East announced arrival of the new day. In the orange twilight jungle had reappeared from marsh of the dark. The rising sun soon bathed the treetops. Through the slanted beams of the sunrays Adam paved his way through the dense wood. Wild animals had disappeared in the caves on the wake of the morning. Birds were chirping while perching from one to other branch scratching and stirring the profound peace of morning. Adam nibbled his way holding axe over his shoulders, silently watching the nature around him in awe.
This was his routine. Till evening he would cut and gather dry firewood to carry the heap to the colony of the white people. In the corner of the colony, like an outcaste black man, was located a depot hidden in the woods where he would sale his daily merchandise. He would not squint elsewhere on his daily detour, even to appreciate the beautiful ladies on the evening stroll. He never did understand the meaning of the world he lived in for it was so beyond his comprehension. And it didn’t matter to him, anyway.
His mind would be hectic with the thoughts on his way back as to how many pennies he’d earned that day and what provisions he could buy to support his tiny family. Sometimes he would be able to buy black bread, beans, grams and salt. Most of the times he would have to shortlist his needs depending on his earning. When the light of the day would start blending with approaching dark, he’d pull his tired legs towards his hut.
His cottage was situated amidst jungle beside a shallow pond. With his witless wife he was living in that solitary place for years. People in the village had now forgotten even to tease him for his mindless decision to dwell in forest. Neither even Adam did know why he wasn’t living in the ghetto with his fellow people or his estranged relations. But the moment he would enter the thick forest on his way back, all his tiredness would evaporate to make him feel euphoric in its presence. Flutter of the wings behind the dark branches and roaring of animal in deep ravines and rows of jumping and croaking frogs would make him feel at home. In fact nature did rule his moods.
When rains would fall heavily with the rocking storms, he would abandon his work and sitting on the rock would watch the nature with immense curiosity. His strong black body, able enough to sustain attacks of the heavy downpour and biting cold, would feel thrilled over the outrage of the nature. He was so strong that he can’t remember when last he had fallen sick.
When a young boy and in the ghetto, in the chilling evenings, his Grandpa would tell him the stories of his youth over the drinks sitting beside the fire. His sunken sad eyes would glitter in the fleeting satisfaction, as he would tell the tales of his chasing the lion or dove in the woods under moonlit sky. And about his spending nights in the dangerous caves when all of sudden the heavy rain would pour. He would describe the fear, in a manner that Adam would feel it was he, instead, who had spent such exciting nights in the forests.
His grandpa would also tell the tales of the flooded Copper-color River and of the funny demeanor of the bears and monkeys when caught in the strange situations. He had told him how white people would be intrigued when on hunting mission, who knew not the habits of the animals and art to kill them. Adam would listen to these stories holding his breath dreaming every moment of the images of the jungles in the presence of all wildernesses.
As he grew younger, he gradually became speechless. No one ever witnessed him even laughing or talking his heart. Anybody else would have concluded that he was a dumb. The school, a mercy taken by whites on the blacks, he had attended for some time, treated him as if he was witless for he had shown no interest in learning. Script didn’t mean to him anything or the gospels those were forced on him to recite. Instead of that gurgling naïve language he had started to love his own tongue that was straight like a sword and sweet like a watermelon. If some black started talking to him in English he would act as if he was a deaf. Why one needed to talk in the tongue of oppressors? He would feel sad while thinking of it. But he wouldn’t register even his protests. He wouldn’t get angry. In no way he was a revolutionary. Nor he was a thinker. But he was an observant young man.
He knew many a stories of brutal injustice that was exacted on black people by the whites. He had witnessed many suffer only because they were blacks. This land in no way belonged to the whites, how could it when whites were outsiders? His own forefathers had ruled this land for centuries, he knew it for sure. The whites had landed there like a curse. They had enslaved blacks using their art of deception and then firearms. Though the days of slavery were over after many reforms introduced by cunning whites, yet blacks were black and had to live their life in ghettos. One still could see the scars of old brutalities on the bodies of the olden ones. It was as if allowing freedom after extracting every drop of the blood from prey. The freedom was meaningless. Original breath already had been stolen.
