One such thing I remember. I was coming home from school – my school was almost one mile away from home. Just half way there was a huge bo tree. I had passed that bo tree every day at least four times: going to school, then in the middle of the day coming home for lunch, then going to school again, then coming back home. So many thousands of times I had passed that tree, but that day something happened.
It was a hot day, and as I came close to the tree, I was perspiring. I passed under the tree; and it was so cool that without having any deliberate thought I stopped for a while, not knowing why. I simply went close to the tree trunk, sat there and felt the tree trunk. I cannot explain what happened but I felt so immensely happy, as if something was transpiring between me and the tree. Just the coolness could not be the cause, because many times when I had been perspiring, I had passed through the coolness of the tree. I had also stopped before, but never before had I gone and touched the tree and sat there as if meeting an old friend.
That moment has remained shining like a star. So much has happened in my life, but I don’t see that moment diminishing in any way: it is still there. Whenever I look back it is still there. Neither that day was I clearly aware what had happened nor can I say today – but something had happened. And from that day there was a certain relatedness with the tree which I had not felt before, even with any human being. I became more intimate with that tree than with any body else in the whole world. It became a routine thing to me: whenever I passed the tree, I would sit for a few seconds or a few minutes and just feel the tree. I can still see – something went on growing between us.
The day I left school and moved to another city to join the university, I took leave of my father, of my mother, of my uncles and my whole family. I was not the type who easily cries or weeps. Even when I was punished badly, the blood might be oozing from my hands, but tears would not come to my eyes.
My father used to say, “Do you have tears in your eyes or not?”
I said, “You can make my hands bleed but you cannot force me to cry and weep. And why should I? – because whatsoever you are doing is absolutely right. I have done something, knowing well that this is going to be the consequence. I never lie, so there is no way to escape from the punishment. What is the point of tears?”
But when I went to the tree to say good-bye, I started crying. That is the only time that I remember in my whole life; otherwise tears were absolutely unknown to me. In my childhood one of my sisters, whom I had loved more than any other of my brothers and sisters, died. And in India you have brothers and sisters by the dozen. I used to tease my father, “How did you miss making the dozen whole? – because you have only eleven children. You should be a little mathematical, just one child more.”
And he said, “You are my son but you even try to joke with me.”