Straight and Crooked Tree

Jan - Feb 2006

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Today I passed through a dense forest of Pine and Cedar trees. Seeing these thick, strong, tall and straight trees I felt very happy. They were so straight that they appeared like poles kept erect on the mountain slope. There were also thin, bent and crooked trees of Tewar, Dadra, Pinkhu and the like, which had sprouted branches in all directions. Excepting a few, all the rest were used as firewood. The contractors felled them to prepare coal as well. These trees occupy a lot of space, but they are of ordinary use only. The pine and cedar trees are used for building and furniture works, but the bent and crooked variety of trees are not useful for such works. So they are not considered to be of much worth and are cheap in price.

It is observed by me that the trees, which are tall and straight, have not sprouted their branches all around. They have grown straight to the top without caring to turn this way and that. The underlying principle is that when energy is focused, one naturally rises high. The pine and cedar trees have adopted this very principle and they are proclaiming the success of this principle, holding their heads high. Contrary to this, the bent and crooked trees that had no firmness or consistency spread their branches in all directions, as if dissipating their energy in enjoying the tastes of all sides, chasing instant self-gratification and success. In this endeavour the trees spread small branches in all directions, with bodies giving appearance of bigness (false pride?).

Time passes. The roots find it hard to procure enough water and manure to feed all the branches. As a result, the growth is hampered and the twigs become thin and weak. The trunk of the tree also grows weak, and cannot gain much height. When dispersed in all directions, how can it remain strong? Unlike these Dadra and Pinkhu trees, wise people do not dissipate their energies and force it towards achieving worthwhile high aims like the Pine and Cedar trees.


Vegetables are not much in vogue in these remote regions. Other than potatoes no vegetable is available. Potatoes are costlier too because these have to be brought from far away places and transportation is also very difficult. The shopkeepers at the camps sell them at the rate of one rupee per seer (about one kg.). Though there are small cultivable patches here and there by the side of small streams, there is no practice of growing vegetables. I am bored of eating potatoes daily. On enquiry from the shopkeepers and the local inhabitants they told me that the leaves of three kinds of trees in the forest could be used as vegetables. They are (1) Morcha (2) Lingda and (3) Kola.

One of the natives was given some money and was asked to bring the leaves of one of these varieties. The tree was there right behind the camp and the man brought a good quantity of leaves of Morcha within no time. I learnt the mode of preparation from him. When prepared, it tasted nice. The next day Lingda leaves and the day after Kola leaves were obtained and cooked. They too were tasty. Each of the three varieties of these leafy vegetables was tastier than the other. The deficiency of green vegetables for over a month was made good by these tasty leaves and I felt very satisfied.

On the way as well as in camps, I used to talk to the natives and asked why they were not using these green leafy vegetables that were abundantly available there. I explained to them that leafy vegetables are very good for health. But none of them took my advice nor considered these leaves to be tasty and beneficial. Finding their disinterest, the topic was dropped.

In my view all those three leafy vegetables were nutritive and hence I found them as important diet supplements, apart from being tasty. The natives here neither knew their dietary utility nor considered them of much use and hence could not make use of them despite their being abundantly available there. Unless the utility of a thing, idea or a virtue is understood, man is neither attracted towards them, nor can make any use of them. So, more than a thing being important, the greater role lies in knowing its use and getting convinced of it.

All around us there are many things and ways of living whose knowledge and adoption in life would benefit us greatly. Celibacy, physical exercise, getting up from bed before sunrise, prayer in the morning, noon and evening, proper utilization of time, nourishing and pure food, regularity in daily routine, non-indulgence in bad habits, sweet talk, good behaviour etc. are some of the many useful practices, which are not only highly beneficial but also easy to adopt. Yet most of us disregard them as useless and remain deprived of the benefits attainable by their adoption.

These hilly natives were unaware of the nutritional benefits of these leafy vegetables abundantly available around them and hence were unable to take advantage of them. But they are not to be blamed. How many means of self- betterment are available around us? How many of us adopt them and take the benefits?


Today it has been raining since morning. Normally, clouds were seen daily passing over the mountaintops, but today they have come down much low. The valley that was being crossed today was over 10,000 ft. above sea level. The sight of clouds menacingly approaching us was very entertaining to watch and very exciting too. The clouds appearing like mountains of carded cotton were flying fearlessly across us. A sort of white darkness made of thick fog surrounded us and dampened our clothes. Had it rained then, we could have seen for ourselves how the clouds were melting and forming raindrops.

When we used to see clouds in our village, they were seen very much high up. My grandmother used to tell us that gods lived over there where the clouds were seen. According to her, clouds are the vehicles of gods and by riding on them they roam about wherever they want and also send down rains wherever they pleased. In childhood I used to wish how nice it would be if I could have the privilege of riding on the clouds and go roaming about at will. In those days I imagined the clouds to be very costly - many times costlier than aeroplanes.  For riding on an aeroplane, one should purchase it, arrange for petrol and oil and learn to fly it, all of which were very difficult. But for clouds! Nothing to bother, sit over them and get going, that's all.

Today I did not ride on the clouds like I imagined in childhood. But seeing them flying and moving with us thrilled me. We had climbed to such a height where clouds touched our feet. It made me think that the difficult targets that seem to be too high and unattainable could be reached in this manner. The endeavour to climb over the mountain made us reach up to the clouds. The magnitude of a great noble ideal is also of Himalayan height. If we go on climbing, without giving up, we can rise much above the common people who are engrossed in mundane needs of food and sex. Take this example of ours in reaching over 10 thousand feet height, due to our strong will to go on climbing.

Clouds are difficult to touch. But on top of a mountain they are very close. A high sense of devotion to duty can take us as high as the clouds. The intense aspiration to rise high carries us to the height of clouds and makes them come to us. Thoughts like these were swelling up in my mind while touching the clouds. But what can thoughts alone do? If they cannot be put into practice they would die out like a ripple in the water.

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