A new world was in making around them that was not their own. Blacks had started wearing pants detesting their own old habits and mocked at all those who still stuck to the past. Many had already converted to Christianity and would feel proud on their ability to converse in English. Ancient idols were being ridiculed. Yes, world was changing too fast to leave him behind due to lack of his abilities to adjust, no matter whether he liked it or not.
When his father, who was an attendant at the church for blacks, decided to have Adam married, Adam neither accepted nor dejected. For him it was another ritual. In the presence of the girls he always had felt shy. Girls’ art to bewitch young men never had appeased him. He never was in any race. He had no special affection for the life. As if a ritual he married a young witless woman. His first night of the marriage proved to be a disaster, in a way. His expectant bride sat for long a time before she begun yawning. He sat on the edge of the bed, lost in his own reveries. Bride told him finally that she was feeling asleep and that she still was virgin if that was why he didn’t touch her thinking otherwise.
Not that yearning in his young body didn’t demand actions from him. Her words soothed him and still he didn’t know how to behave with an unknown woman that was now his wife. It was finally his wife who helped him in her own ignorant way and soon everything went fine.
When in village, he was working on the warehouse. Though blacks were free they still had to depend on their physical strength to earn their livelihood for they weren’t considered as yet intelligent enough to make a good clerk or else. About him would stand piles of timber. His duty was to fix the logs before a monstrous Saw-machine that would slice the logs to planks. While placing the log in correct order he would think what a cruel this life was. The trees that has grown in the wilderness of the forests, flowering and fruiting, now like the dead naked men are lying here to suffer more humiliations. About the warehouse there were lively trees that would rustle on the breeze of the wind. He would feel guilty. Sitting on a huge log of an ancient tree, he would think, what is it that I am doing? Who has empowered me to join this sin? Could I squander my own blood relations the way I am squandering these logs? Those would be moments when he would be sitting in his own dilemma, his white supervisor would crash on him, saying, “you pig, are you paid for sitting idle? Get up or you are fired.” In a sudden fear he would rush back to his work, unmindfully.
He would think, in the nights, how long he was going to sustain the pressure of his own self? One day he realized it was beyond his capacity to cope up with the circumstances. If he was free, if at all he was, he must act on his own impulses. He lacked in the guts to tell his father what he felt. By then his grandpa had been a member of the kingdom of the dead. He had no one with whom he could share his outburst.
In a deep night, when everything became unbearable to him, he said to his wife in tremulous voice, “We must go live in the forests. I can not live in the company of people. I am tired with working on the warehouse. I promise, I will feed you the same way as I am today.” Whether his wife was really dumb or not, but she said in an assuring voice, “if you say, I am with you. I too do not have any attraction left in this village. Living in the forests might be a fun…”
In fact he hadn’t expected this coming from his wife whom he had valued less from the moment he had married her. First time ever she rose in his mind like a live personality. This made him emboldened.
In the morning, when his father was chewing a piece of pig-chop, Adam declared his intentions. His father was shocked. He rocked in the bamboo chair for moments. He had thought his son must have gone crazy. When he realized his son’s decision was final he rocked the home. He threatened, abused and wept finally when he found nothing was making any effect on his estranged son.
“Why you feel, son, like this? Isn’t it sacrilege? Why must not you live among your relatives and give birth to my grandsons and look after their future the way I all the time has done for you? Can’t you dream to be as rich as the whites are, one day? Why can’t you dream to own back our lands those are toiled by us but owned by whites? What is it that evil that has influenced you to spit at my dreams?” Was the final desperate call from his father to woo his son.
