End of Watch
Every day I wake up to walk 30 kilometres across my expansive willow-estate. There are many chores that I have to complete in its maintenance. So, I plan these chores in halves in order to pace my work through the day and carry it in to the night. In the morning I make sure that the lake is not silted and that its water is fit for drinking. Then I go to the wooded pathways and clean them of the excess shrub that can be an hindrance to a leisurely walk. After a light siesta, in the afternoon, I make my dinner and go back to exploring the gardens. Every tree and its leaf speak a language that only I can understand.
Young ones called this language “Leafish”. We elders called it “Kommu”.
The knowledge of which makes me understand the smallest of aberrations on the trees or on the tall grass. If these plants or trees are diseased I consult with loggers to uproot the tree and carry it far away from the estate. However my real work begins as the sun sets. By night fall I have to keep an eye on the boundaries of the estate because thieves enter and steal the estate's wealth. They have no civility or courtesy to understand that thieving is not an honorable profession, I have no inclination to put up a “No Trespassing” board because nobody reads sign boards anymore and neither do they understand my language.
My estate was bequeathed upon me, not by legacy, but by the courage of my ancestors. This land’s preservation and, its defence, are as important to me as the beating of my very heart. I owe these honourable qualities to good parenting. My father had taught me not to take more than what was necessary from the land. My mother had trained me to be self-sufficient and I groomed myself on the lessons that they bestowed upon me. Now that I am in my prime I walk around and observe the sprawling teak and rosewood trees. They give me a sense of pride because my family has nurtured and protected them for estate for generations. Those reading this must remember that I never get excited with the right or the wrong. Life is an endless cycle of duties and chores for me.
I have several friends that I share my estate with. There are different varieties of birds and animals which graze upon its sweet grass and feast upon the nutritious roots and tubers. Some of these animals have made my estate their home, which is the most pleasing sight to me because they embody the spirit of life, vibrant and colourful. They carry seeds from my estate and deposit them across the numerous trails that they visit on a daily basis. They keep life from ending and continue its journey of learning.
However, the same cannot be said about people. I have sat behind the tall grass, in camouflage, and in secrecy studied their strange behaviour. They cut and steal the oldest and the strongest of the trees. They killed many animals for pleasure and left their bodies rotting in the sun. Some of them revelled in their mastery of the tools of death. Their guile ignored the knowledge of the elephants and the secrets of nature. Their habit of digging for sand on the banks of the lake and have rendered the water unfit for drinking. Silt collects itself on the lake bed every day and is destroying the ecosystem that thrived around the lake.
Several times I have confronted them with a warning. I feel ashamed because my appearances have not brought about a change in them. How else can I communicate with these ignorant people? Cowards! They make haste with the spoils of fruit, wood and meat upon watching me. They feign ignorance to every episode of theft and destruction wrought upon this ancient estate. In time they began to encroach upon my abode and pushed away all animals in to hiding.
Anger is not a trait that I am familiar with. That said I confronted a man, in the bush, one evening and I almost had him by the scruff of his neck. I was surprised to see that this fellow was shivering from head to toe when I presented myself before him. The man seemed to value his life more than the damage that he had caused upon my estate. He reeked of fear and I figured that such cowardice deserved no death. Only time could make them suffer, the learning from which could take them to different roads, a path to peace or a path to war. Unfortunately war was an easy option because they found me to be a menace to their way of life. So, several traps were laid to get rid of me.
The terrible jaw-bone
One such contraption was a jaw-bone trap, which when stepped upon it snaps the legs and crushes the bones. I have seen animals die in excruciating pain and blood loss because of the contraption. Those fools never realised that I had mastered every nook and corner of my estate, there was no trap that would go unnoticed by my eye. When the contraptions failed they poisoned my rations and even burnt parts of the estate. Still, I did not do them any harm. I hid behind the long grass and studied every little folly that they carried in to their old age.
Over time I became a ghost and was never to be found. My estate was overrun and I was now part of their folk-lore, I was declared “the protector of the universe”. I had become a god of folklore. What good does a title bring when they do not feel my presence in the vast expanse of the grass? Perhaps they respect me because I was invisible to their poor eyes, ears and nose. Many a time I would be right in front of them and they could not notice me. They were busy clearing my estate of its natural wealth.
People make mistakes and reminisce on the possibilities of a rightful path. That truth which always eluded them in the fountain of their youth was never found even in old age. I look back at all that commotion and I wondered why they abhorred me. Maybe it was because I was a Tiger, the last of the honourable creatures that lived on this wretched land.