The Singed Mango Tree

Just a few days back, a man lit a fire in a vacant plot next to our house. Its flames singed my favourite mango tree. I love that tree; I had planted her 13 years back and she has been very generous. This season has not been good for her. She has a lot less fruit. But her bunches were just about beginning to look pretty, you could see them through the green leaves, when the fire was lit by this man who the owner had engaged to get the vacant land cleaned up of weeds and debris. It was a sad, mindless act. Completely unnecessary!

The Singed Mango Tree Then my mind went back to 2001, it was just after 9/11 had taken place.

Our venture-capitalist friend VG Siddhartha had dropped in with a very senior investment banker from Japan. The gentleman was quite worried about the future of the industry. He asked me, what did I think would happen? He really wanted to know. But here I was, just a start-up entrepreneur, how could I predict the fate of the world? It wasn’t that I wasn’t worried, but how much could I worry? We had people to pay, customers whose existing work needed to be completed and delivered and investors to be taken care of someday,even as all prospective business had come to halt. I listened to the man and then told him what came straight from my heart. I asked him, what would a farmer do if monsoon failed?

What would he do if everything went well but just a week before the harvest is to come home, a cyclone ravages his standing crop?

The man would simply watch the destruction, feel the pain, the hurt, feel the failure of his year of hard work in the face of a force with whom he has no personal enmity.

Then the man would just go home, wait for the next season and start all over again.

Farmers have known the drill for 3600 years now!

For an entrepreneur, the enterprise is a piece of land. One must relate to and respect it the same way a farmer relates to, and respects, his land.

I do not know if my explanation helped the investment banker, a man given to numbers, listening to trade analysts and constantly scrounging the computer screen until life and money become one and the same.

But my spontaneous explanation to him keeps coming back to me in many different ways every now and then.

A year or so after that conversation, I planted my first banana plant, lovingly carried from friend’s farm. Every few weeks, the little thing brought out a new leaf. Young banana leaves are very pretty; they have this lovely green that is uniquely their own. Every morning, I sat by Susmita’s kitchen window with my morning tea and watched the newest leaf unfold. It was a bond between me and the banana plant; as if it was proudly, lovingly, showing off how she was growing up. Like a child showing off the report card to a parent. It was a living report card

Then one day, when I returned home, I was devastated to see the lovely young plant shredded to the ground. What happened? A rogue monkey had come and torn the plant to the ground in a matter of minutes. Mindlessly, without any provocation.I felt very sad for the plant. The tree had no enmity with anyone, certainly not with the unreasonable animal that killed it. It had done no one any harm. That night, when I went to bed, in a somewhat selfish manner, I also felt sad for myself. But before falling asleep, a thought came to my mind: it was about the plight of thousands of farmers whose standing crop gets eaten by wild animals and sometimes, just gets ravaged. What they do, I wondered before falling asleep.

The interesting thing about setbacks is that sooner or later, most of us get over them. Until of course the next big one comes along and then we question the sanity of solace. This happened soon enough.In 2004 Susmita and I finally had our Bose music system. We had craved for it all our lives and finally it was there. We loved its reverberating sound, its clarity, its sheer magnificent rendering of every note and string that created orchestra effect in the house. Then one evening, the transformer next door exploded, sending 440 volts of angry spikes to every appliance at home and the innards of the music system just melted in their onslaught. It was very upsetting for us. Unlike the ignorant daily-wage worker who had singed the mango tree or the monkey, this was institutional failure of the electricity board. We felt angry and helpless and the whole thing was so avoidable and simply unjust.

That feeling paled into insignificance within weeks of the music system’s melt-down; the 2004 Tsunami hit India and without a moment’s notice, its fury wiped off 18000 human lives, mostly poor people who had no issues with the ocean and the earth and not content with the destruction of lives, the angry wavesdisplaced an additional 600,000 people from their hearth. And here I was, saddened by the negligent act of the electricity supply board that had destroyed my music system.

The New Year dawned just a week after the Tsunami. I was at my usual place in Susmita’s kitchen one early morning alternating between my cup of tea and the newspaper. Then I saw a miracle as my eyes had drifted momentarily from the newspaper.

A small offshoot was announcing its arrival where once the banana plant stood. Very delicate, very innocent, almost powerless in the face of a tremendous number of variables that even a Nobel Prize winning economist cannot predict. Nonetheless, it was there. It was there because it did not know the variables.

Thank you for reading my blog dear friends and do send your love to the singed mango tree.

Comments
Beena Says
Tuesday April 24th 2012

Sending lots of love to your singed mango tree. She will recover and hopefully bring many mangoes for your family, neighbours and friends!

Without impermanence, life is not possible.

    Qudsia Says
    Friday June 8th 2012

    When we look at the bigger picture in our lives, we see the littleness and insignificance of our once magnified emotions. Everything happens for a reason, and is inter-connected with the next event that will unfold in our lives. Take time to reflect.

    Isaac Says
    Sunday December 9th 2012

    When you love a man, he becomes more than a body. His pyahicsl limbs expand, and his outline recedes, vanishes. He is rich and sweet and right. He is part of the world, the atmosphere, the blue sky and the blue water. ~ Gwendolyn Brooks

Mohammed asif Says
Tuesday April 24th 2012

Congratulations on the Offshoots of Banana plant and the beautiful mango tree will definitely regenerate again, and offcourse I would like to have one mango from that tree…:-).

