It was an usual morning for Bira the same road along the muddy path. The same grumpy faces on his way to his work, the same smell of cow dung he was familiar since his childhood. He took the cane stick in his right hand swirled it like a sword and gently hushed the cows in front of him guiding them towards the grazing area.

Life of a cow herder in a tiny village with hardly 200 population is not very exciting every day. But that particular day way different, everyone in the small village were chirping.  An unusual buzz had engulfed the village. Bira was a forced introvert as being extrovert was a luxury he couldn’t afford, of course he belonged to an inferior communitys so he had mastered the art of silence.

He hushed the cows again and continued his journey silently. They climbed the raised mound on the edge of the village. That is exactly where he would rest everyday under his most beloved place. Bira was an introvert in the village but under the shadow of his childhood friend he could express himself. His friend was a 150 year old banyan tree, a place where he had spent most of his life. Bira had given a name to this place, he called it ‘Heaven’.

It all started during his childhood days when Bira’s father used to thrash him for being a very naughty kid. Bira would run away from his home and come to his ‘Heaven’, climb the humongous tree and hide in one of its branches. He would play the whole day on the tree and hide his treasuries in the hollows of ‘Heaven’. He smiled thinking about the first time he had found a blue coloured stone which he had kept inside the tree.  Not one but many such short memories which made this place his favourite. Once a wild monkey had chased him on the tree and he had fallen down breaking his leg, Bira’s father had thrashed him for not being careful. But the rest of the animals and birds on that tree knew him very well they had seen him for years and were used to Bira’s presence.

He gazed towards the green pastures thinking of all the good things in his life, he saw the cows with their head down and savouring the green delicacies. Hours went by in the same place and it was time to go. Bira hooted to all the cows and they knew it was time for them to head for home.

The cow dust had filled the air and when it cleared Bira saw a gathering around the ‘ONLY’ well of the village. Everyone was murmuring, and there was a sense of excitement in everyone’s voice. When he crossed the path,  Madhav bania shouted ‘Hey Bira did you hear ‘? No replied Bira what happened? Our village has been selected as a part of a special campaign and the local committee has been informed that a concrete road will be built to connect the national highway to our village.

Indeed it was a great news, however for Bira it would not change anything, he will still be the cow herder and will still have to fight for his daily meal. Bira smiled and continued the rest of his journey towards his home, on the way back handing over the cows to their respective owners.

Next morning Bira as usual went to his ‘Heaven’ , however he was dumbfounded when he saw what had happened ! His ‘Heaven’ was lying flat on the mound and 10 people standing on top of ‘Heaven’s’ dead body’ were assessing how to remove it from the place. The strangers had cut down the tree, he could see hundreds of birds circling on top of his beloved tree and could easily hear the pain in their chirps.

He rushed to the strangers and with all the courage he could muster uttered ‘why did you cut the tree’? Haven’t you heard a road will be built through here to connect to your village? Bira was in a state of shock he didn’t know what to do and whom to complain. All he could think was the road had changed everything.

He again asked in a troublesome voice; but why did you cut the tree?

Don’t worry! A Gentleman’s voice from Bira’s behind mentioned ‘we will be planting 1000 saplings to ensure that the environment is saved’.

Bira walked away slowly from his heaven which in a day had become a graveyard. He thought ‘how the environment can be saved as he and hundreds of families had lost their home’ ?

He was no environmentalist but a person who had lost his home.

 

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