While staring at orange tikkas, oil-wet and filled with spiced yogurt (those delicious things shimmered under the hot sun) – my eyes shifted from the grill to a shade just a few feet away – Zorro was obviously basking in all the cool-ness that surrounded him. Little patterns of disturbed light danced as maple leaves above swayed with the slight wind.
I asked (the obvious, considering my recent obsession with everything green) “So how long have these two trees been here?”, referring to the two grown-up maple trees that dotted the two corners of the Khan garden.
Arif bhai answered with a smile on his face “Longer than we’ve been here – you know this is why we bought this house”. You could tell that one was talking to a man who loved and appreciated trees for all their goodness. In his quintessential Arif bhai way, he paused (perhaps thinking of some far away story from a less hurried time, or a poem drenched in longing for the beloved, a ghazal to sing or some wise advice) and narrated the following:
“You know, this is some old story, I don’t remember which Mughal emperor, I seem to have forgotten his name, his servants came running to him, informing him that some palace had been burnt down. The emper
or was worried and inquired “Jungle bhi jal gaya kiya?” (Did the jungle get burnt aswell?). The servants answered ‘Nahin, sirf makan jal gaya’ (No, only the house burnt down). The emperor sighed – “Phir kiya, makan to atay jatay hain, jungle/bagh thori aisay bun jatay hain – un ko zamana lagta hai” (So what. Houses come and go, jungles and gardens don’t get built like that. It takes them ages).
The above story is an Arif Khan abridged version and might contain some severe distortions. But one important message looms throughout – That gardens must be taken seriously. That
“A garden in which one may enter in …and forget the whole world, cannot be made in one week, nor a month, nor a year. It must be planned for, waited for and loved into being” – Chinese proverb.
That gardens are special places for our mind and bodies. A garden is where nature serves as the backdrop to our actions. It becomes a place for our stories, our dreams and hopes – and hopefully in the case of the Abruzzi school garden it will become a special place for the young of Shigar where song, learning and conversations will echo through the leaves and remain forever and ever.