The Palm Sham
Then I grew up amidst trees and bushes. Smaller ones like guava, for instance, had their branches starting low on its stems. We had in our backyard one such tree that was so very climber-friendly. With branches to serve as the foothold and branches as the banisters, there was absolutely no problem for us when we went atop.
But a palm tree is no guava. With no branch anywhere sprouting out of its trunk, it was so much unfriendly, so self-contained. I hated it, for I could not venture clambering it. Mango, guava, tamarind, banyan and even a coconut—all were negotiable, but not a palm. So unclimbable it was! Its prickly fibres exposed at the trunk were so much dreadful I had scratched my chest many a time, just for trying.
Sometimes, I used to wonder how dexterously the climbers could go clambering, reach the top, and cut its fronds! They were real heroes, as brave as Hanuman, the monkey God! Of course they used to take the help of a rope designed to bind them loosely around their waist together with the tree trunk and that served as their safety stay-cum-backrest. It was like sitting on an invisible chair, suspended in the sky! Besides, they used to have a foot loop that kept their feet together and prevented them from sliding down. Those were the safety equipment, perfected over centuries of innovations and the climbers hand their skills out to their younger generations for their living.
But I was not born to a parent who knew anything of that skill. So climbing could not come to me as a family trade. Whatever I would do would be just amateurish. Once in a while I tried to climb a date palm (Phoenix), for it is such a tree as has no branches like a palm yet offers its innumerable pruned stubs of old leaf bases where one can put his legs while climbing up. As though one goes upstairs negotiating a flight of steps. Date palm is known for its crown full of petiolar spines, quite frightening to anybody who does not want to shed blood yet wishes to feel the thrill of climbing. I was one of those and no wonder I could not reach its beautiful crown.
So what does a palm tree mean to me? A reminder of a thing I couldn’t do in my life? An entity, tall and towering that sends me into inferiority complex?