An Ageing Tree

Every time his children suggested chopping down the tree, Haji Bakri withdrew into himself. He kept silent. They were unaware of just how strongly Haji Bakri felt about the tree. To him, the tree was his soul. The tree was his life. He was very sure that if the tree died, he would die; or if he died, the tree would die. It was strange how the human mind thought sometimes.

His children did not know that the tree was as old as him and had witnessed his life’s journey. “If the old tree is to be brought down, it means that this old person here ought to die too. I am old and useless too.” These words often plated in Haji Bakri’s mind. He felt offended every time his children mentioned cutting down the tree.

Last evening, when his youngest child Salimah had brought up the matter again as the family sat on the verandah, Haji Bakri had snapped.

“What sin has the tree committed that all of you want to cut it down? None of you can see what the tree has done for others. Look at those birds, the tree is the home they return to every evening. To passer-by, the tree provides shade from the hot sun. It may be old, but it is still useful. But all of you, what have you contributed to your race, religion and country? Haji Bakri had grabbed his walking stick and risen from the rattan chair.

“You do not understand how much the tree has sacrificed for me and all of you,” he continued. “And yet, it does not ask anything of you. It lives on its own, getting sustenance from Allah. Neither does the tree trouble you. You children should realize that the tree is me and I am the tree. If you cut it down, it means you are killing me.”

Excerpt from An Ageing Tree by A. Wahab Hj. Hamzah
Tenacity: Stories built to last, Pg 158-159
Translated from Malay, Sebatang Pohon Tua

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