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Coniferous Trees

The mines shored into hills guts of the earth's crust, the dark innards lie exposed as an ugly secret. She told him that one evening. Swami considered it, knitting his eyebrows.

"The lignite that we mine in this region is 25 million years old. It is fossilized vegetable matter that grew here even before man walked on the earth. Do you know, we have been studying samples of lignite and have found the plant matter of coniferous nature? Coniferous trees in the tropical plains of south India! What was this place 25 million years ago? A mountain? I am looking at the secrets of the earth that the fossils carry while you are thinking of the sordid clay that we pile into hills."

Mangai did not reply. Swami was puzzled at the ways she wrapped herself in routines of trivia, her passion for stringing flowers, pickling limes, collecting cotton from trees to stuff pillows and cushions. He could never make her talk what these meant to her.

She was making a strand of jasmine flowers.

"Is this from our garden?"

"Yes. Do trees and plants interest you only after they fossilize?"

Swami smiled, "I know nothing about the trees in our garden. Tell me about them."

She looked at him to see if he was making fun of her. "There are the mango and guava trees, lime, jack, badam, cotton and eucalyptus trees." After a pause, holding her hand over her mouth to hide the smile, a gesture that made her endearing to him, she said, "But there are no coniferous trees."

Story by:

Uma Gowrishankar

21 May 2014