Tree-House


Remnants of a fallen tree

There are times in life when you narrowly escape disaster. And there are times when you aren’t so lucky. There are bound to be incidents belonging to both categories in everyone’s lives. This is about two of them. One in either category to be precise. Or perhaps it’s not so precise. If it were, I wouldn’t be alive writing this. The classification is probably unwarranted. The fact is, I was fortunate to have escaped a bid on my life in at least one incident.

Let me part the curtains of mystery that I have rather unintentionally drawn around you with my enigmatic introduction a little, so that some of you can decide whether you want to read further or not. Actually, the incidents are not so personal in nature. In fact, they affected my whole household. And there are trees involved. The title is of course, not a small clue.

People say you should not let big trees stand near your house. They must be chopped off. There are primarily two reasons for saying so. First is that big trees have big roots that can dig into the foundation of your house, leaving you surprised when it all comes tumbling down one fine day. Second is that big trees may not always stay stable; they turn into rogues when intoxicated by strong winds and rain and can potentially fall on your house like an old drunkard on a new highway. But our family is quite Eco-friendly, for we have not chopped off any of the numerous trees that surround our house. And we almost paid the price this time.

The first (and nearly fatal) incident (calling it an accident would perhaps be more appropriate) happened long back. And it was not because we let trees stand. It was because we tried to chop one off. It was before I passed the 10th standard as I was living in my old house then. That means sometime before the year 2003. I don’t think being more exact would add anything to the story.

It was a holiday. Or else I wouldn’t have slept until almost 10 o’ clock that morning. Sleeping alone on a double bed is heaven. You feel like you are sleeping in a football field. You will never reach the end of the bed, however much you roll over on either side. It was really cozy under the sheet. I guess I had just finished an entertaining dream and was wondering what to dream about next, when I heard the huge BANG! I thought the whole house was going to collapse. It was quite probable, considering the age of the house, and the fact that most of it was built using lime instead of cement mortar. I jumped out of my bed. The sheet fell lazily to the floor. I rushed to the western side of my house where I thought the sound came from. I was right.

We had a bathroom on that side of the house. Thank God it wasn’t a bedroom! For now it had a coconut tree in it. Only that it wasn’t standing. It was lying with its considerably fat trunk on top of the bathroom. Most of the ceiling tiles had made the futile attempt of resisting the fall, getting shattered to pieces in the process. And there was a gaping semi-circular hole in the wall, where it met the roof. I ran outside. The top of the tree was standing in the air, above our terrace. It didn’t make contact with the roof of the house, as the bathroom wall acted like the fulcrum of a lever (remember the “simple machine” you studied in elementary physics?).

I was wondering how a whole coconut tree fell without any provocation at all – for there was no wind or rain or let alone a breeze; in fact, the sun was shining brightly – when I heard ammachi (my grandmother) yelling at somebody. Later I came to understand that it was a useless coconut tree and was arranged to be cut. Apparently, the tree had been cut, only that it fell on the house in the process and those who did it were nowhere to be seen. They had fled as soon as the rope they used to hold the tree in place (somebody said it was a rope normally used to tie a cow, not hold a tree) gave way, letting the tree down on our house. So, we were left with a destroyed bathroom and a helpless coconut tree. Thank God I didn’t wake up earlier and go to the bathroom. Else it would have been difficult finding me under a heap of bricks and tiles.

* * *

Now, back to the present. This happened two days ago. It was an unusually hot day. We wondered why, but never in our wildest dreams expected it to be a fore-warning of the torrential rain that was to pour out from the distant heavens in the evening. And the wind. It was blowing all around quite annoyingly. There haven’t been such strong winds in the whole history of Edayaranmula. Maybe the winds wanted to make a strong statement, for after a while we heard a huge THUD! and several smaller thuds to follow.  There were small vibrations across the walls of the house. My sister and I were in the study when we saw branches and leaves falling at random from the roof, through the window. It was raining mad, with thunder and lightning providing the additional special effects. Nothing can scare you more than a sudden blast of thunder out of the blue. And it rained for the next one hour. The electricity had already announced it’s inability to stand the test of the winds as it had gone with the slightest hint of a breeze early in the evening.

The Teak that Fell

The rain subsided, finally. We went out to investigate. We saw the top of our neighbor’s teak tree lying in front of our house. One branch was still lying on our sloping roof, refusing to fall down. I went to the rooftop. There was a solar water heater there, with nice costly glass tubes circulating hot water. It was safe. Not even a scratch, though it was situated in the normal trajectory of fall of the tree. From the information gathered  the next day, it was understood that the top of the tree flew through the air a few meters before falling on the front part of our roof, which was a slope.

Teak trees have huge leaves, catching the wind in them and hence when there are strong winds, they may not fall right where they are. The trunk missed our roof, just grazing away a bit of plaster at the edge. Only the branches fell directly on the roof. Fortunately, they couldn’t do much damage. And this time I was safe inside the house.

The House without the ‘Edge’: see the exposed part at the end of the shade?

Worker removing a part of the trunk
Another casualty: A papaya tree that was uprooted

MORAL: It seems trees can be rogues sometimes…

Actually the problem lies in wide open spaces that let the wind gather speed. If there are more trees, there will be enough hurdles for killer winds which will considerably reduce their speed.

Trees are never rogues. We who chop them off, are…

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