The Grasshopper’s Dream
By Shyamal Chakrabarti
Out biking through the woods one winter morn
I paused and watched the forest floor.
The sickle-shaped eucalyptus leaves
(That the village belles collect in the afternoon
For lack of firewood) lay scattered around.
Even a decade ago the falling leaves made
A crumbling bed for the mischievous passer-by
To set on fire. A thousand earthen lamps
Were lit to cheer the darkening evening.
Perhaps he was not a pyromaniac for the woods,
Like cities, too wished to usher Diwali.
It was not the eucalyptus or akashmoni,
The pearl of the sky, that was singed
But the undergrowth - cacti and other
Nameless saplings - got charred and stunted.
But now there were no dark patches in sight
And the lesser plants thrived in the pillared woods.
Still further away from where I stood
A hundred wooden boxes surrounded a plastic tent.
It was the honey collector with his apiaries
Where million bees were busy turning eucalyptus
Nectar into honey for their grubs. I knew him
But not how he bore the cold of wintry nights.
So I decided not to wake the poor man up
When the dewy diadems held my gaze.
The forest floor was full of them; the cobwebs
Laden with the angelic tears were visible,
Too visible to be of any use to their owners.
Then I reached the edge of the woods
Where a gravel pit stared like open wound.
It was ochre red laterite; ageless weathering
Has sapped away its minerals and made it barren.
Not even so much as a blade of grass was seen
Among the coarse rounded pebbles and sand.
But an olive green grasshopper chose for final rest
The gravel pit. It dreamt of a pasture here
And thought its mite could enrich the soil.
Years later I revisited the gravel pit
And found in it tiny eucalypti dancing in the breeze.
Shyamal Chakrabarti teaches Physics at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. He writes stories, poems, popular science articles and has never travelled abroad. He did my M.Sc. in Physics, M.Tech. and Ph.D. in Materials Science all from IITs (Kharagpur and Kanpur).
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