One man’s trash is another man’s treasure

One man’s pain is another man’s pleasure

–Robbie Robertson (I know he probably didn’t coin this, but I love the way he sings it…)

Leaves of gold line the road outside my kitchen window. I think of fall in New England, and how right now New York tycoons are making pilgrimages to Vermont and New Hampshire to see the brilliant silent light show of leaves turning red and gold…. And falling to the earth.

In India I used to watch poor municipality workers sweeping dust in the road, and wonder. To me, this symbolized FUTILITY and said a lot about how India works. Over the years I learned more. I planted a tree in my house in Banker’s Colony. The neighbors asked me why I was wasting time and money gardening in a rented house? I said I was thinking of the World, and Nature, and even the next person who would live here. But I lived in that house 15 years! And the tree grew HUGE, maybe to prove my point. It shaded the neighborhood and hosted birds, squirrels and vendors needing relief from the relentless sun.

One New Year’s Day my neighbor came across the road.

Oh, he’s coming to say ‘Happy New Year!’ I thought.

Before I could offer my greeting, he launched into a tirade about how my tree was aiming at his house and if there was a cyclone it would crush his roof and he had already registered a complaint with the municipality AND the police. It was sunny and pleasant out, for the time being.

A few months later, I heard chopping and ran out to see another neighbor felling a beautiful gulmohar tree that had shaded the rest of the street. I felt like I was witnessing a murder. “Why are you cutting down that tree?” I cried.

“It leaves a lot of trash,” he replied.

Trash? You mean those gorgeous red flowers that spread across the way? Meanwhile I had spent probably 14 years of futility asking all of the neighbors not to throw plastic bags, garbage, plastic wrappings and whatever else they did not want into the street. I wondered if it is somehow harder to sweep flowers than dust…. And plastic?

So that is one big reason I left Bhuj (irreconcilable differences) and went to Vandh, where we had owls, and cats and cows and I did not allow anyone to throw paper and plastic or cut more that a desi toothbrush from our magnificent neem trees, and the leaves fell gloriously, luxuriously to the ground and became compost for the next generation. Nirvana.

Today, I am living in a cement box. The gardener has chopped a magnificent neem tree into a pathetic stump. Meanwhile the sun is blasting and in November it is still 32C (85F). No doubt the gardener is worrying about the “trash” he will have to pick up, and expecting cooler weather.

No nature in sight. But I am dreaming of a beautiful new campus with trees and eco friendly all natural and aesthetically soothing architecture… and carpets of golden leaves.