Fiction

The Cursed Mango Tree

IMG_20180122_171348_4I vigorously shook the old, rusty and heavy metal gate open with my sweaty tired palms. And like every single time when I unlatched it, a corner in my brain whispered ‘This gate is twenty years old, as old as you are’. I rolled my neck back and forth before I pushed the very same gate close in a huff.

‘I know I am getting old’ I mindlessly yelled at myself, all aloud, as I walked to the front door of my house. I had a long and unexplainably tiring day at college. But thankfully it was the end of the seventh semester and start of a month long vacation. I couldn’t term this as a winter break because apparently Goa comes with only two seasons, that is, unstoppable showers and humid summers. The connector between the two seasons is the best weather condition one can experience and would want to live in but I wouldn’t consider it to be winters.  

Anyways before digging further into the climatic conditions and its pros and cons let me introduce myself. I am Era Desai, a final year mechanical engineering student and yes you read it right, a mechanical engineering student! I am the youngest of the runt and only sister to my three brothers. Being the youngest is definitely my gateway for being lazy, pampered and living a very overprotective life, which sometimes seems a little unnecessary.

As I neared the main door of the house, which was partially open I heard a commotion.  It was pretty bad. I definitely didn’t want to begin my holidays with the yelling but I didn’t have any better alternative either.  As soon as I entered the heated living room the attention shifted towards me. I was in no mood to be part of this unnecessary drama but was undeniably dragged in.   

‘Era, you need to help me out….please…I mean….seriously..’ My eldest brother was currently in a complete unnecessary argument with my mother. My entry in the midst of their argument momentarily paused the turmoil.

‘Why is she going to help you?? She didn’t cut her hair ,you did’ Yelled my mom. I wonder if the tactic of yelling in any argument lets you win!

‘So what??? It is just my hair and by the way it is my hair. Just stop being so superstitious mom’ My brother tried to justify his doings by further roaring. Neither of them seemed to have very good skills to argue as they both had resumed to mindless howling.

 ‘What do you kids know even about our culture and traditions? All you kids know is to disrespect your elders. One single thing you tell these kids to obey and that is the one exact thing they won’t. How difficult is it to remember not to get a haircut on Mondays?? No wonder you get transferred every few months at your work….Don’t listen to your parents…Keep doing whatever you want to…’ My mom muttered as she walked to her bedroom. Nope she wasn’t done yet. She had excused herself to answer her buzzing phone. For me this was an opportunity to scoot off.

By the way what had hair cutting to do with work transfers??? Parents I tell you! Before I elaborate on their insensible argument I should make it clear, my mom is a typical ‘mom’ just like every other. And like most moms she also has her set of superstitions which she religiously follows, which also apparently gets classified as traditions, obedience, good habits and what not. It mostly depends on the state of argument and her temperament to argue. And not to forget these superstitions also get modified as per her convenience and needs.

I flung my bag and jumped on my bed with a chocolate slab. I heard my mom again,

‘Era, I hope you remember that you have to shower before you eat anything. The eclipse has just ended’ She spoke at highest pitch, humanely possible. Seemed like I was the next prey on her radar.

I swiftly got off my bed and carefully shut the bedroom door. I just wanted to enjoy my company with this mouth-watering foreign chocolate my friend had handed me this morning. As I enjoyed every bite in solitude my mind subconsciously replayed my mom and brothers fight. It did seem a little too unnecessary as I weighed the points argued by each party. From when did, not chopping hair on a day became a tradition?  I wondered if my mom occasionally just made up some stories to see if we obeyed her without reluctance!

Superstitions seem a little too dumb to follow and a little enticing to not do the opposite of what I am being told to. But since I have grown up listening and unwilling following them I unintentionally end up abiding by a bunch of them. Though I should confess that sometimes I also intentionally use them to my advantage, ahhh…occasionally…well I am student. I am allowed to, especially when I screw at exams, ram my parents car or when I get suspended from college for fooling around. The easiest and the most hassle-free way to get out of these situations are always to bank them on a worthy superstition. It helps….I mean it does, it is way better than spilling the truth.

Once I was done with relishing on my chocolate slab I decided to head to the open balcony. I wanted to count the bloomed flowers on the mango tree. The fruit bearer sat in our front yard. I crossed my fingers as I leaned on the railing of the balcony to get a good peek of the tree. I tried to count but they were way too many and way too scattered. I knocked on the wooden table in the balcony as I walked back into my room with a faint smile on my lips. I knew that it would be a good harvest.

