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Sayandeep Das

Through the window came the muffled noise; she looked down at the street and saw a group of young protesters with banners of green revolution and shouting, “We want to protect mother nature!”

Dreamers! she thought. Those dreams had been aeons ago. Maybe it was just a fantasy which she nurtured all those years. Was it four decades now? She closed her eyes to open the door of her mind to look at the past.

Her childhood was simple. She remembered their modest flat in the officers’ quarters. They had a beautiful lawn stacked with plants of dazzling flowers and leaves. Their garden was the most beautiful on the street. She remembered how impatiently she used to watch the little buds to come into bloom with all abundance. She remembered planting a rose and even naming it. What was it? Time had wiped that from her memory. She remembered how once she buried the seed of the sweetest mango in the back garden; her wonder and joy knew no bound when she saw the tender stem and little leaves grow from it.

Lush and evergreen eucalyptus trees lined the streets. Those were so tall, so straight and so proud — like soldiers standing guard to attention. There were immense trees in the field casting dark shadows. It was incredible to play hide and seek under those trees. And through the gap she could see the outlines of the factory where her father used to go to work every morning.

She vaguely remembered protests and slogans but was too busy playing with friends and watching the plants to bloom into flowers. And her little sapling in the back garden.
She could not remember how her father became rather quiet and sullen, only that the furrows in his forehead became deeper and his smile rarer.

Then on one cold winter night her father had to go on an urgent call from the factory. That was the last she ever saw of him. The last time she felt him holding her in the air and feeling his warm embrace. Soon, all hell broke loose. She only remembered the confusion, the chaos, the acrid smell and the wailing sirens. Everything was but a blur.

She learnt that her father died of the world’s worst industrial disaster, that he’d never had a fighting chance. He was an engineer in the Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal which spewed fatal chemicals on that fateful night that killed and maimed so many people.

She looked down at the street; some were protesting, but others were planting flowers and trees. Suddenly she longed to see her little sapling in her back garden. Was it still there? It must have been a big tree now. Did little children play hide and seek around it? She closed her eyes and prayed that it had survived the disaster and chaos of the world. Because like the young protesters, she could only have hope. Mother nature was very forgiving.