Flame Of The Forest

Deep in the jungles of Ajodhya Hill and Forest Reserve Area in the Purulia district of the state of West Bengal in India, blossomed the sacred Dhak tree or the Butea monosperma. Locally known as the Palash, it was nicknamed Bastard Teak by the Britishers. Much of its ancient forest tracts lying in the historic Doab area, between the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, was cleared by the East India Company for agriculture in the early eighteen hundreds. For its flaming-red beak-shaped Papilionaceous flower, the mystical tree was also called the Flame-Of-The-Forest.

Eighty-year-old Guruchoron Mahapatra along with his orphan teenage granddaughter ‘Palash’ named after the same beautiful tree, lived in a small wooden hut in the middle of a Dhak jungle on the outskirts of the sleepy little village of Baghmundi in the same forest regions of Purulia. Like the Butea tree, the girl’s beauty too was unparalleled, and for that, she was also lovingly called the Flame-Of-The-Forest by her overprotective grandfather.

Though not unique to the subcontinent of India, the Flame-Of-The-Forest tree was also found in the Southeast Asian countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and western Indonesia. Unlike the tree, however, no other like the Flame-Of-The-Forest girl was found anywhere else in the world apart from that very Jungle in Purulia.

Guruchoron’s forefathers were simple forest people who had originally migrated from the state of Odisha many generations ago for reasons lost in time. The old man had lost much in life. His wife died many decades ago while giving birth to their only son Gonesh. Then many years later, both Gonesh and his wife died due to a mysterious sickness. They left behind their baby daughter Palash, who was then raised by Guruchoron all by himself in the forest.

The leathery leaves of the Dhak tree have been used to serve and eat food long before the advent of paper or plastic plates. From its wood, very good quality charcoal could be obtained. The gum of the tree known as the Bengal Kino was valued by druggists for its astringent qualities and by leather workers because of its Tannins. Another kind of gum from the tree known as Kamarkas in Hindi was used in certain culinary dishes. Like the tree, Guruchoron’s granddaughter, too, was blessed with many qualities.

The Palash tree was known for its timber, resin, fodder, medicine, and dye. Its wood was white and soft, very durable underwater, hence often used for well-curbs and water scoops. For centuries Hindus have made spoons and ladles from it to pour Ghee or clarified butter on the sacred sacrificial fires of a Yagya.

The old man knew all about the qualities and uses of this magnificent tree. Over the years, he had taught his granddaughter all about them, the techniques, and ways to extract the various gifts of the Flame-Of-The-Forest tree to sustain themselves.

Of all the gifts of the Butea monosperma, its timber was most important for Guruchoron. In his youth, he had discovered that the white and soft, wood of the Dhak could also be crafted into beautiful toys. The forest dweller had mastered making a unique variety of wooden toys with homemade carpentry tools, which no one else could make.

Guruchoron drew his inspiration from nature. Most of his toys were animals – some found in the Ajodhya Hill and Reserve Forest, some that he had seen in a picture somewhere, and some crafted, completely out of his imagination. Though he did not like it so much, he also made human figures at times.

His creations were not only breathtaking and extremely alive to look at, but they also had moving parts and the figurines’ head, tail, limbs, and even eyes would move with the wind, making them one-of-a-kind.

For many decades now, the oldtimer would craft these wooden marvels in his forest home throughout the year. Then he would visit two famous fairs – one in June in the town of Purulia and the other in December in the city of Bankura to sell his fascinating toys.

He would usually take his granddaughter along with him, but as she grew older and her beauty became strikingly breathtaking, he stopped taking her to the town and the city. The old carpenter was scared that someone would take her away from him.

After Guruchoron stopped taking Palash to the fairs, she grew more restless and curious about the outside world. She tried her best to always appear happy in front of her grandfather. After all, he had sacrificed so much to raise her. Deep in her teenage heart, however, she yearned for the outside world.

Then one year, Guruchoron health started to deteriorate. Not knowing what to do with his sudden illness, the old man tried his best to hide his ailing symptoms from his granddaughter and live his routine life to the best. That year in June, he could not go to the fair in Purulia, and by the year’s end, they were running out of essential supplies that could only be acquired from the towns and the cities.

Guruchoron knew he had to make it to the fair in Bankura in December if they wanted to survive. With great difficulty, the old man loaded and prepared his cart and did a final check before going to sleep on the night before his journey to the winter fair. That night he felt more sick than usual and did not know whether he could make the trip in the morning.

The next day he was annoyed to wake us late. He hated it when Palash would keep an open umbrella beside his head to shield his eye from the morning rays. The girl had done this again, which meant he had overslept and would be late. As he tried to wake up, he realised he was too sick to move, a burning fever ran through his body, and he fell out of breath.

With great difficulty, Guruchoron stepped out of the cottage and froze speechless looking at the tracks of his cart stretching across the forest floor trailing away from his hut into the horizon. It was clear to him; his granddaughter had taken the bold move to drive the cart to the fair in Bankura and sell the toys herself.

Weakened by his chronic sickness suddenly heightened the night before and engulfed by the unexpected grief and realisation of perhaps never seeing his beloved Flame-Of-The-Forest again, the old carpenter collapsed on the soft grassy floor in front of his forest cottage.

Many years later, a nine-year-old beautiful little girl with fiery red cheeks came to the same forest along with her adventurous doctor father as part of a tourist group for a camping trip. The group was on their way to a well-known forest resort in the area, but the father-daughter mixed the trails and got separated.

While trying to find their way back to the group, the two of them spotted the silhouette of a swaying woman amidst a burning red blossomed Palash grove. As they approached the lady to get help and directions, the father froze.

“Daddy, daddy, this is no woman, it is a wooden statue that moves with the wind. She is so beautiful, who do you think she is daddy,” asked the curious little girl with great enthusiasm and excitement.

