My home once sat beside a nature reserve, where a long, winding road would skirt the edge of a forest. It was a charming place, a piece of heaven. At the time of this writing, it was the quietest place I’d ever lived in.
The winding road would end abruptly, however, meeting a major motorway along which traffic rushed furiously, driven by madmen. From there, the forest began to thin. Lush canopies suddenly gave way to low-rise estates, then to busy shophouses, then to golf courses, to tall buildings, to factories, to flats, to condominiums hideously imitating the look of nature.
In the 3 years I lived beside the forest, destruction - or what they call “construction” - never ceased. Acres of trees felled and uprooted. Lush forests flattened overnight. Animals driven deeper and deeper into hiding as we continued to kill.
Perhaps this banyan was lucky. Slashed and defaced by iron-clad machines, she laid by a pedestrian walkway, neither living nor dead. No one seemed to notice. People walked briskly by, eyes trained ahead, mind gazed on leisure, or on survival of a different kind.
For three days, from midday till sunset, I sat beside this grand old lady, and painted. Those were the only times when I saw pedestrians stop by, but not to look at the grand lady. To look at me, my scribbling, and - I’m dead certain - with a great deal of curiosity. What’s there to paint?
On the fourth day, she was gone, along with the life around her. There was nothing left to paint, for all that was left was a flat, barren land, ruled by iron-clad machines.