Lafzon ka Perh (The Tree of Words)


Prof. Shah Alam Khan | Caravan Daily

(This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to recent events or people is intentional, fiction after all is the step daughter of reality)

Azadnagar was a unique place. It had birds which could speak. Yes, speak as we could. The people of Azadnagar loved their birds but no one knew how they could speak. The secret of the speaking birds of Azadnagar lay right in the middle of the dense forest of the place, where there was an old tree, as old as humanity. It was huge, so big that it appeared to even cut off sunlight to a substantial part of the forest on a bright day. The tree was unique, remarkably different from other trees. It didn’t have fruits or flowers, words hung from its branches. Words which made sense, words of love, words of hate and words which made no sense at all. Each branch had thousands and thousands of words and in spring it even bloomed, aligning the words into stories. It was called the Lafzon ka Perh (tree of words).

Every morning, the birds of Azadnagar came to peck on these words and stories. They pecked and pecked till their tiny hearts were full of words. They then flew to the town and narrated beautiful stories, soul stirring poems and ravishing songs to the people of the land. Every soul in Azadnagar lived happily with the birds.

Then a new King ascended the Azadnagar throne. No one knew why, but the new King hated words. He particularly abhorred the spoken word. Spoken word is probably the most significant; after all it’s the essence of communication! He ordered the caging of all birds of Azadnagar and this was followed dutifully. With all birds gone, Azadnagar became quiet, as silent as a grave. The King was happy but he wanted to know the secret of the speaking birds. An old myna, caged without food or water for days, revealed the secret to his ministers. The king immediately ordered that the tree be cut down. A team was sent to the forest with hammers, pickaxes, adzes, mattocks and other ugly tools to bring down the lafzon ka perh. The tree was big and strong and it took the King’s men three years to bring it down. The day it fell, the King’s men celebrated. Azadnagar became free of the spoken word.

Then one day, a tiny swallow came to the palace parapet and spoke. It was followed by more speaking birds; sparrows, bulbuls, pigeons, doves, herons, crows and even the vultures with their ugly bent beaks. All had stories, songs and words of wisdom for the people of Azadnagar. The reappearance of the speaking birds bewildered the King and he dispatched a team to the forest to investigate.

To their utter surprise, the King’s men discovered that the place where the lafzon ka perh once stood, was strewn with tiny saplings on which words bloomed. They realized, when the tree was brought down, it had spilled its words all around the forest like a sweet scent. Its offspring now covered the whole forest and words were scattered on the forest floor like dry leaves. The speaking birds of Azadnagar kept the spoken word alive forever. The King and his men know now that it was impossible to bar the spoken word. Spoken word was the essence of communication!

The lafzon ka perh had become immortal.

Prof. Shah Alam Khan is a cardiologist and teaches at AIIMS, New Delhi

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.


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