The Giant Tree Gatawana-パキスタンの寒村に生えている大木が見た風景

The Giant Tree Gatawana

‘I see all kinds of things and events from up here,' Cloud said happily one day. He had found me again, and was in a mood to talk and share his adventures.

‘One day I was floating high above the ground in northern Pakistan. I was passing near the Swat area, a place where the Buddhist faith enjoyed a period of great prosperity long ago. Well, as I cast my big shadow down onto the cold mountains, I noticed an especially impressive giant tree standing right below me.

‘This tree, a great pine so big that it would take a few adults joining hands to encircle it, seemed to be raising its branches and looking up into the sky. It was also singing a beautiful song. As the strong wind passed through the pine needles on its branches, a unique musical composition was born. "Gooooooo, saaaaaaa, gooooooo, hiiiiiiiiiii . . ."

‘The children of the village would often assemble under this pine tree to play. Sometimes they would look up into the great tree and say ‘gatawana, gatawana'. This word, I have learned, means ‘big tree' in the Pashto language. As the children seemed to speak so fondly to the tree, it must have felt proud enough to want to sing loudly from its heart. The tree often had the joy of watching the children play there. This had been going on for many, many years. You see, the parents of these children, and the parents of their parents, and their parents also, had been coming here to play. Yes, so this tree, Gatawana, knew everyone very well.

‘As time passed, the children would grow into youth, and then go off to big cities like Islamabad and Karachi to seek work. People in this area had centuries before come from Afghanistan, but when they arrived they found very little land in the mountainous region that was suitable for rice cultivation or other farming. Here they could not produce their own food. When children became ill, they would often die, for there were no doctors or hospitals nearby. I can see more grave markers on the mountainside every time I pass over this area.'

Cloud looked as if he might shed a few raindrop tears, but managed to continue the story. ‘The village was always poor, so the young people had to go to towns and cities to find work for earning a livelihood. The children heard about these things from the adults. There were stories of success and of failure, stories that gave them hope, and other stories that shook their confidence. When the children became older, they themselves would ride the swaying bus or truck out of Swat, over the high mountain passes with doubts and fears in their hearts.

The ones who met with success would then return with a spring in their step, and with their arms full of gifts for family and friends. Others who were not successful would come back downhearted accompanied by only their slumping shadow. The great tree Gatawana on the mountaintop watched all of them return.

‘"I will go to the great city of Karachi where my uncle is working, and there become a driver!" Gatawana heard one boy say, but three years later he lost his life there in a traffic accident. Another boy said, "I will go to Islamabad and work as a cook in a foreigner's house.' Thirty years later, he had established his own small restaurant there in the capital city.

‘"I will work at any kind of job so that I can bring back many gifts for my poor parents, brothers and sisters on the occasion of Eid. I also want my sisters to go to school." This eldest son, with love and respect for his family, spent a few years working at hard manual labour in a town. He eventually lost his strength and health, and had to return to the village.

A girl looked after her younger brothers and sisters in the village until she was married at the age of fifteen. She then gave birth to many children herself - a new child almost every year - and these children took care of their brothers and sisters, just as their mother had done in her childhood. A young man went off to a foreign land called Bahrain, where he tried hard to learn a foreign language. "So, gatawana is "big tree" in English, big tree," he repeated, and in this way learned many words.

‘All of these children from the village worked very hard, and they all sent or brought money to their family, no matter how much or how little they earned. How proud they looked as they gave the money to their parents!'

Cloud took a deep breath and expanded slightly

‘A person looks back on life with a smile of joy, and also with tears for sad times. From what I have observed, life for people must be like a carousel, turning round and round through experiences of both sorrow and happiness.

‘Whenever anyone returned to the village, walking up from the river valley road to the village on the mountaintop, they again saw the great tree Gatawana. These returning villagers would all sing out "Oh, Gatawana" with joy, though they did not shout this aloud as they had done in their childhood days.

 It was a voice within their hearts that reached out to again be together with the great tree. Gatawana could somehow hear these greetings from the heart. The tree was filled with happiness, and as always sang in the wind to encourage them. . "Gooooooo, saaaaaaa, gooooooo, hiiiiiiiiiii. . ."'

Cloud ended this tale with his own words of encouragement.

‘Carry on, don't give up, children of Swat! Remember, no matter how hard life in your world may seem, your great tree Gatawana is always there for you. Yes, and I will never forget your eyes shining with hope and joy under your loving tree.'

(This story was presented and read by actors in the First International Literature Festivals in Berlin, 2001)








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