The Verve of the Verandah, a vignette by journalism student Abeer Khan


All trees seem sincere, but this one was particularly solemn. The crevices in the bark of the timeworn trunk looked as though they would sprout open any moment to reveal an expression as humanly fervent as possible. It was unfettered by the trains of little ants stocking up rather appetizing morsels of berries, meek leftovers of insects who had laid their life in some sort of tryst with a flaring lightbulb, and translucent eggs the size of a single twinkle of stars. The tickling of wayward dogs and disobedient children did not so much as receive a trifling reaction from the tree. 

The life of the verandah was sealed within the solemnity of this emerald foliage. The brittle red stonework on the ground was made even more frail by the roots of the largely lonesome tree, which stood in the middle of the verandah like an egregious old man.  

The neem tree

For a tree, it was unfailingly imbalanced. No deafening screeches from the most cacophonic bird could hinder its amity; and yet, on a disagreeable day, a solo swoosh of the wind could deter the tree from its very perseverance to exist. 

It was especially lifelike during the rains. The decadent melody of the raindrops, philandering with one another, brought new life to the tree. The rain inspired the tree to birth nascent leaves – softer and more fragile than the veterans. They came in much younger shades of green. It was hard to tell if the tree swayed in delight with the first stroke of the monsoon breeze or jittered in frustration because it preferred the warm gust of summer. There was much to observe in the silhouette of the tree, its every shade darker than it had been before the first shower; the brown was now browner and the green, duskier than it had ever been. The petrichor amalgamated with the smell of crushed neem berries, persistently tingling nostrils nearby. The berries were petite but intricate, with an almost linear seed that held in itself the potential of an entirely distinct neem tree. Each berry, adorned by the yellow of freshly churned butter, bled a honeyed bitter smell. It smelled like the taste of your favorite dessert and most loathed medicine had been blended together and hid in a corner of your house – hidden enough to tease you, but apparent enough to frustrate you. The berries smelled like a paradox; the more you wanted to have a taste, the more nauseous you got. 

To say the tree was the life of the verandah would be a rebuke to its existence. It was much more than that; for the verandah was built after the tree, and the house was a mere supplement to its existence. The tree was here before us all, and for now it had no sinister plans to leave. It stood tall, often laden with a silken veneer of sobriety. None of us knew when it would choose to simply walk away from the life we had created around its being.