My Aunt’s Story of Healing in Nature

It’s time we realise that only in nature can we find the salvation we need.

A lot of you might have read The Kite Runner and remember the pomegranate tree and its relationship with Amir and Hassan, “the sultans of Kabul”. The tree was related to them in their bond and was left in vain right after their separation.

The night before, my aunt shared some photos of her plants in all their glory on the WhatsApp family group. Some were sunflowers, some tomatoes, green chilies etc. They looked beautiful, majestic and it looked like a hell lot of work must have gone behind rearing them.

And it did. For the past six months, my aunt had given up at one point, was worn out at another, and then somehow found the energy, back and forth, to raise a garden.

Small garden on the terrace. Photo: Shailja Gusain.

It was not only a tough job, but an unexciting decision in the first place.

A year ago, she lost her husband to a long term illness and alcoholic addiction. I distinctly remember how she took care of him, my uncle, with untainted dedication and love. Her world revolved around her gods and her husband. She nursed him back to health again and again, but sometimes science and the human body takes precedence over beliefs.

Right after his death, she couldn’t get herself out of the situation, literally and figuratively. ‘I want to die’, she would say every time someone tried to help her. In no time, everyone came to a conclusion that she may not survive the year.

But no matter how stubborn she was, time got her back on her toes. It made her move to the bathroom, to the kitchen for a glass of water, to her son when he needed to find a file he was unable to, she moved and moved for good.

Also read: ‘Free as a Bird’: A Day in Shantha Paati’s Busy Life

A week later, when I visited her again, she had already started her new project. This time it was not something she had no control over, and she could actually stop questioning her existence for a while. Gardening for her started as a task that seemed futile and too slow; at times she even gave up watering her plants and guarding them from a bunch of cats who had recently started living on her roof.

But with time, she resurrected her new found energy and continued watering, sowing, tending, protecting and feeding the kittens the cats had just given birth to.

In a nutshell, she was now healing herself. She is not the same woman I met two years ago, but she sure is a self-indulging, healthier version now. She told me, “I found spirituality and fruits of my dedication through ripen tomatoes and these green chilies.”

All of which makes me wonder how forgetful we get in order to keep up with some versions we have created in our minds of ourselves, that we don’t stop healing. You may find that every tree that you pass by in your car or every autumn leaf you crush in your playfulness plays an intimate role with each and every person that has crossed its path.

So, even though my aunt might not find the courage to give wings to her thoughts, we both found this new ‘hobby’ to be the most humane interaction she has had in a while. I can’t help but relate to this person (Mary Oliver) every time I introspect – and I hope we all do, considering we have not much to do but look outside and whine:

“Rumi said,
There is no proof of the soul.
But isn’t the return of spring and how it
springs up in our hearts a pretty good hint?”

Shailja Gusain is an aspiring writer/translator based in Delhi. She reads to be more empathetic to her counterparts no matter what country, age or identity. 

Featured image credit: Shailja Gusain