Days went by, the calendar year changed and the most dreadful of all my final semester had commenced. Final year came with merciless projects, campus placements, and the craving to score max in the final semester. Not that it would make much of a difference but everybody wanted to do their best in their last exam. In short it was the expected merciless slog of the final days. I didn’t give much heed to the overload as I didn’t have any time to and just went with the flow.

But it seemed like time didn’t want to be on my side. My busy schedule was continuously being interrupted by my poor health. Every other week I would be down with some kind of allergies, infections and if not at least with flu. It was never severe but good enough to slow me down for a couple of days. My deteriorating health was adding angst to my already troubled life.

‘Your kundali clearly indicates about poor health and its link with bad omen during this time of the year. Panditji said that if you visit Hanuman temple every Saturday morning after hair bath your troubles will wash away. He also gave me this vibhuti, he said that it will protect you. Just keep it in your wallet’ Said my mom one morning as I ate my breakfast with runny nose.

‘Mom I don’t need your superstitions and Panditji to sort my life, I just need medicine and some rest’

‘Why can’t you kids just listen to your elders??’

‘Because you don’t sound very practical’ I said. I left my half-eaten breakfast in a huff and headed for college. I didn’t want to ruin my state of mind at the very beginning of the day. But subconsciously I wondered if Panditji’s trick would resolve my troubles. My patience level had dried up. I was indeed looking for a magic wand to perfect my life. Downfall after downfall was draining every strand of my hard work.

As I walked towards the gate I unexpectedly got hit on my head. I turned around as I tried to sooth my now bumpy head and spotted an unripe mango. As soon as I picked it up I realised that it was just half done and all wrinkly. It seemed strange, specifically for the reason that we always had the best mangoes on our tree. Even though I found it very unusual I didn’t have much time to ponder over. I had to rush for college.

By that very evening my cold worsened and I was down with mild fever. It was mild but my body was down with pain, my eyes were runny and itchy and my face was all swollen and red. My productivity was at all-time low. I wasn’t very sure how I would get through my test which was lined up for the next day as I struggled to even read my books ,as my sticky eyes refused to cooperate.

As I mentally debated to take or not to take the test my mom entered my room with a screech.

‘The mango tree has been cursed’ She said in panic.

‘What??’ I yelped. ‘What is wrong with her???’ Screamed my brain.

‘It is shedding mangoes Era. It has never happened before’

‘So?? Probably it’s the climate that is affecting the harvest or may be the pesticide that we used’

‘No, it’s cursed…’ Before I could complete I fainted. I woke up amidst a room full of people. As I scanned the room I realised that my family was frantically gaping at me.

‘Well, she is fine. Poor diet, stress, lack of sleep tires our body and if one continues in the same manner over a period of time than our body reacts. There is nothing to worry. All she needs is some rest. I have prescribed these medicines…..in a day or two she will be back on her feet. For now I will take a leave. Take care Era, bye’ My cousin who also happens to be a doctor said.

As soon he left the room my mom talked my dad into performing Pooja at home. She was adamant and was sure that it was the right and only solution to our troubles. I wasn’t sure how! I was too worn out to think about curses, bad omen, jinx, evil eye and many more such superstitions to name.

The next morning I woke up to wet licks. My dog was relentlessly licking my face. I cuddled with my furry buddy as I lazily scrolled through my phone. The nicest thing about falling sick is being able to avoid the morning rush. It wasn’t still morning when I woke today.  As I checked my messages one of them caught my eye. A friend had texted me

‘Hey I hope you are doing fine. But you know what thanks to you fever you were able to miss the most difficult test ever. You get to answer next month which means you get more time to perform and score better’

I know my friend was more upset than sorry. Why wouldn’t she be?? These marks were added to our final aggregate. Lucky me I guess! My fever had become my saviour.

With a broad smile I got out of the bed and went to the open balcony. As the sunny rays welcomed my cold feet I immediately noticed something. Remember my mom was grumbling about shedding mangoes and cursed tree yesterday? Well the two topmost branches of the tree were broken. First of all they were very thin branches and secondly they had a bunch of seven to eight mangoes hanging on them. Well I guess this solves the mystery of cursed mango tree. Through the madness of past couple of days the one thing that I realised was that superstitions are manmade excuses and easy way to conclude any particular event or happening without trying to locate the actual reason and rest the insecurities with a blindfold. Obstacles always come with a reason and sometimes with hidden benefits.

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