining up, gravity put in reverse gear.
Yesterday I was teaching my kids a poem written by Robert Frost – ‘Spring Pools’. Frost asks the flowering trees standing near a beautiful spring pool to stop, think twice before they do it dirty:
“The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.”
But the trees, for being trees, can only pass what they take. Up or down, the river must flow. Life must continue.
Our flowery pools, the brooks, and whatever liquid secrets locked deep under the soil with a password, all their resolutions break the moment the rough tip of a callous root, knocks at their watery doors. “It’s time to go!” And the journey begins upward. The river doesn’t stop rolling once it reaches the sky as mist, but it tumbles on far above us like a heavenly brook, until it takes pity at the prayers of a farmer in a distant village, condenses, rains down, pools up, only to be summoned by the trees once again, rains up, floats, rains down…the stream rolls on until the raincloud finds a physical challenge like our Vindhyas. A mountain river is born.
This is also the tale of a glass of drinking water, which I am going to sip now!
You must know that only 2.5% of the world’s water content is fresh and potable. A vast chunk of even that is locked in glaciers and ice caps. The water that found me in this glass that I hold, is taken from fresh water available in our rivers and streams, and alas, such sources of fresh water make up a meager 0.1% of all that liquid sloshing around in the world. Just 0.1%!
This water, let me look at it with all reverence, might’ve passed through the trunks of trees many times, floated as heavy clouds I might have seen, rained down, pooled deep in the woods for many years gathering dead flowers and leaves, not to say about the morning mist that hugs close to it, prodded and swept up by the roots once again, hit a mountain, tumbled down, flowed along the margins of a forest, evading the thirst of animals, small and big, evading them at that precise moment, when they paused, raised their heads, and cocked their ears to pick some movement in the bushes near, to reach me here in a glass I hold.
What journey it has taken to find me here, to quench my thirst? What could compensate for all that pain Nature takes for me!
I sit under the shade of a tree.