Of all the views that windows can provide, looking out into a leafy tree from a bedroom or a study window, is something to be grateful for. The dense foliage provides a curtain of green, shuts off the household on the opposite side of the street that you may have no desire to watch and provides a world of soothing green through which one glimpses the sky.
A flamboyant Silk Cotton tree grew in front of our house a few years ago. Every March having shed all its leaves earlier, it stretched out against the blue sky and exhibited its large deep orange flowers to the world. Each flower had its own little green holder and the display against the bare branches was like an enormous breathtaking ikebana. It attracted its share of birds and people, but one stormy summer, unable to compete with concretisation, it loosened its roots, gave up its will to live and leaned against the street's overhead wires, ready to leave.
Irate residents whose power supply was short circuited since the tree grew outside my house, rang our doorbell. Offering consolation as we mourned the loss of the tree, we contacted DESU and then diligently pleaded with the forest department to help us. DESU responded immediately and fixed the wires, but the tree teetered precariously. Many phone calls were followed up by escorting FD officials to the site for inspection. Eventually we received a sanction, authorizing us to cut down the tree. For a sum of money the tree was chopped down in a couple of hours and then carted away as well. The process took a week but at the end of it, the silk cotton was sorely missed by us and our neighbors, after the resumption of the electric supply restored their equanimity.
Maybe it was collective longing that allowed the seed of a mulberry to sprout and grow, but six months after, a mulberry bush, began growing a few yards away. The nursery rhyme that talks about people going around a mulberry bush, didn't encourage us to think of the young mulberry as having any tree potential. Yet in less than three years, it was a large tree, moving quickly from its slender bush like form to a stately height, well over thirteen feet with a canopy of leaves on the street.
I know of no paeans written to the Mulberry Tree. Even the nursery rhyme only suggests a nondescript bush in the landscape. The tree in lived experience, sets up a whole series of narratives. In early December it switches off its photosynthetic processes, so by the end of the month the tree is covered with yellow leaves that are sometimes the only source of colour during sun strapped Decembers at Delhi..
The leaves drop quickly off in January and the tree is bare for a few weeks before the stems quiver with bursting nodes and suddenly, magically almost overnight fresh little green leaves appear. While the leaves captivate with their new leaf green, the mulberry goes into bloom and soon thereafter little green fruit make an appearance all over the tree. This mulberry has purple berries and hordes of visitors, feathered and on foot, some with school satchels, others with carts and cycles stop by to partake of the abundant bounty. The ground outside is stained purple and so are the bird droppings all around the house.
Watching the rain pour itself out on the leaves is another activity that provides for hours of unending reflection. Today I was privy to yet another of the mulberry's secrets. A little bird around four inches in length with a long tail had been around awhile, but suddenly there seemed to be more of them. They darted about each morning, little enquiring long tailed bundles of yellowy green, and they seemed to take in all the details of the tree shaded potted sit out.
I was diverted by a movement in the tree and on close observation from an upstairs window saw that it came from the inside of what resembled a bunched up leaf cluster. This cunningly stitched nest that the greeny yellow birds had put together, high up in the tree which is now well over twenty feet, was quite difficult to spot. I have watched these birds before, soaking in the sunlit air before the onset of the evening. The mother and her four fledglings sat on one branch while the father perched guard over them on another overhead branch. I did not know then that these were tailor birds or that they stitched mulberry leaves to build their nest.