Saturday, August 25, 2012

Little Shop in a Banyan Tree

There it was, a tiny little shop carved high inside a Banyan tree. It is said that the Buddha achieved Nirvana under a Banyan tree and here I was at a similar tree with a little shop inside it. The little shop couldn't have been bigger than two feet by four feet and perhaps five feet in height. It was always neatly stacked with all kinds of knick knacks like cigarettes, Bidis (local cigarettes rolled in leaves), soaps, oils, incense, Paan (Betel Leaves), candy and my favorite tea rusks. It's hard to say whether I enjoyed those rusks because they were laden with motley of smells and aromas or whether I was just fascinated with the little shop in the tree. Nonetheless, inside the little shop sat a man or a woman; as a child I could never distinguish the correct placement of this person at the table of genders. He looked like a man but spoke like a woman; he was bulky like a man but walked like a woman. I was extremely mesmerized with his Betel chewing habit because when he/she spat the red juice into a spittoon kept a little distance away, it all landed perfectly inside. Those superb landings eventually became the highlight of my day as well. Along with this, I also loved to watch his/her droopy dark kohl laden eyes and listen to the soft cadences of his/her voice recite Urdu poetry.

To get to the Man/Woman, I had to climb the walls or the roots of the Banyan Tree and stand there precariously perched. The Banyan roots tired of being underground had consequently protested and become one with the branches above. If I could have even managed to crawl inside the little shop, I would have but it was impossible for a second person to be there; so I just hung on to its precipice. From there, I looked longingly at all the goodies and wanted all of them, reminding myself each time of the reason of why I was there at the Banyan Shop. With such concentration on the goodies, I could have easily scored a victory with achieving Nirvana right there inside the Banyan shop. That is, if I didn't slip off the branches of the tree. All I needed every morning were rusks with my tea, which were essentially my breakfast. The rusks were eaten after being dipped in tea much like cookies in milk.
The Banyan tree-shop was in a bustling market place which reverberated with all kinds of sounds and shrieks. This was a time when children ran around free of stranger danger; when they could buy cigarettes for adults including loose ones in counts of ones and twos; when they could forget about going back home and no one would worry; when transgender rights were unknown and when men could stand around holding each other without being called gay. This was a carefree world where horses, goats, pigeons, kites, pot-heads, drunkards, horns, cows, cyclists, carts, cars and all known humanity mingled together and became a gooey mass in old Delhi, which incidentally was also the seat of the great Mughal Empire in India from the 16th to 19th century. The ineffable British ultimately forced the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar to give up his throne and retire in a distant fort in Burma. The Emperor died there from sheer loneliness and longing. On a good note however, the old Emperor had the last sigh because all his sighing did lead to a plethora of writings and poetry for posterity.


  1. Wonderful. Really took me away. Great imagery. Thank you!

  2. Joyce, I noticed your post on the FB Allvoices page and want to invite you to look at a new platform. Take a look at nwzPaper, read through the Social Contract, TOS and PP. We have built something special, but it will only be useful if people use it to inform their peers and community at-large!


    Dan McReavy

    PS - Make sure to share the site with other, too!

    1. Thanks Dan. I did sign up. Will check it out at length.