As a child, figs sounded so foreign in my storybooks. They looked like
dark pear-shaped secrets or aubergine lipsticks Englishwomen wore.
Our humble peepal, which I’d spell as people, the same heart-shaped
leafed tree Vishnu houses himself in, and women and girls worship
by lighting diyas and doing parikramas, was called sacred fig. But we
weren’t taught to see our trees as holy, breathing beings – always its uses.
Even the notes on Kalpavriksha were for how much we could colonize it:
loot for its wood, its leaves, fruits and flowers without much thanksgiving.
When I’d spot the holy trinity of birch-oak-cedar in my textbooks, I’d try
to imagine their shapes. My mother taught me that nilgiri oil comes from
yu-ka-lip-tis trees and I poured its smell on my handkerchiefs like a foreign
perfume. When in school I spotted a boy wearing bands of chandan on his
forehead like a sandalwood horizon, I envied him as a banyan-root, growing
despite our slavery.

Kunjana Parashar is a poet living in Mumbai. She holds an MA in English Literature from Mumbai University. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in BorderlandsUCity ReviewOkay DonkeyDovecoteHomology Lit,and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @wolfwasp.

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