An aspen leaf wakes up with a breeze. It looks around with its invisible eyes, and up and down, as the slaps of wind make it dance. It sniffs the odor of stones and flowers and breeze and goats. It also sniffs an oncoming rain. With the soft wind, it shifts a few inches. An indistinct echo of a scratch which a passing goat-herd can’t hear comes out of its contact with little pebbles underneath. They try to stop it. But the wind wants to carry it to another world–a new world of snow and brown soil and sea waves and mountains and sleep. The wind appeases it to come with it and see the world.
But what is the world to the aspen leaf?
Another few inches. And it is now far from where it was before. It opens its invisible lips and starts singing. Its song echoes with the hoofs of the goats, and with the slurping of their tongues as they twitter with little leaves of grass. It mumbles now. Its belly dances along the edges of its sides, which curve and rotate with the song of the wind.
Rain patters. It begins suddenly, but its arrival is humble. The water drops are small. The rhythm of their patter tardy. Ringing of the water on the aspen leaf takes it to a new world. It drinks from the rain. It sucks in the water through its minuscule pores. Like a beloved drinking in the momentary presence of his lover.
It goes deeper into the stone-strewn earth and makes a small lake for the rain water. It tumbles like a squishy sac. The rain makes its pointy finger dance. It looks above. The sky looks dark. Water like turbid white lines falls on the aspen tree. It hates the aspen tree, which kept it chained for long.
But now a water-drop falls on its eye and closes them and sends them to a world of unwanted darkness. Lights out.
For a second the rain slows down, and the wind gains strength. The aspen leaf moves further into a rainless turf and away from the aspen tree. The aspen tree misses its leaf. But the leaf doesn’t.
III. EXILE AND HOME
It is difficult to breathe now. The rain is heavy. It smothers the leaf which tries to get under a stone. It goes from one place to another, now restless. To find a home.
Something hits it and it gets a gash. The cut is deep. It cries in pain, but they can’t hear it. The rain continues, the storm continues, and now the leaf does not know how far it is from its tree. Now he misses it. He is wet with water. Small rivulets of brown water- which will be gone in a few days - snake over it. They gurgle and the froth over them looks beautiful over the concave boat made by the aspen leaf.
Now the leaf smiles. It is enjoying the pain. It takes one bullet after another from the clouds.
IV. MIDDLE AGE
Now the rains have stopped. And the aspen leaf gazes into the silence of the world. Its body is hurt. It is leaking invisible tears, but it smiles. A boy picks it up. “Yuck,” the aspen leaf hears. It watches a small finger getting bigger, and the thumb now splays over it. Thus it gets rid of its dirt. It liked its dirt.
Now it is thrown away and begins its descent back to the ground. Like a feather on a windless day, it sways back and forth under the calming presence of the wind. It lands on a rivulet and gets drenched with water again. Now again, it floats on the surface of gurgling water like a small paper boat. It keeps floating on the rivulet till the time a thin layer of larva is formed on its surface.
V. LIGHTS OUT In the morning, a few hours later, or a few days… years, centuries… later, it gets scooped up by a spade, and is carried to a mountain of other aspen leaves. It sniffs rotten eggs and human shit and plastic. “Now’s the time to die.” It tells a dying leaf lying by it.
A dropout of various institutes, like IIT and JNU, Nachi Keta is a Kidney Transplant Recipient and a neurodiverse writer from New Delhi. His name is a combination of two terms: Nachi, which means ‘death’, and Keta, which means ‘a creative force’. He lives with his parents and teaches English to high-school kids. His work focuses on mental health, oppression and the absurd in social and personal. His words have found a home in various magazines like The Bombay Review, The Howling Press and Sock Drawer, an updated list of which can be found here: nachi-keta.com.