The Hindu – Young World: The Mango Tree

The mango tree

Arefa Tehsin

JUNE 02, 2021 15:26 IST

Miyan Mittho, the parakeet, was having an awful day and it seemed to be getting worse …

Once upon a summer, not too long ago, Miyan Mittho was having the worst day of his life. He had an upset stomach, thanks to gorging on the mangoes from that season. Though he believed his life to be a wide open book, he was not particularly keen on sharing this story on Instagram.

What’s more, a group of students and teachers had gathered under his tree during the recess. So much for letting a sick bird take an afternoon nap. His mango tree was right at the end of the school grounds with a small marsh at the back. No one disturbed his peace except Noya, the girl who loved the colour green — that included plants, Olive Ridley turtles and parakeets.

“Even in Hogwarts, the forest was off limit for kids. But here!”

“They are having a ‘meeting’, Miyan. Noya and her two cronies are making a presentation to the Principal about this bog,” said CEO, his mortal enemy, the resident cat. She had long given up trying to catch the parakeet on the high branches and both had settled into a convenient routine of having long chats, like old couples. “They are planning to make a badminton court here.” “What? How do you know?” Mittho shifted from one foot to the other, his stomach growling.

“I keep my claws sharp. You see that hulk? She is the PT Madam. And those four girls behind her are the best players of the school.”

“Which animal are you?” came Noya’s sonorous voice from below, asking the gathering at large. The air was heady with the fragrance of ripe mangoes.

“I can’t read a book,” Mittho chirped, “Can’t hold keys to mysterious treasures. Can’t slurp an ice cream. Can’t…can’t…can’t… And humans talk about which animal they are? I mean, seriously?”

“You can fly, Miyan.”

“Yeah, as if that’s a big deal. Even a fly can fly.”

“Not humans, mind you.”

Web of life

“We can’t fill the bog with cement,” Noya beseeched the Principal, who wore a crisp khadi suit and a kind expression. “This year, the UN’s theme for celebrating the World Environment Day is ‘ecosystem restoration’. And here we are trying to destroy one!”

“Principal Sir, would you rather see a trophy on the school wall or mosquito bite on your arms?” asked the PT teacher, wiping her sweaty forehead. A few girls sniggered.

“Did I hear ‘FILL the bog’?” Mittho was aghast. “What about our old Hakim, the turtle? The mafia of fireflies that lives on the other shore… I can’t ever remember all their names. The water snake Shashikant who goes to the gym to keep himself lean? The beetles and crickets who have that rock band they play every night? What’s it called… The Beatles!”

The PT teacher below the tree put her legs wide apart. “We are living in the Western Ghats. There are just too many higgity-piggity swamps around for my liking.”

“We can never have too much of the wild!” said Noya. “And this is the only swamp WE have. Ecosystems are the web of life. The healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier we are. There are polar caps, rainforests, oceans, desserts, mountains, grasslands, mangroves, rivers, coral reefs, marshes, lakes…and so so many ecosystems and habitats. How boring the world would be with more and more cities!”

The PT teacher yawned.

“Pakistan is hosting the UN World Environment Day this year,” Noya added.

“Pakistan…” a few kids guffawed.

A solution

“Laugh as you like, but it is us who are destroying our swamp. Not the Pakistani army.” Noya looked coolly at her schoolmates. “What is that one thing we all have in common? It is the planet. Or would you rather go to Uranus? It is just -216°C there and will take you only nine years to reach.”

“She has a point, Imalka Madam,” the Principal cleared his throat, addressing the PT teacher. “We can perhaps think of making the court on the side of the parade ground.”

“We are talking of cutting just this one tree, Sir. That’s not like clearing a forest for mining,” the PT Madam growled.

“CUT THIS TREE?” Mittho whistled, losing control of his bowels in the heat of the moment. His poop landed fair and square on Noya.

“Yikes!” cried Noya’s friend and stepped away.

This time, the kids laughed aloud.

“I rest my case,” the PT teacher didn’t even bother to smile.

“See, I told you! I am having the worst day of my life.” Mittho thumped his talons, inching closer to the cat.

“You are a hype-beast, Miyan.” CEO began to clean herself. Suddenly, she glanced up, moved her whiskers and jumped on Mittho, scratching his wing with her paw.

Mittho shrieked and landed from the branch onto the PT teacher’s shoulder. CEO meowed, as Mittho buried his head, beak and all in the teacher’s collar.

“Awww…” went the kids. The PT teacher’s expression, as severe as her tight ponytail, softened. She reached out and patted the parakeet. Someone clicked a photo and uploaded it instantly before a teacher could cry, ‘No phones!’

“That parakeet lives in the tree you want to cut,” Noya said.

***

Three days later, the picture was still trending. It had gone viral.

“You are a star, Miyan. You saved the swamp,” CEO purred from a low branch.

“And you’re a thug, CEO,” Miyan Mittho half-scowled, half-beamed.

“A cat’s a cat…” She stretched herself and posed for kids clicking selfies with the tree. “…and that’s that.”

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