For moments, as usual, Adam gazed at his father blankly. “Father, I need nothing. Not that I have any desire left. My mind is being tortured where I do live. I want freedom. Real freedom. I do not think the false dreams ever can come true . We have lost. We have lost the war. No matter how better we can converse in English, it always will be a language of aggressors to me. I don’t want to fight. In fact I want to surrender. I just want to go back to a place where I can recollect my own shattered self. It is sin to live a life one doesn’t understand. I fail to understand our present life. No matter what riches it can bring to us. Please allow me…please”
Father watched his otherwise mute son in bewilderment. He couldn’t trust it. He leaned back and reflected. Nothing made sense.
“White men are too kind son, can’t you understand? They were one who granted us freedom. What did we know before about the world we were living in? Nothing. Didn’t they open the doors of knowledge to us? Why not use this freedom to compete with them? Why not master their art to defeat them?”
Father kept on gazing at him in great expectation, but Adam’s face remained expressionless. As if today nothing could impress him.
He said in a calm voice, “Father, even if we try to equal them we never can become alike them. They always will stand superior with their art of their own convenience. We can stand equal to them only if we can prove our way of life is superior. No imitations, please. That can not help us in any way. If we think we can equal them by learning their art, we are stupid enough to prove our forefathers were insane in their art of life. They have enslaved us with the might we lacked in. With the development of any culture inner force of the society weakens, because peace brings in that evil. Those are only vandals that are determined to enslave the civilizations for they bear no morale whatsoever, isn’t it a noted history? Does this make the vandals superior over us? Or whether there is written law to declare what society is better and what is not? Then why should we dare think whites are better only because they rule us today?”
Adam’s face was reddened like of a red-hot rod as he spoke. His father sensed in an instant that he had lost the battle. He leaned back, his face fell and his shoulders drooped. He didn’t know what to say. He started weeping.
Adam already had searched a place amidst the jungle, where he would feel delighted to delve. Soon, with his wife and essential inventory, he left for it. Fragrance of forest made him feel at home, though it took about two days to erect his hut. He cleared the surrounding; made it sure no wild animal would dare attack his hut in its hunt mission by erecting a fence of wooden logs. To feed his tiny family he could have preferred to hunt doves and rabbits. But he had no morale to kill the innocent animal-kind that he adored.
He soon designed his own schedule for the day. The moment dawn would yawn he would leave his hut holding axe over his shoulders while appreciating the charm of the nature at his leisure. Wherever he would find barren tree or branches that could make his living, he would get to work. Never ever he had axed a living tree. There would be days when his woodcutting business had bad times due to savage rains or lashing tornadoes or he had taken a wrong course, where nothing but only mesmerizing beauty of the nature prevailed, making him unable to raise his axe. Then he would reach the river that looked like colored with copper and would try catching the fish or searching for the crab-holes.
And not that his wife was idle, she too cultivated the tiny piece of land surrounding the hut with variety of vegetables while developing her den with pigs, chicken and cows that could help them feed their barren days. He wasn’t making money, but not dying of hunger as well.
Today too Adam penetrated the depth of the jungle. Known fragrance of the woods and soil made him feel intoxicated, as if first time ever he was in the company of the nature. He stood on a mound of wet soil looking in amazement at the woods thinking what if his feet too were rooted to the earth and he enjoyed the eternity of pleasure.
He could observe the nature never was the same. Every moment it was changing. The creepers that had embraced the towering trees were blooming with the flowers. The moss was absent where the bears had rubbed their shoulders. He could notice a herd of doves just had passed for the footprints were so afresh. He heard the knocking sound of woodpecker stirring the serenity of the jungle. He was amazed. Heaps of dry leaf lay silent to mingle in the earth with the time and worms were busy making holes in them while eating the dirt. The birds perched in their own ecstasy creating the music that made tranquil forest a creative entity that could charm any living being.
