As soon as the school bell rings, children run out of the towering stone building, screaming in delight because it is break time. Few of them run to the swing set, and a long line of children await their turn. The see-saw, merry-go-round, slides are almost always occupied during break. The peeling paint, creaking chains or the dents in the iron seats seem trivial when compared to the feeling of freedom and elation that rings in their bubbling laughter.
In the centre of the vast school campus, stands an ancient tamarind tree with evergreen foliage providing an umbrella of cool shade. It the best spot on a hot summer day. The feather like leaves sift golden sunshine that form patterns on the cemented ground and every once in a while, yellow flowers with red streaks drop down onto the sunlit patterns. The dark red and yellowish bark of the tree speaks years of heritage.
Under this tree is a little blue tuck shop. A lady sits there, most days dressed in vibrant polka dotted clothes. Her tuck shop is filled with confectionaries of many kinds. Sugar candies of all shapes and colours, candies you could play with before eating, candies that were like bracelets, savoury crisps, biscuits, cakes- she just knows what the children like and she has them all. Groups of children huddle together at her tuck shop everyday screaming for aunty to give them this and that. How she hears each one of them through all that noise is a talent only she has mastered. Children walk around with their pockets and mouths filled, some sticking out their tongues at each other to show off the colours left by the sweets. The older kids who don’t care much for these snacks sit under the tree and tell stories or play games. The school is over a hundred years old. Those underground storage rooms, endless passages, coarse stone walls and large windows have quite a number stories.
When the tamarind fruits are ripe, the breeze is infatuated by the sweet-sour fragrance and seems to sing praise to these tiny moments. The tamarind tree is a sentry to the school and the children, and there isn’t a time when it isn’t flourishing. It carries years of wisdom and has become an embodiment of peace and love to anyone who has had a moment to spare with this green bounty of life.
Inspired by my childhood school and the big tamarind tree that has left a permanent and beautiful picture in my memory.
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