Sunday, 2 October 2016

The Walnut Picker

There is no moral to this story. There is no special import either. It’s a record of fifteen minutes of an afternoon in autumn in Srinagar. Autumn is still young and the walnut tree in the neighbour’s garden has thick clusters of dark green leaves yet. It stands alone among a few poplars and thorny bushes.

Through the branches I could not see his face. But he was young and slender. He wore faded black jersey which said something on the back in yellow and grey pajamas.

I don’t know who he was, or how he came to be in our neighbour’s garden, but his being there was clearly no secret. If I heard him, the neighbor’s must have too, and since no one objected, I assumed he was not a thief.

Walnut trees are tall, sturdy and tough to climb. He made no attempt to climb it. The tree stood tall above him and he squinted as he looked at the high branches where walnuts grew: brown at this time of the year.

He was clearly enjoying the warm afternoon, and the aroma of old leaves in autumn. He walked leisurely on the fallen leaves listening to their soft rustle. He picked a stick and cleared his way among the bushes, looking for any fallen walnuts yet unpicked. There were none.

He walked a few steps away from the tree. Looked at the hanging walnuts near the top of the tree where they hung like ear rings of the sky and paused. He held his baton in his left hand and took a firm aim.

The cane whooshed as it flew upward towards the sky. It hit the branches of the walnut tree but missed his mark.

He picked it up again and twirled it a few times and threw it at the walnuts again. And again. The third time he threw it, the stick did not come down. It got tangled in the tree. But it hit the brown walnuts and with a tap they fell down.

Again walking as if the world could wait for him, he roamed around the tree turning over the leaves to find the fallen walnuts. He put them in his pocket and looked at the tree again.

He snapped his stick into two: easily, as if it were a twig in his hands, and aimed at the tree again. This time he aimed higher but the cane flew over the tree and landed on the other side.

He felt the walnuts in his pocket, glanced at the tree and walked away.



2 comments:

  1. This reminded me of the time when my grandparents went to Kashmir in the 1980s and brought back walnuts. Backnin Kolkata people would come into whack flowers from their garden. Thanks for sharing the story which took me to a happy Kashmir

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the comment, Kalyan.

      This is the season of walnut picking in Kashmir. Every day there is someone walking on the foliage looking for a fallen nut.

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