The story begins on a cold, pale winter morning somewhere in northern India. It starts as a simple tale and then like all good stories grows up to become a fantastical allegory. Something you heard on your grandmother’s lap or in my case something that my youngest niece told me one hot, intense summer afternoon when she was 4 years old. It is not so much about where you heard the story but how and what about it you remember. And most importantly why it comes back from the unfathomable chambers of forgetfulness.
I see the reticent peacock, the benevolent fig tree and one defiant monkey and something like a story stirs in me. I say, but the story wasn’t about peacocks, or monkeys, or fig trees. And then the story in its entirety comes rushing back to me.
That is another magical thing about stories.
Postscript: The peacock in the first picture is a regular visitor to the rooftops where people leave it offerings of food grains. In part due to their religious beliefs and in part due to the peacock's beauty. But the same people think nothing of dumping their daily garbage in the small wild patch that the peacock calls his home.
The tree in the second picture is the Ficus benghalensis or Indian Fig or banyan tree, known as bargad (in Hindi), our national tree, destined to be chopped down in the not so distant future. For some human has claimed the spot where it grew for years as the site for his house. Not a word is mentioned about the countless species that will lose their home.
The monkey in the third picture was a lone male, most likely shunned by the monkey troop, and in desperate search for food. It eyed the vegetable grocers cart with little success and settled for a meal of stolen roti and banyan leaves. The monkey too is revered in India but human's endless need for "space" is testing the limits of reverence.
This leads us to the reawakening of some other story, whether well-remembered or intentionally forgotten.