The Bunyan Tree, Butterfly and the Traveler
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When he was in the
, Alfadur lived inside a banyan
tree in the form of a small butterfly. He never went searching for flowers and
never wandered the land and glided on the breeze like ordinary butterflies. His
only companion was the tree, the wide, vast and ancient banyan tree. The banyan
tree was near the holy river of the Hindus, where the river met the sea of the
Arabs. The wooded area surrounding the tree hid it from the eyes of the world. land of Indus
Days and nights, Alfadur slept inside a small cavern in the tree, until one day, when he woke up and took human form. He became a naked woman and started walking around the tree with her gaze fixed upon the ground, as if in search for something.
Before long, the neighbouring bushes and thorns shook and from the figs that lay on the floor came a crushing sound. A young man emerged from the bushes. His name was Aamod. He too was intently searching for something on the ground.
The moment Aamod felt the presence of another being in the vicinity he stood up and looked around. She was on the other side of the wide banyan, at that moment. So he could not see her. But he could hear the sound of the dried leaves crushing under someone’s feet. He waited warily for what was to come, preparing in his mind for running across the buses or climbing up the tree in case if it was a carnivorous animal.
Her head emerged first. That gave Aamod a startle, because she was arched forward with her gaze fixed on the ground, searching. Her hairs fell forward and covered her face and shoulders. It was a strange sight to behold. Aamod thought for a moment she must be some evil predator of human souls. When she reached close to Aamod, still in the same posture, she stood up. Her hairs fell off to both sides and with her right hand she shoved the rest away from her face.
Aamod had never seen such a woman. She was gold among a heap of copper. She was sun among the fireflies of rainy days. She was truth among the shame of lies. She was the memory of summer when the winter is at its peak.
His eyes could see only her, but he tried to look away deeming to make himself appear gentle and of good breed. Her body glowed in the rays of the evening sun. The young man did not know what to ask. So he asked hesitantly, “What are you doing here?”
“I am looking for something that I lost here,” she said.
Her voice was the melody of a river, a breath of breeze in the suffocating sun of the desert, a shore in the deluge of
Ganga, a Neem at the distance of a
long trodden road.
“Oh, I too was searching for something!” He said after a pause.
“What were you searching for?” she asked Aamod, looking in the eyes.
“Uh…,” he hesitated again, as the looks of her eyes were exquisite.
“I was searching for a golden ring I bought for…someone…The camel I rode fell down stumbling over a root. My goods and all that I was carrying went down along with me to the ground. I could not find the ring. I had kept it close to my heart, in a pocket, here…,” He pointed towards his heart and a pocket that was inside his long dress.
He thought it would be better not to reveal who he bought the ring for. It was for his young wife.
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“Who did you buy it for?” she asked. He did not answer, but kept looking at her body that was now a ruby from the slanting rays of the sun and the radiant red light from the evening clouds.
“Do you want to have me?” she asked Aamod.
“Yes,” he replied.
And they mated.
After both of them were tired, she asked, “What was that you were searching for?”
“I don’t remember anymore!” Aamod said, feeling guilty and wondering to him what would happen next. He hated himself for losing his mind in front of that strange woman of wilderness.
“For whom did you seek it?” she asked again. He stood up freeing himself from her arms and donned the cloths that were lying on the ground, scattered.
“For my wife, a wonderful woman, who is waiting for me, away at my home in the Southern lands,” He said.
“But you came here just for a golden ring, didn’t you? And now…” she said and looked at him, standing up. He covered his eyes.
“The golden ring was your desire to win her. But by having my body, you have already lost the right to own your beautiful wife.” She said. Her voice now sounded like death, cold and indifferent. Tears tore off the silence between them with his sobes.
After a long silence he mumbled, “I don’t deserve to see her again. I deserve death.” “Don’t cry, young traveler,” she said. This time her voice was different; it had the earlier sweetness in it. It was soothing.
“You didn’t live beyond forgiveness. There is hope for you still, because now you can see your wife among the glitters of desires. Your tears are the love for her, transformed into pain. You don’t own her anymore, but you deserve her.”
Tears glided down his cheeks through his fingers that were covering his eyes.
She continued, “I am just a butterfly. What you did with me was just a dream you had. You did not violate your tradition. I am just a butterfly, look at me!”
Faded by tears Aamod saw a miracle. The woman in front of him turned into magnificent colours. In awe and fear, he opened his eyes and stared at the sight. Instead of the woman, there was a butterfly. It flew to the banyan tree nearby and disappeared inside a hole on the tree. He felt dizzy. He closed his eyes and sat on the ground.
He felt the ground shaking. It swayed like he was on a camel’s back. He feared it might be an earthquake. His eyelids felt heavy when he tried to open them. When he opened them finally, he found himself sitting on his camel’s back, riding towards home. He also saw that all his bags were in tact.
“Was everything a dream?” he asked himself. However, his tears were still fresh, real. Deep inside, he knew it wasn’t a dream. He thought about the ring. But it did not matter much any more. He was riding for his home and once he reached there he would live with his wife and love her more than ever, always remembering the lessons the wilderness taught him.
He felt for the ring in his chest pocket, anyway.
The ring was there.
It was not lost in the wilderness, among the bushes.
If he had never lost the ring, he had never met the woman.
He took the ring out. The rays of the morning sun gleamed upon it. In the sunlight Aamod saw there was a vague mark on the surface of the ring. He made the camel stop, so that he could look closely. On the surface of the ring, he found a colour patch. When he rubbed over it with his thumb, it came on to his thumb and it was the colour from a butterfly’s wing.
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