One of Baba’s Lessons
“Baba, I can’t hear anything,” young Faris said to his father. “I mean, I can hear sounds but I don’t understand what it means.”
“Well, that’s a start,” Baba replied in his deep voice. “It takes time, and practice, of course. Be patient with yourself, but not too patient. It is good to acknowledge you can hear them, but that you do not understand. These trees are perhaps twenty or thirty years old. They are mere buds, and also still learning. Even I can barely understand them.”
“Young like me?” The boy’s eyes lit up. “Can we be friends? I wish I had siblings.”
“You can be friends, which is why I introduced them to you, and you to them. Understand their speech, and their colony will be your friends for life. They are truer than any siblings humans can have.”
“But if I move about, if I go work for the King, then we would be far away. I won’t be able to hear them, and I’d just be lonely again,” Faris said sadly.
Baba picked him up easily. The young boy’s hands reached up for a branch closest to him. Baba let go of Faris, and the boy swung from the branches, struggling not to fall to the ground. He shifted his weight this way and that, so that his feet were resting on the trunk of the Gatum tree. Faris again heard sounds he could not understand. It was coming from the tree he was holding on to. The sound rippled and echoed to the other Gatum trees surrounding them. Faris looked at Baba in wonderment.
“Once you learn their speech, son, you will never be alone. Not as long as there is still a Gatum tree in this land. Come, your mother is waiting for us.”
One of Mama’s Lessons
“Which elephants today, Mama?” Faris asked his mother.
“We’ll work with two different ones today. Take that big stone one, and the smaller white one,” Mama answered as she cleared their table. Her lessons these past few weeks were always held inside their home, on the dinner table. When she was not teaching Faris, she would be sitting there, writing their pedagogical methods on scroll after scroll.
Faris opened a large cupboard which had rows and rows of carved elephants, from some as small as his thumbnail to the stone one as big as a coconut. It stood by itself on the bottom rack, too heavy to be placed on the higher racks. He glanced at his mother. She was still rolling up the last of the scrolls, hunched over to make small notes.
“Mama, I can lift the stone one only a little. It’s too heavy. I can’t bring it to the table.” Faris reminded his mother.
“Of course! How silly of me!” She exclaimed. From where she was standing, she made a small gesture with her hand, and the stone elephant lifted itself out of the cupboard. It glided across the room and landed on the table with a soft thud. Faris tried to imitate his mother’s hand gesture, but the stone elephant did not move again. He gave a small sigh. Turning back to the cupboard, he spotted the other elephant he was to work on today. The white elephant was much smaller, but it was behind rows of colorful wooden elephants.
He tried the gesture again, with his right hand. This time the white one lifted itself above the painted elephants and landed perfectly on his right palm. He smiled. He could lift the smaller ones.
“I saw that,” Mama laughed. “Bring it here, and we’ll practice lifting both elephants.”
Faris walked towards her with the white elephant in his hand. He felt a soft heat pulsing from the little carving.
“Mama, what is this made of?” He asked as he carefully put it on the table next to its bigger sibling. “It feels different than the wooden ones we’ve been working with. It’s more … warm, I think?”
Mama smiled, her eyes twinkling with pleasure. “I’m so proud you noticed the difference straight away! This one is carved from bone. Elephant bone. It’s extremely precious and hard to come by. Since it’s made from an actual elephant, it responds more readily o your attempts.”
Faris practiced with the bone elephant until it could move its trunk up and down, but that day he still made no progress with the stone one.
“You’ll get it soon. Stone materials are tricky,” Mama said, even as she made the stone elephant wrap and unwrap its trunk gently around a scroll.
These scenes are part of the prologue to Sacred Rituals: the sequel to Nisha. Nisha is a coming of age fantasy novella which I wrote. You can support my writing and purchase Nisha and Sacred Rituals at the my shop. To see Nisha reviews and ratings, visit Goodreads.