I saw you last week. Or, rather I saw the top of your hat. You walked past me without saying so much as “hello” to me. Was I surprised? No. Was I offended? Well, may be a little bit, deep down. No, I shouldn’t say I was offended. You see, when you expect someone to behave in a certain way and your assumptions turn out to be correct, you do not generally take any offence, however insulting one’s behaviour turns out to be. But you do not become overjoyed either, because you have been proved right. It is a strange kind of feeling. It accepts the fact, but continues to be sad nonetheless. It is a strange kind of pain too. It does not make you mad with anger. You do not seek revenge, because the object of it is too dear to you anyway. But this negligence gnaws at your heart nonetheless. In accepting the fact it feels defeated and yearns to cry out in desperation.
When you appeared out of that grove this morning I could not help feeling how handsome you looked. You were surrounded by your friends. You may have failed to recognise me, but I have seen you growing up since a small boy. You often used to come here with Mr & Mrs ___ . You see, my relationship with you runs longer and deeper than you would care to admit, now that you have become such a big and successful person. But, blame it on my age, memories decades older than now seems to be so fresh to me. And, the past hour? I have forgotten already.
I vividly remember the days when you used to come here to gather flowers, chase that hapless butterfly or simply sit here awhile under the shade. To me it seems to be still only yesterday. In fact, I will let you out a little secret. Mr ___ too acted much the same way as you did when he was a child, though he did not admit it to you later on.
Then when you were a little older you managed to escape your nurse’s sleepy eyes to come to sit here. We talked and talked and talked. Or should I say, you talked and I used to listen. If I have ever intervened, you hardly used to take a notice of that. You used to tell me every story Miss ___ has read out to you on the day and weeks before. You used to narrate in minute detail what happened at home since the morning, why you are angry with your dad and mom and how you ran away without taking your breakfast. I remember once you revealed your mischievous idea of frightening little ___ by hiding a toad in her lunch box. You made me swear before revealing your plans of cheating at your homework to me. We had a long discussion on that and in the end you gave in to your conscience. But you did bind me in an oath nonetheless, so that I would not let this out to anyone. I never did because I knew we were friends for life. And, I never will because nothing will alter this truth for me, not even your perceived ignorance of the time gone by.
I could not help but see you talking with Mr Palmer the other day. I came to know about your plans of clearing this area up for a new guest house. Perhaps, you have big plans for your new found friends some of whom seem to be considering this house their own residence! Of course, it is your land and you will use it the way you please. I am counting my final few days on earth anyhow. You know, I have stopped giving those beautiful blossoms for years now. You mentioned that during your discussion with Mr Palmer.
I was caught in a reverie thinking of how you so loved collecting the scattered petals of those pink flowers. You used to heave them on little ____’s head. You two were such cherubs. All my neighbours here, including me, used to see your performances with such delight. You two hardly used to be conscious of that. Such is the beauty of childhood. It accepts life unconditionally. For children the whole world is nothing but a plaything. That is why so easily could we bind ourselves in sacred threads of friendship. That is why you never failed to understand my language. My silence never offended you. We became so close to each other that only best pals could possibly be. We knew how to be happy in each other’s joy. We knew how to keep each other’s most intimate secrets safely locked in the inner most chambers of our hearts.
Thirty years on, you became skilled in many languages, you accomplished many things to be a proud member of your family, you also gained worldly possessions. But the one language closest to your heart became lost irretrievably. My words became foreign to you, my feelings unintelligible. You no longer run towards me or any of my neighbours to embrace us with your big hands as you once were so much in a habit of doing. You have become too grown up for that. Perhaps you will say, “Like every child I was a tad foolish.” I beg to differ, my friend. You have become stupid now.
I will not stand in your way for very many days now. If not by Mr Palmer’s ingenuous machines, I will succumb to Mother Nature’s ways. So, will be the fate of many standing here alongside me today. Together, we carry the history of this land that is worth hundreds of years. Perhaps, that is not worthy enough for you as an individual, but it is priceless for “you” collectively. And what will be your loss? You, my dear friend? Your loss will be dearer than the bittersweet nostalgia of an old friend who once used to cover this land with the torn petals of blushing pink blossoms.