M.S.Sunil Says
Tuesday April 24th 2012

Dear Sir,
This is a very thought provoking article. Its such a coincidence that i received your blog on my mail box just after reading this article (http://www.dnaindia.com/bangalore/report_sugarcane-farmer-in-b-lore-kills-himself-after-failing-to-sell-crop_1679514) on a farmer who committed suicinde unable to sell his produce.

Vinay Mohanty Says
Tuesday April 24th 2012

You have a way with words :) Its nice to see you tell stories about life through very mundane everyday things.

regards
Vinay

Tuesday April 24th 2012

Thank you for such an inspiring blog post, sir. The write up instilled a positive thought , a ray of hope in me.

Wednesday April 25th 2012

Dear Gardener,
If I may say so, this is your finest post in years…I follow your books, interviews in Forbes and blogs religiously – have learnt many things that I practice in my life and reaping benefits from them.
Thank you. Keep writing and enlightening.
Regards,
Rishi Raj

Subroto Roy Says
Wednesday April 25th 2012

Dear Mr. Bagchi;
Wonderful!Reading this as many of your writings I felt someone has hurt my own child . You write your feelings really well
My hearfelt good wishes reach out to one of your many children- The Mango tree now. And I sincerely pray that the balm of my feelings create a soothing effect and it feels greatly relieved of the burn injuries inflicted out by some thoughtless creature.
Keep writing.

Akshataa Says
Wednesday April 25th 2012

Sir, Your writing is too good… This really comes from your heart and touches our hearts…

Thursday April 26th 2012

With loads of love for the signed Mango Tree :-)

Susmita Ganguli Says
Friday April 27th 2012

Dear Sir,

Thank you for this wonderful blog. I learnt a profound truth of life by reading this just when I was losing my focus and slipping into negativity. Thank you for bringing me back to track.

Best wishes for the mango tree. I sincerely believe that she would blossom once again.

Regards,
Susmita

shantha chellappa Says
Sunday April 29th 2012

Dear Subroto,

With god’s grace, your mango tree will bounce back to its original glory and you will enjoy the tree, sipping a cup of tea sitting at Susmita’s kitchen. We wish we could join you one day.

Shantha & Chellappa

Hema Subhash Says
Wednesday May 2nd 2012

This post beautifully captures a very important truth about life.

So many things are not in your control, but only hope and patience keeps us going.

Lots of love to your mango tree, I hope she is doing better.

Ankur Dhir Says
Thursday May 3rd 2012

Dear sir,

Aristole made a remark All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire.

It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.

In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. The young they keep out of mischief; to the old they are an aid and a comfort in their weakness, and those in the prime of life they incite to noble deeds.

You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour.

We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act but a habit. so true keep writing .
Ankur

Shantanu Says
Friday May 4th 2012

Sir,

It’s a wonderful revealation of your feeling.
Loads of love and wishes for the cute little mango tree. Also, it was a great inspiring comparison between the destruction of the Bose Music System and devastating Tsunami..

Sudha H K Says
Monday May 7th 2012

It is a very good example for HOPE is the essence of life without which we would not survive.

Sachin Kumar P Says
Thursday May 17th 2012

Hope all the readers will have the mangoes :-). Nice story

Krupa Srivastava Says
Tuesday May 22nd 2012

Hi Subroto,
I am in love with plants, and I can reciprocate how it feels when something like this happens. But it is not only the plant that has been talked about.
The whole concept of “Leaving your loss behind and moving ahead” as the key message is very thought provoking.
Regards.
Krupa

Asha Says
Thursday May 24th 2012

Beautifully written! And lots of love to the mango tree. Mother Nature’s gift to all her elements is the capacity to heal in a special way.

This season we expected a good harvest from our mango tree. As expected, the tree was covered with flowers. After a few weeks, the most unexpected happened – all the flowers fell, petal after petal. The tree couldn’t take the excess heat this season.

Well, we hardly have a handful mangoes this season, which will be a feast to the birds and small animals. It’s lovely to watch them enjoy the mangoes. :-)

Anupa Chakrabarti Says
Friday May 25th 2012

Dear Sir,
My husband presented the book “Go Kiss the World” to me on March 22, 2009 ,the day he left for Melbourne on an official tour.He died there in an accident on April 16. I still long to tell him how I have liked the book.
However, leaving the loss behind and moving ahead has not been very easy for me with two very young children and old parents and parents-in-law.

Regards,

Anupa

Rajani Says
Tuesday June 19th 2012

In few words simply explained how one should see at one’s life.

sushmita Says
Thursday June 28th 2012

Dear Mr Bagchi,
The singed mango tree is beautifully written piece. Absolutely love your ease in your style. I stay in Jamshedpur, with a number of fruit bearing trees in my garden…….so can connect to your love for your garden…and on the other side, I do write blogs on my learnings and experiences from life……..so I get the beautiful feel of the deeper thoughts expressed.
Would so love it, if you can find time to visit my blog , and give me your precious feedback!

Saturday July 7th 2012

Dear Mr. Bagchi,

The signed Mango Tree will bounce back and will be even more beautiful and Generous I assure you as evry challenging event in our lives always bring out the best in our making us more mature, humble and realistic…Its is only upto us , how we face the challanges and triumph over them….
My good wishes to the signed mango tree as well as the infant banana and with a Garderner like you they have all the hope, narture and care to bloom…..
God Bless

rajaram Says
Sunday September 16th 2012

sir, your writtings so heart touching…you are a great soul…GOD bless you regards

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