The Big Old Tree

The big old tree seems to be the most prominent thing I remember, from our first day of revisiting the Shikshangram Shelter for Homeless children, as a newly formed group of five. We asked the children to show us five of their favorite places within the school compound, they quickly led me to the presence of a big old tree. At the bottom, they asked if I can pull down a strand leaves hanging just above my head, I did as I was told. Then taking the leaves from my hand, they began chewing it and signaled me to do the same, I did as I was told. The leaves had a fruity sour taste, a little bit like grape skin. I was still trying to capture the memory of having eaten a strand of leaves off the tree. Yet another “wild” experience was handed over to me, a handful of berry like fruits, that were wrapped in milky white sap. These ones tasted sugary sweet, like honey. Soon, the lunch bell rang, everyone start making their way back to the main building. I looked back, and thought I saw what the children see, a shelter from the burning sun; a playground of monkey bars, watch tower and a secret hide out; an all-you-can eat fruit and snack platter; and a tree. I was both fascinated and amazed by the way they had loved a tree and the way a tree has loved them.