Adam stood rooted to the earth in all softness entangled in the feelings of wonderment, for a while. When he was back to himself, he looked around to locate the hollow tree that would fall any day. Crossing the streamlets and croaking rows of the frogs and neglecting the curious chameleon, he approached the tree. Denseness of the forest didn’t allow sunrays to penetrate the thick pavilion of the branches. Shadows were cold enough to make him feel like shiver. Behind the dead tree, under a creeper, he watched silently a yearling smelling the leaves. He couldn’t stop appreciating the form of the yearling that would grow soon to a fawn that could challenge the speed of the winds.
Suddenly he heard commotion shattering the calmness of the forest. Yearling raised its ears and galloped to the shelter, making him feel a dream just had disappeared. When he realized what commotion it was he too rushed swiftly in safe hiding and waited till he could understand what it all was about. Through the leaves he saw, while his heart raced in terror, five-six black-men led by a white man walking down the slope talking loudly, shattering the peace of the forest. They surely weren’t on hunting mission. How could they be with all this noise? Instead each of the black man held a tin of paint in his hand. The tree white man was pointing at was being marked by his subordinates with the paint.
Adam’s breath was caught, as he understood the significance of this wild hunt. His body shivered. His axe missed his grip. It silently fell on the earth making no noise. A pain took his hold. The group that had entered the forest with brutal intentions went on marking the tall and valuable trees to disappear through the shadows. Soon, though he strained his ears, he failed to listen to their existence in the forest. He got up like a bolt and ran back towards his dwellings in a dove’s speed. His plan to cut the hollow tree now was dead.
His wife was startled at his early arrival. Looking at his distraught face her heart jumped. She ran to him, asking what had gone wrong. Adam was in no mood to answer. He stood still. Life, as if, was draining out of him. He lifelessly sat on a rock, blankly watching the setting sun. His wife, in an anticipation of explanation, waited sitting to his feet knowing not what had gone wrong with her husband. Sun disappeared casting the veil of darkness over the world. Adam, as if, had lost his tongue. His eyes were showering tears in mute succession.
Suddenly he held hands of his wife and said in a heart-rending voice, “This forest will be destroyed. The soil will crack in absence of the shadow. The river will stop flowing in its eternal pace. They have entered this forest with evil determination to destroy it. They are valuing every tree in currency, when money has no entity except a mean of barter. Like the mercenaries they are marking the trees to assail them one day. No more there will be this bewitching forest that has been breathing in its own pace.”
Tears rolled down from his eyes in deep agony. Outburst of his grief knew no bounds. He cursed for his helplessness. Had he enough power he would have hanged the culprits. His wife sat mutely, still not understanding why her husband was mourning over the woodcutting. She still wanted to soothe him, held his hand and caressed. She too wanted to say something that could help him. But she too felt her throat was choked. Tears trickled down from her eyes too.
“Better we have no kids.” Said he sobbing while trying to wipe his wet face. He glanced at the heaving nature on the evening wind with deep yearning. Imagining that one day nothing will exist around, just barren landscape and distant memories, he again felt like weeping. Every tree was like a god. It couldn’t be valued with money. Why they can’t understand this simple truth? What makes them so selfish? What was this legacy anyway?
He was too ignorant to understand this.
“Better we don’t have kids!” He said again in a vehemence that startled his grief-stricken wife. “They are unwelcome on this earth that is full of ruthless people. They must not suffer these brutalities. But we must live…we must suffer…we must watch how brutally they destroy this forest that has been existing for centuries. Known surrounding will disappear soon to make us feel what was the world all about we’d witnessed! Memories too will fade soon…must we wait the death sitting on this barren land…”
Adam held close his ignorant wife and sobbed. The dark shrouded the jungle in its silent pace. Unaware of its destiny, sinless animal-kind was awakening in the glens and in deep woods. Birds were still busy building their nests while singing the songs of life. Trees, bushes and creepers were busy adjusting with the change of guard of the time. Every being together was giving the meaning to the existence of the forest. An eternal music of survival was echoing from every quarter.
The witless man, Adam, kept on weeping incessantly burying his head over his wife’s shoulder.