Writing prompt: VICTORIOUS
Genre: Fiction. ( I have added links to unfamiliar ‘Indian’ words. )
The Pipal tree of her childhood stood right where it always had on summer afternoons, when its dry, heart-shaped leaves flapped in the heat and fluttered down, their stalks slender and firm even in death, smelling of the earth and wood.
She dipped them in inks and paints, red and green and blue, and made paper hearts. She left them in books, on her father’s study table, pasted them on the walls of her courtyard, the dead leaves brought to life.
For years after they hacked down the Pipal and placed a tall government building of dark windows and gray walls in its stead, the leaves came to her on moonlit nights, clapping against each other in her dreams.
They fell in whispers on the neighborhood lane where once she climbed trees, scraped her knee playing hide-and-seek, chased after boys and marbles in the red dust, soaked the earth in ochre and cerulean on Holi, helped her pig-tailed friend draw explosions of colored Rangoli each Diwali on pale circles of smeared cow-dung that smelled like swampy mud when wet, and like hay when it dried.
They called to her and spoke to her of withered roots, of a trunk gone mad with grief, of homeless leaves looking for little girls to rescue them. She did not know they spoke of themselves.
When she reached an age when the call of the roots is the strongest, she gave in to the Pipal leaves in her dreams, and sought out that lane.
I’ll go home one last time, she said, I will go look at my old Pipal tree.
But she never made it back home. The country of her birth did not let her in. She was a Pakistani now, and Pakis are not welcome in India.
She asked her grandson to find pictures of her old neighborhood on the internet, but he found none. No one told her of the cold, ugly building that stood in its stead.
So the tree remained where it had always been, in its victory over time and place, its roots like matted hair slow-moving in the breeze, its gray bark pitted, but strong on its immense, tangled trunk.
Its new-born red leaves welcomed spring, its purple figs fed mynas in the month of May. Its dried-heart leaves found their way to her, and there they remained.