This is the story of a mango tree which did not want to spend its life rooted in one place. It wanted to travel, see the world and make new friends. Some excerpts from the first part of an exciting journey, when ‘Mad Mango’ learnt to walk.
Many monsoons had come and gone, but Mango still stood in the same place, his hands reaching out for the sky, his feet going deeper and deeper into the earth. He had seen many friends grow up around him — Baby Berry had shot up before his very eyes, Jackfruit, four years his junior and, in his shade, the Drumstick blossom.
He did not know Grandma Tamarind’s age. Maybe the goddess in the temple did — though Tamarind said she was already a sapling when the temple was built. Despite her age, Tamarind stood tall and straight. Cattle gathered around to listen to her tales and sometimes monkeys played hide-and-seek among her branches. When pods began to hang down from her branches, they made village urchins’ mouths water and they pelted Tamarind with stones.
Mango couldn’t understand why she put up with it. Tamarind said, “Let them be. They don’t bother me all the year round. Anyway, what can I do? I can’t run away, can I?”
When Mango was in flower for the first time, Tamarind said, “Look out! It will be your turn now!” She was right. No sooner had Mango’s little green fruit begun to turn yellow than the urchins began firing volleys of stones with their catapults. Mango complained, “I am sore all over. I wish I could run away from here!”
Tamarind laughed. “Run away! Don’t be silly. This is our life. We have to live and die here.”
Her words set Mango thinking: butterflies spread their wings and fly; lambs frolic in green meadows; clouds glide across the sky; as for men, they move about freely. Why are we trees condemned to stay in one place? What would happen if I started walking?
He confided this thoughts to his friends, but they said, “It is God’s will that we stay in one place. We get all our food without moving, just sitting, or rather, standing. Then why should we wander about?”
But he would not agree, so they began calling him “Mad Mango”.
Sometimes travellers came and rested in Mango’s shade. They spoke of the far-off lands they had visited — of white hares playing in meadows… of flocks of parakeets flying overhead… of peacocks dancing on cliff-tops as high as the sky… of pearl white sands with an endless expanse of water beyond. “Will you come with me?” he asked Jackfruit, Jamun and others.
“Oh no!” they all replied. They argued, “What don’t you have here? Wherever you go, there’ll be the same sky, the same earth. None of us has ever left our homes. We have our roots here.”
Mango said to himself, “They are stupid. If not stupid lazy. They have no spirit of adventure. If no one will come with me, I’ll go alone.” He began questioning his life and soon his trunk began to look life a large question-mark.
One day, the sky was overcast. Thunder was followed by lighting and then rain came down in torrents. A fierce gale shook the trees. Fear gripped Mango’s heart. He looked around… God! Jackfruit had crashed to the ground. His muddy feet, which had been so firmly rooted in the soil and had never seen the sun or felt the breeze, had been torn up and were looking skywards. Tears came into Mango’s eyes. Poor Jackfruit! He had left the world, without seeing the wonders that lay beyond the hills!
A few days later, some men came and hacked Jackfruit into pieces. They made a bonfire of the twigs and leaves that remained. Its heat scorched Mango’s branches.
One afternoon two men arrived. They stood near Mango and began quarrelling.
“Don’t touch the fruit of this tree. It’s mine!”
“It is not,” replied the other.
“You just wait and see; I’ll cut it down tomorrow.”
Mango began to tremble. He remembered Jackfruit’s fate and was afraid of the axe’s blade flashing in the sun. The other trees were also panic-stricken. But no one thought of running away.
Mango decided to leave that very night. He looked around at his friends in the fading twilight. How much he loved them all!
Mango gently pulled out his feet from the ground. The wind blowing across the plains whispered encouragingly, “Come! Let’s see the world and its marvels.” Mango’s branches swayed with the wind, as if full of joy.
Night fell. Stars began to twinkle and lamps were lit. The twittering of young birds grew fainter and the chirping of cicadas became louder.
It was at this time that Mad Mango left his home and his friends. Nobody noticed his departure. In the morning, they would rub their eyes in astonishment and ask each other, “Where’s Mango? Where has Mad Mango disappeared?”
What fun it was to walk! How fresh the breeze! Should be roll down the path? Every step showed him something new. “Why did I waste my life fixed to one spot? Why didn’t I leave sooner?” Mango asked himself. Blades of grass tickled his feet, and whistling joyfully, he reached the side of a road. He was about to cross when someone shouted, “Oh Mad One!”
Surprised, Mango looked around. How did this Gulmohur know his name?
Gulmohur pointed with red fingers and said, “Mad One, cross the road at your peril.”
Mango stopped. Just then two strange creatures sped past, throwing floods of light before them.
“See! These creatures run along the road all the time.”
“I want to cross the road. I have walked a long way.”
“You want to reach the top of the hill?”
“And you want to reach the river flowing on the other side.”
“Yes. How did you know?”
“I want to do so too,” replied Gulmohur.
“Then let’s go together. I asked many friends but no one would come with me.”
“Don’t be so impatient. I have stood here a long time waiting for a chance to cross the road.
“Come on. Don’t be frightened. We’ll outwit the creatures. We’ll cross the road before they get here,” Mango said.
“You go first, I’ll follow. Be careful,” said Gulmohur, not moving.
Mango stepped on to the road. Suddenly, a dazzling light raced towards him. Alarmed, he zigzagged across the road. The roar was almost on top of him. Mango shut his eyes, and reached the other side of the road. With a loud screech, the creature jerked to a half.
Mango opened his eyes. The dreadful creature had crashed into Gulmohur and killed him. Men got out of the creature’s belly, talking, “Was the driver drunk?”
“No! I saw the tree crossing the road with my own eyes.”
“Don’t tell such fairytales!”
“I swear it. The tree was walking…”
“You must have been dreaming. Trees don’t walk. And you know it.”
The men climbed back into the creature which again sped off, its two eyes gleaming brightly.
Eyes full of tears, Mango bid farewell to Gulmohur and set off towards the hills…
First published by National Book Trust, India