Unshaken by her daughter’s words, the doctor kept on staring at the face of the wooded lady gently moving with the wind. Even her eyelashes batted as the passing air between the trees caressed her lifelike timber frame.

Gaining back his composure after a long spell of freezing silence, the father shifted his gaze towards his daughter’s eyes and spoke to say – “child, you know that I met your mother many years ago, much before your birth in a hospital where she was brought in with a severe head injury from a road accident. After she recovered, she could not remember where she came from or anything about her past. We fell in love and got married a year later.”

“Yes daddy, you have told me about this many times,” interrupted the anxious girl. “You also know that she went to heaven right after you were born. I so much regret not having taken a single photo of her to show you. Well, you see, I do not know how this is possible, but the moving wooden statue you see in front of you is that of your mother,” said the father to his daughter with tears streaming down his face.

Going closer to the statue and taking its moving fingers in his hands, the loving husband missing his long-departed wife continued, “I think this is where your mother grew up. It seems like someone who loved her deeply made this statue in memory of her. She never could remember much after the accident, apart from recollecting flashes of an old carpenter, who seemed to love her very much and called her the Flame-Of-The-Forest.”

Flame Of The Forest


Copyright © 2021 TRISHIKH DASGUPTA

This work of fiction, written by Trishikh Dasgupta is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, send an email to the author at trishikh@gmail.com or get in touch with Trishikh on the CONTACT page of this website.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trishikh

Trishikh Dasgupta

Adventurer, philosopher, writer, painter, photographer, craftsman, innovator, or just a momentary speck in the universe flickering to leave behind a footprint on the sands of time..READ MORE

168 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous Me says:

    What a beautiful story.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you! Much appreciate your kind comment.

      Like

  2. Eternity says:

    Thanks for your like of my post, Salvation In Christ . The Book Of John 1:15-18 . 26 A.D.;” and others that I have published; you are very kind.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      You are most welcome. It is my pleasure.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Eternity says:

        Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. nightlake says:

    Fascinating story. And amazing detailed work, as usual

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      It gives me so much joy to see your comment on my stories. I get a sence of great contentment that I have able to create a style that has an appeal to friends like you.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much.

      Like

  4. Thanks for sharing this story!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      You are most welcome Vanya. Glad that you liked my story.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Loved your blog… Beautiful writing..✨

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much Deepika. Much appreciate your comment. Do visit again, I write and publish one story every weekend. There are many stories here some of them I am sure you would love to read.

      Like

  6. MayankS says:

    It’s so beautifully knitted. I’m sipmly overwhelmed by your storytelling. Congratulations for this !
    Do you do an extension research sort of thing before drafting a story so neat ?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Research is my constant companion in writing. I take bits and pieces of research and weave it along with fiction as I knit my story. Thank you for your beautiful comment, I treasure it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. MayankS says:

        Thanks for the response. 🙌

        Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a beautiful tale.🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much Tina.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautiful story ❤ 🔥

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you Teddydore for liking the story.

      Like

  9. oishmortal says:

    With your story, I sailed into an abyss of history, culture, myth, and love. So many things all at once. This story is written so well. You have an excellent gift of carving and weaving emotions into your narrations. Keep shining 🌸

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Reading your comment at the start of the day makes writing my stories worthwhile. I am so glad that you found so many hidden gems in my tale. Thank you so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Rabia Akram says:

    Very spellbound story. I wanted to comment the other day but then went on reading other stories in your blog.
    I like Palash tree myself. I am thinking to share this post in my blog if only you can give me permission to do that. I am deeply moved by your enchanting style of writing stories about the bygone era. You bring out the past back in a very mesmerizing manner. Keep feeding our minds with your versatile writing technique👍👌

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Rabia, your appreciation for my story is beyond my expectations. I cannot thank you enough for your kind words. Yes the Palash tree is very beautiful indeed. So glad that my writing style appeals to you. Do visit my blog again, there are many more stories here, some of which I am sure you would love to read.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rabia Akram says:

        Thanks for such a warm welcome. Sure I will keep visiting your blog for nourishing my mind with more stories about trees.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        Since you are a big tree fan, you might want to read my story ‘Bhuto’s Banyan Tree’, https://storynookonline.com/2021/04/30/bhutos-banyan-tree/

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Lost for words Trishikh – Wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trishikh says:

      You are too kind with your appreciation. Thank you so much. Really treasure your comment.

      Like

  12. This story transport from the outer world to the inner world, some trivia, general knowledge, some prejudice, and how they co-exist. Well thought through and expressed in words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Yes, this story toggles between worlds – the past and the present, the wilderness and the urban, and some other contrasts. It certainly has many flavours, flairs, and emotions.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. eunice says:

    It’s a unique story. Very interesting. But l got missing and found myself so many times before getting to the end. If l pause, and l wish to continue l find it difficult to trace to the last sentence. The paragraphing style doesn’t work for me. Apart from this, l enjoyed every bit of of it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much Eunice. The story is properly paragraphs. WordPress reader sometimes sandwiches the paragraph on its own. That’s what has happened. I will correct it immediately, thanks for bringing it to my notice. Treasure your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. eunice says:

        Most welcome, and thanks for the prompt response.

        Liked by 2 people

  14. Debangshu Chatterjee says:

    captivating…..outstanding

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you very much. So glad that you liked my story.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Worth sharing wonderful story🤗🤝

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much.

      Like

      1. You’re welcome……

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Harshi says:

    This is such a moving tale Trishikh! It’s been crafted so well. I re-read it today as it’s one of your stories which have stayed with me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much Harish. This is a great honour your bestow on me. My stories find great fruition with such sincere appreciation. I am ever indebted to you.

      Like

Leave a Reply to Trishikh Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s