I’m here for the funeral of the green bench. The green bench who used to sit by the Hooghly. To someone who has never struck up an affair with this side of my city, she must mean nothing; just another generic green bench amongst a sea of green benches by a river flowing through the plains of Bengal.
Picture it: two branches carved out of wood. Sounds paradoxical, doesn’t it? Yet there is not much the universe offers without lyrical riddles inscribed in all things, dead or alive. What is so unsullied about all things alive anyway? Once, they were all dead. And funerals are but rituals to reawaken them.
Four planks in twos, sandpapered at the edges and the corners. They sit, nailed to the wide-mouthed two-legged and bent over Y’s — the branches carved out of wood. Two planks to sit on, two planks to lean on. Then the woodworker emptied a bucket of green, the fern kind, on her — the green bench — and other green benches; sisters in design.
I was twice bitten in her bosom: once by a fire ant; once by love. Others have stories too — friendships made, lovers betrayed; moneys earned, lessons learned. All because the green bench sat in a banyan shade and bestowed upon her tribe the crème de la crème riverscape. I wonder if her sisters were ever jealous, wasting away as options. Nobody likes being an option. Not us, not green benches.
She will be replaced by one just like her. But the new green bench won’t have the chipped paint from time’s reign, the scritch-scratch from squirrel nails, and the initials of fools etched into her framework. She will be a green bench, but she won’t be the green bench; not without the banyan shade lifting her to glory.
Banyan shade from the banyan tree: home to squirrels with trust issues, perennially angry mynas, and smelly fruit bats. It is almost poetic; the green bench being delivered to death by the very banyan tree that protected her from the wrath of the summer sun and the curse of the monsoon rain.
Unintentional, of course. One can tell by the twisted leaf stems and the tiny splintered branches that he fought. He fought the savage cyclone with all his might. He fought like a warrior. But sometimes warriors do not survive rakshasas. Sometimes, he uproots and crashes into the princess he swore to protect. And they reunite on the other side.
This funeral isn’t the traditional kind with tuberose garlands and sandalwood incense sticks. There are no teary friends, no scurrying for priests, no fragments of gold, and no slathering of ghee. It is mostly rumbling wood chippers and caterwauling chainsaws amidst the crisp scent of tree sap. And perhaps, a few wistful goodbyes from the other green benches.