Dear The Roadside Mango Tree

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I know it’s offseason, the time you never expect any appreciation. But I have decided to write because that’s the time you’re busy setting your flowers, and the bees are buzzing in full support. This is winter when you get cold lashes to test your character if you survive this, as you have always, there’s wind coming your way. It shall blow from all directions, splitting and sweeping. Your offspring shall be tried and tempted while waiting for spring; the fainthearted shall fall. But despair not for what’s genuinely yours shall hang on, journeying on to fruition.

Many years ago we saw you sprouting from nowhere, hiding between ordinary and strange bushes to evade predation. Nobody owned you, we all thought you were going to die. If not of herbivory, because our goats foraged right next to you every day, then of thirst. Nobody bothered watering you, leaving your fate in the hands of your creator. Your doomsday was drawn in our minds. When I looked at you growing, I saw nothing but just a little tree trying to defeat destiny. How could you grow right on the wayside where you were susceptible to being trampled? I felt pity, I doubted if you were ever going to make it. Let me admit, I underrated your power of endurance. I misunderstood the resilience that you showed in silence. When your leaves left you, you grieved in silence. When your roots were too short to reach the water-rich zone, you pushed further down, in silence.

I never heard you complaining and I mistook that for lack of confidence though I had no evidence to support it.

A few years passed and you were still struggling to pass the trying times. You survived droughts. You survived the hoes with only scars, even deeper ones. You survived pests and diseases. You survived being washed away by downpours though some left you leaning on nothing. Sometimes it would take you weeks to win back your stature. And I was watching. I was watching trying to figure out what was pushing you all the way up, and your roots all the way down. You surprised me by surpassing my height whilst I was watching.

Upon realising your exploits, your exhibits and your growth, we began hearing some voices. Some trying to own you, some trying to translocate you, some were just keen to cut you down and expand the footpath. My dad fought for you. Not because he wanted to monopolise you but because he wanted everyone to own you. The only way to make that happen was to leave you on the edge of the path, for everyone.

You flowered almost immediately as if to reward those who were for you. We celebrated but still in disbelief. How did you make it this far without fertiliser? We murmured. Unfortunately, over half of your first flowers never sailed through, they covered the soil instead. But you seemed not to care, you kept your smile which beamed under the bright sunshine. I didn’t understand such a response to discouragements. The second season came and you did better; making both flowers and fruits.

Whilst you were fiercely fighting agents of destruction, I was walking fearlessly to and from a place we called our school. You gave me hope each time I set my eyes on you. I kept them wide open every time I passed by. You remained anchored and unmoved. I was buoyed by that. Then proper mangoes came. I gazed the transition from flowers to just little green things then maturation into proper fruits. They began yellowing and I knew instantly why you were so adamant against all odds.

Having my first bite after an exhausting walk was priceless.

I remember putting aside my torn bag full of books and bugs, removed my worn out sandals and climbed all the way up to one of your progeny which was dangling invitingly. I took one deep bite and chewed hungrily. It’s been a long day that started with a cup of water and boiled grains of maize. We used to mix them with peanuts but not this year, there was a severe drought. Sometimes mum would pack a little box with yams for me, but again not this year. We sold everything at the market for school fees. I chewed again, this time thinking about my homework. We had no light at home and the moon was not bright enough to illuminate my books. I tasted the sweetness whilst thinking of my father’s sweat. No sweat no sweet? I cried but had no tears to show for it. You, my inspiration, never cried. You remained steadfast and lovingly borne sweet fruits, regardless of the challenges. I plucked a few more for my little sister who had had a single meal that day. The government feeding program for infants was yet to reach the back of beyond. Whilst sucking all the juices on the seed, I remembered that the closest well had just dried up so we were now walking some more kilometres to fetch water from the next one. Yes, it was still unprotected just like its predecessor.

You have been so nice, thank you. Many years later, I heard you’re still freely giving away your fruits. I can’t thank you enough!

Yours,

Me.

PS: I’ve given all your seeds to my dad who planted them in turn. Some germinated, some didn’t. Some are bearing fruits now, some are still promising. We are patient with all of them, after all, you taught me that it’s not a single day’s journey. It’s not an event, it’s a process.

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