Through the open door, I watched as the branches of the neem tree danced to the afternoon breeze. Or should I say, as the wind rocked the branches. On a particular branch, near the apex and amidst the immense greenness, I noticed a little leaf, somewhat red. And somewhat parched, and somewhat out of place. If it was located somewhere else, would that branch have swayed differently? Or just the same – the angle, the rhythm, the dynamics, save for the absence of the lonely leaf?
My eyes dropped and I stared at the children playing on the dusty street. The afternoon sun was burning but they were oblivious. What does the future hold for them? Will they embrace it? Then an old woman passed by. Her faded blue jacket and black cap were her only protection from the furious sun. While her two arms each carried a pail of fish, her broken voice called out to customers to buy her enterprise. How much does she earn each day? And how long have she been doing that? Years ago, back when she was still a child, did she have an idea that she would become a fish vendor? Did she resist her fate? I watched the children again. What are their dreams? Do they know their purpose in life? And in this world?
I glanced up and looked at the leaves again, still swaying leeward. I realized that humans are like the leaves – we sway to where the winds blow, yet always, attached to the tree. Like leaves with all their intricate patterns of shapes and colors, we are all unique, and who and what we are are defined by our actions and choices. Still, the urge to “place” ourselves in this world is common to all. They say that we create our own destinies. That the future will always lie in our hands. Did we plan years ago what we become right now?
The wind intensified and the leaves soon fell one by one. But the small red leaf clung on. Every day is a struggle – a struggle to satisfy every hunger in our blood and in our spirits, a struggle to prove ourselves and make worth of our existence, a struggle to survive each day itself. As always, we endure.
If the leaf has a mind, will it realize its difference from the surrounding green leaves? If it has feelings, will it be sad and wish for a different place? For a different branch where other red leaves grow? For a different tree where the winds are gentle? Or will it wish for becoming a totally different leaf? For becoming other than what it is and where it is?
Momentarily, the wind halted, and gently, the red leaf broke off the branch and floated through the air. Second by second, it drifted and twirled. And finally, the earth embraced its fall. A child ran and stepped on it. The red leaf was crushed.
From the same ground, it was born and buried. From the tree where its destiny was tied, it held on and let go. Through the wind, it struggled and rested.
Are we really like the leaves?
Or leaves are simply leaves?