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Join date : 2011-01-07
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|Subject: Girl Power! Mon Dec 26 2011, 00:09|| |
I wrote this for an essay competition, and got Silver! Just thought I'd share it here xD
There is something called a “spider web effect”, where the most minute, the most seemingly insignificant action can dictate the future of thousands of lives, of an entire nation, even. Like a small pebble that falls onto the surface of a mirror-smooth lake, the ripples will spread, further and further, more than the eye can see.
I’ll explore now, the story of one particular pebble, among the many thousands that have dared to take that step, that have dared to venture into the unknown, that have dared, to take that leap of faith. This story is of she, who has changed my life irrevocably, for better or for worse.
The pages of my memory are yellowed with age, dog-eared and tattered from me flipping past them so often – and increasingly so, especially of late. More and more oft, I find myself trailing off during a conversation with the spoken word and lapsing into the evergreen forests of my memory, where the figures from my past lurk, where I can see them run and play in the vibrancy of their youth – and I, as I join them, where I return to the time when my skin was smooth and soft, my body healthy and strong.
But there is one person whom I have sought ever more frequently – the one person who I have not managed to find, but whose face I keep seeing in my mind’s eye. I catch glimpses of her face; the fear in her eyes tempered by a boundless determination, the terror in her lovely face as she cast me a fleeting desperate glance, before the axe snuffed out the flame of that particular candle.
My heart bleeds when I think about her, the lump that grows in my throat and the sudden itchiness in my eyes seem to be telling something. I choke, as I breathe in the scent of regret, so strong, so fresh, and so raw.
I was so young then… Almost sixteen, and nearly a man, I had thought. It was the proudest moment of my young life, when news came to me that I was part of the group of men selected to fell trees for the logging company. I was moving up in the world, it seemed.
I remember the day so clearly, every moment in exquisite detail, as though it had been seared, branded, burned into my brain and forcing me to remember what I had done. The price they had paid for standing in the way of the Maharaja – even if it was because of something they had truly believed in.
The sky was overcast when we set off, cloudy, but not overly so. Pleasant weather for travelling, it seemed then, as we hitched our pack and set off, exchanging bawdy jokes and fooling around as a large company of men are likely to do. The air was cool and crisp, as it whistled through the boughs of the ancient trees above, sending a shower of greenish-yellow leaves over our party of men. We’d laughed, shredding the fading leaves and throwing handfuls of them at each other without a seconds thought.
Now, looking back, it seemed as though everything had been conspiring against us, warning us of the calamity that would soon occur. Why was the weather so gloomy? Had it been warning us to stay behind, trying to hint to us in the most obvious way it could, that setting off was a fateful mistake? That is would have been better off if we had stayed? Or am I simply reading too much into these things?
I have had many years to think about it now, many years to regret every step I had taken towards the village.
It was noon when my group arrived, buoyed and in high-spirits after the trek. I, too, was overjoyed and refreshed after the ‘break’ I had received from work. I remember looking around, seeing all the trees around us and lazily taking out my axe, wandering aimlessly to find the perfect tree to fell, carelessly fingering the rough bark and pulling them off, flinging pieces of them to the leaf-strewn ground of red and yellow and orange.
Then there was a shout. Of shock and fear.
Needless to say, I was shocked too. Who was this “they”, what did “they” want? I had always been a curious fellow, you know, so following my instincts, I led myself back to where the rest of the men had gathered – only to stagger as someone knocked into me in their haste, a woman, I could tell.
What was going on here?
There must have been scores of women emerging into the once-silent forest, quietly going to the trees around us and joining hands in a circle around each tree as we stared at them in shock. They met our flabbergasted gazes, I recall, with defiant and angry eyes.
“You will have to kill us first, before you take the life of any of these trees!”
It was a young voice, rich as the soil beneath our feet that had broken the silence. I turned, only to meet the gaze of the girl standing next to me, chin jutting out in defiance as her brown eyes crackled and snapped like dry branches beneath one’s feet.
“Don’t be a fool, girl!” One of the men of our party snapped at her. “It is the company’s orders. They want the trees. They’ll grow back. You don’t know what you are doing.”
He was the only one of us who had recovered enough to speak. An uneasy feeling had started to gnaw in the pit of my belly, like thousands of maggots feasting on a festering wound. I listened, but offered no input as hot words were exchanged, flung to either side as tempers sparked like branches whipping in a hateful gust of wind.
“Very well,” Our spokesperson finally conceded, his eyes as hard as steel as he gazed around at us, before his gaze rested on me. Our eyes locked, and I knew what was going to happen, yet I did nothing to prevent it.
We had to do it. Or our jobs would be on the line and we had families to feed.
Both of us, one old and one young, walked forward to the girl’s tree, raising our axes. Surely, they had to be bluffing, did they not? They would not want be killed for the sake of a single tree.
I stopped in front of the girl who had spoken, looking into her pale face with angry tears glittering in her eyes, as bright as stars. In my peripheral vision, I saw other men doing the same, a few going to each tree and raising their axes.
Our eyes met, and I swear, I could almost feel the heat of the flames as they burned in her eyes. I raised my axe as well, stepping a little to the side for her to run, should she wish to.
But again, she surprised me, showing much courage for a young woman.
“Seir santhe runkh raheb, to bhee sastojan,” she whispered, looking straight into my eyes. It is still a small price to pay if, at the cost of my head, the tree is saved.
I shook my head at her, lips thinning at her stubbornness. I raised my axe above my head, swinging it down with all my might, straight at the girl, whose name I never even knew.
I had killed her. It was over before it even started.
It was only later that I found out the name of the girl - Bachni Devi, who had come up with the plan. News of the killing had spread like wildfire through a forest, reaching even the most distant of ears. The fallen women had become heroines, their names household words that everyone knew of.
They called this tactic “The Chipko Movement”, and the result of the movement was a ban imposed on the cutting of trees in the forests of Uttar Pradesh for fifteen years. Word spread, and their heroic act had inspired other women to take on the mettle of these brave souls, hence saving the lives of hundreds of trees.
I saw a change in the way people looked at women after that – no longer with contempt and condescension. It showed that women, too, were capable of thinking and feeling, of action, of courage, and most of all, of steely determination.
We have come back in a full circle, and I am left with nothing but my blood-dyed hands and many bitter memories of what I should or should not have done then. One good thing that came out of this, however, was the movement that saved the countless trees.
And it all started with one small pebble, which generated so many ripples until it formed a tidal wave that swept along the mirror surface of the lake.
And all this happened, just because of one girl.