Short Story: The Tree and The Cloud

It was a hot summer day.

‘Phew’, said the tree, shaking its leaves, looking for some shade.

Mighty wrong. There was no hiding from the blazing mid-summer sun. ‘If I could only find the shade or maybe if it could only rain?’ The tree sighed.

A slow easterly breeze set in. It brought in the much-needed cool during the hot and humid afternoon. The air was a little wetter than usual.

‘Maybe, the heavens might answer my prayers with some showers.’ The thought was not misplaced.

A dark grey cloud, a solitary one, slowly drifted from the eastern direction. The tree swayed in the afternoon breeze, waving at the cloud. It was still out of earshot.

‘Hey, you there, cloud.’ Yelled the tree, now waving at the cloud furiously.

‘Hey there.’ The cloud responded, moving slower than the breeze, huffing and puffing, mostly because of the weight of its pregnancy with water drops.

‘Where are you heading to?’ The question was meaningless, but the tree still asked.

‘Towards inland, wherever the breeze takes me.’ A tired answer came from the gray cloud.

‘Why don’t you just lighten up here?’ The tree saw a chance to get its summer relief. If only the cloud listened to it.

‘Not sure. But you look tired yourself.’ The cloud asked, looking down with clear-eye for the first time. It had come to a stop, just above the tree.

Incidentally, the afternoon breeze stopped, probably taking a siesta. Even the breeze needed its rest. It was a warm, weary world.

The Tree and the Cloud © Ashok Subramanian, 2022

‘We both depend on the breeze.’ The tree remarked, just trying to establish common ground for a conversation. It was eager to talk to a stranger after a long time, given that the residents ( the birds, bats, and squirrels) of its branches were busy in their own lives.

‘Indeed. I was born in the breeze, and my end is with the breeze. Everyone assumes that I am a free bird, but it is only partly right.’ The cloud wondered why it was explaining its life to a stationary stranger.

‘My life is stationary.’ The tree responded as if it could read the cloud’s mind. ‘I am rooted to the ground.’ It was a fact. The tree always envied the clouds and birds. They could fly or drift away of their own volition or with the breeze.

‘But at least you are with a family. The birds and animals, the humans around you live and interact with you, for good or for bad. Do you know how much I yearn to have relationships? I miss loving others and being loved.’

The cloud, now tired, felt that the tree at least had a home. The home was where one could be, after a tiring day. But there was no such ‘home’ for the cloud. From birth to end, the life of a cloud was to float along. Sometimes gathering the rain-dust and another time, dropping them on places that the winds bid them to. In a sense, it was a life of homeless slavery. The wind was its Lord and Master.

‘How do you feel about the wind?’ The cloud whispered lest the breeze heard it. After all, this was a welcome lull.

‘It depends.’ The tree stood still. The breeze started and stopped. The leaves and branches swayed and danced, and then stopped. ‘I am rooted, but I have to dance to the wind’s tune. That is the unwritten law.’

There was silence for a while. The breeze, the gentler version, and the wind, the stronger version, were the Lord and Master of the tree and cloud. A sense of camaraderie dawned on both.

‘I heard somebody say that…let me try to quote.’

The trees are the poems that the earth writes on the sky.

‘Was it Khalil Gibran?’ The cloud sought to move on with the more positive conversation, hoping that the camaraderie may result in some rain.

‘Indeed. He also wrote about me. Let me recall.’ The cloud loved its ability to recall the famous poet.

“Should you sit upon a cloud you would not see the boundary line between one country and another, nor the boundary stone between a farm and a farm.
It is a pity you cannot sit upon a cloud.”

‘I am a poem, and you are the bastion of limitless freedom. I love the immortal poet.’ The tree laughed heartily. The cloud rumbled in laughter.

From being strangers to now almost being friends — that was a quick turn of events after a short conversation.

‘Don’t underestimate yourself, dear cloud.’ The tree decided to make the move. ‘You are a giver. You carry the burden of water-dust, and when you suffer, like the mothers down here do, it rains. The rains bring life and happiness. Don’t you agree?’

The cloud shivered once. A whiff of breeze started slowly.

‘Yes. But I have always felt like a beast of burden. You can call me a mule. I run around at the breeze’s bidding and rain where it tells me to. What is about giving there?’ The cloud sniffled once, feeling pity for itself.

‘You are a giver too. You give shade to humans and are home to the birdies. You offer fruits and other parts as food to humans. You act as the firewood for humans to stay warm and cook. And so on… you are the bigger giver.’ The cloud gathered its wits, making a strong counterpoint.

‘We both are givers, but…unless you give, I don’t exist. Unless you rain, trees like us die…’ The tree paused for effect.

‘ May I call you my mother?’ It was a bold gambit.

The cloud melted under these unexpected words of love.

‘Mother.’ Nobody called the cloud that way.

It felt soft inside, just as another whiff of breeze blew. The moment of unloading, the moment of childbirth had come.

The cloud cried in pain, as its womb opened. First in little drops and then in torrents, it rained.

The tree, now drenched in the cloudburst, danced. The dance was a bit on its own, but the breeze did blow along.

‘Mother…’ the tree shouted in joy.

Just then, a strong wind blew.

The cloud, still crying in pain and raining, floated away, drenching other trees along its path.

The tree smiled, feeling wet, cool, and better. By the time the sun returned, it would be over the western sky, sinking into the horizon.

~Ashok Subramanian

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Poet and Author. Poetry and Book Reviews. Investment Banker. IIM C Alumni. Engineering Graduate.

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