The Tree by Manoj Das
Questions for discussion Section 1.
Q1. How does the writer describe the river in spate? Did it cause havoc in the village? What was the time of the flood?
Ans .. The onset of monsoon brought dark black clouds in the sky and a mysterious aura formed around the moon. These signs were the harbingers of the approaching flood. The flooded river instilled a feeling of dread and anxiety in the minds of the villagers, particularly the older folks. The river swelled and often bruised the banks and ate up the grasslands. Seldom did it bring havoc to the village. However, the angry swollen river devastated villages downstream. The floods came during the rainy seasons.
Q2. What did the villagers do to meet the crisis?
Ans 2 .. Awakened by the howl of the jackals around midnight, the villagers rushed to the river bank to asses the fury of the swollen river. They carried lanterns and burning twigs to get some light in the darkness of night. In downstream villages, people took shelter on rooftops and in the body of tall trees. They waited out the flood in such precarious conditions.
Q3. The leaves chattered incessantly their familiar language of hope and courage.’ How does this statement portray the banian tree?
Ans .. The age-old banian tree had stood there unruffled by the torrent of umpteen floods since time immemorial. Its robust trunks helped the tree to defy the deadliest of floods in the past. When the wind blew during the downpour, the leaves of the tree fluttered as if to assure the villagers that the ground under the tree offered a safe haven to the panicked folks. The author mentions the fact that the banian tree stood firm in its place unaffected by the gushing waters of the river. Its robust stance was reassuring for the villagers.
Q4. What was the story behind the mound and the tree.
Ans .. The mound was possibly the place where a king’s palace stood long long ago. Over the years, it became a huge hump of grass-covered soil. Its size had been eroded with time by Nature’s elements. The tree had once incurred the wrath of the king because its spread had obstructed the construction of a sprawling palace. Its branches had been pruned to make way for the palace. After a few years, a calamitous flood devoured the palace forcing the king and his inner circle of confidants to rush to the trunk of the tree for shelter. They saved their lives thus. The king soon realized his folly and began to worship the tree in gratitude.
Q5. Write briefly about the ‘banian goddess’. What does this portrait reveal about the villagers? Do you mark an element of humour and satire in the description?
Ans … The giant size of the banian tree and its unexplained longevity intrigued the villagers. They saw a spark of God in its body. Clearly, the villagers were simple, god-fearing folks who saw His hand in the benign banian tree. The author has portrayed the villagers as naïve, simple people who likened the giant, time-defying banian tree to God.
Q6. How does the author describe the different trunks of the banian tree? Are the descriptions given in a serious or light-hearted vein? Do they reveal the orthodoxy and superstition of the villagers?
Ans … The different trunks of the giant banyan tree served the villagers in many ways. At the foot of one trunk, the villagers conjured the presence of a deity. They offered prayers at the root of the trunk with great reverence, Another trunk offered a common meeting place for the village community to meet and discuss their issues. One more trunk offered a resting place for a bull. Still one more offered a place for a frail village woman with enfeebled legs to spread her vegetables for sale. Thus, the trunks served the villagers in myriad ways.
- How was the tree godly? What did it symbolize?
Ans .. The tree was giant in size and apparently had an unlimited time span. It was unaffected by the deadliest of floods year after year. It offered sanctuary to one and all, and served the villagers as a gift of God. It symbolized the universal nature of mother earth, and her very caring instincts for both humans and animals.
Questions for discussion
Q1. What is the central incident in this section?
Answer .. A huge landslide appears imminent. It could uproot the age-old, highly revered banyan tree and plunge it into the river waters, thus culminating in a unimaginable catastrophe for the villagers.
Q2. What attitude of the villagers is reflected in the words of the retired head-pundit? How does he interpret the fleeing of the birds and snakes from the tree?
Answer .. The retired head-pundit sees the signs around the riverbank as too ominous to ignore. He feels a huge danger looming over the village pointing to a possible landslide that could uproot the tree. He notices the fact that birds have deserted their nests on the trees, and snakes have slithered out of their pits. Such mass fleeing of birds and snakes portends to an imminent disaster of cataclysmic proportions, he foretells.
Q3. How do the villagers react to the words of the college going young men? What is distinctive about the attitude of the young men?
Answer … The villagers disapprove of the words of the college-going young men. They feel the students are arrogant and disrespectful to the heritage tree that has protected them in so many ways for long years. They berate the college students for their insentivity.
Q4. What does Srikant Das, the Vaishnab, observe about the impending fall of the tree? Does it reflect the orthodoxy and superstitiousness of the villagers? How does Manoj Das describe the nature of the villagers?
Answer .. Srikant Das feels that the calamity about to befall the village is the consequence of the many sins of the villagers. He thinks, the impending uprooting of the tree is God’s retribution for the villagers’ guilt. He implores them to silently admit their guilt and seek pardon from the divine tree. Quite obviously, the villagers hardly understand the science behind floods and the erosion of soil caused by the gushing waters. Nevertheless, they believe in God, and the role He plays in their lives. Manoj Das portrays the villagers as very simple folks who have no recourse to anything that could ensure their safety in the face of the river’s fury.
Q5. Do you find a contrast between two generations in this section? Explain.
Answer .. The older villagers are very God-fearing, simple, and a little conservative in their thoughts. The younger generation are relatively more practical and realistic. They have less regard for the entrenched values of older people.
Section 3 ..
Questions for discussion
- What is the primary concern of the villagers in this section? In which context does Manoj Das bring in the names of some important villagers? What tone do you mark in the description?
Answer .. The thought of the leaning banian tree falling into the waters of the swollen river weighed heavily in the minds of the villagers. They simply countenance their revered tree collapsing into the river and vanishing for good. Everyone was in a state of funk. No one had any clue about saving the tree. In such a situation, Manoj Das brings in some elderly villagers who could be assumed to have some wisdom to fend off the looming disaster. The description is about the sense of panic, helplessness, and fear that pervades the community.
- How did the M.L. A. console the villagers? What was his reaction to the words of the old man?
Answer .. The MLA told the villagers not to panic. He said how the villages downstream had been badly damaged by the flood waters. People around him faced much less danger, assured the MLA. He offered to do whatever he could to save the tree and dispel the fear of loss of the people around him.
- Is it typical of politicians? Do you notice any element of humour and satire in his statements?
Answer .. Politicians are adept in mollifying agitated voters through use of non-committal, but sweet words. In the present case, he offers to save the tree knowing very well that it is not possible. Quite humbly, he says that he is the voters’ servant, not their ruler. To assuage the miffed voters, politicians camouflage their voters with empty rhetoric that, in effect, means nothing tangible.
- What did the old Brahmin do when the tree was about to be swept away by the flood?
Answer .. The old Brahmin perhaps immersed himself in deep prayer to the tree-goddess beseeching her not to depart from the place. In the process, he went into a trance leaving the villagers baffled and intrigued. They chanted hymns, blared loud sounds into his years to bring him back to normalcy.
- How did the villagers behave when the tree was gone? What did it reflect about them? How does the story end? Is it a satisfactory ending?
Answer .. The tree fell into the river causing a huge splash of water and making a very frightening sound. The villagers saw the scene with immense grief, and a irreversible sense of loss. They chanted ‘Hari Bol’ to draw the attention of God to their plight. They chanted ‘Hari Bol’ draw the attention of God to their plight. The villagers appear very simple folks who surrendered themselves to God with a sense of resignation, and lament. The story ends with the villagers trying to come to terms with their lives without the protection of the divine tree. They bemoan their fate but can’t do anything to reverse it.