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Indian Poetry

That Old Banyan Tree

Padmasri Haladhar Nag

Generations have gone by,
Here stands tall,
The big banyan tree,
To the left of that narrow village road!

O’ how big is it?
It has the size of the whole barn!
Branches everywhere, roots protruding down,
Twisted ropes, strong and taut, thus life is born!

Grandfathers, their fathers, and more,
Their friends, relatives, and men of yore,
Climbed the tree, swung through free,
Youthful run, juvenile fun, the tree has lived their lore!

Berries ripe in summer!
Invite the songbirds, other colored tiny flocks,
Noise and chimes continue morn till eve,
Share, gossip, and feed in family blocks!

Remember that hot summer sizzling sun!
The earth burns and nowhere to turn!
The traveler takes shelter to escape the heat,
Then continue on the road, renew, and retreat!

The groom’s party comes to escort the girl home,
The pipes and band begin right here!
On her way to the in-laws, here under this tree,
Her old association holds her no more!

The casket is brought on way to the pyre,
The dead is treated with turmeric and herbs for fire,
Ladies and girls return back to their home,
Leave behind the pot, their memory and the care!

As the darkness dawns, roads get quiet!
Thieves wander to make the best of the night!
Here under the tree, they share the booty,
The coins, the gold, the pots, all things bright!

The lover waits for the beloved,
Here at the dusk, the moment for the free!
They vow to elope, promise each other,
Under this banyan tree!

Sees everything, knows everything, checks each, and hears all,
Never speaks a word, never talks, never opens to small or tall!
Stays quiet, neuter, a mute witness always in its cool,
The massive trunk extends its arms, always round, and always full!

Translated by Bijoy Misra