When The Malti Spoke

Recently, I came across a picture of a quiet, thickly wooded alpine forest somewhere. The trees on the outer edge of the picture seemed to be creating an ‘entrance’ over the path below. As if inviting one to come, cross over the threshold into another world. Their world. And on that picture were written the words –

Just Sitting (Raghu Soman, Summer 2014)

‘Not all classrooms have four walls…’ 

Walls imply straitjacketing, boxing. A restricting of vision and imagination. Like putting blinkers on a gorgeous horse to keep it on the path. It means a classroom where avoiding the thrust of life means the same thing as ‘discipline’. Where being different is being an outcast.

…Whereas being out there, in the classroom beneath the azure sky, amidst towering trees and the cacophony of birds, in the society of wilderness, means waking up that imaginative, intuitive creature within… It implies living fully, learning only what’s necessary, and intuiting, rather than thinking. Getting lost means being in the presence of one’s own flow. And learning happens not by means of discipline, but simply by existing in sync with all other life forms.

Our new story from The Little Space is an experience from this very classroom without four walls. Yes, even a bit of forest in one’s yard is as alive and as powerful as the dense jungles of the Terai. Even one tree, one plant is enough to awaken that consciousness within, which is the precursor to living deeply. Symbiotically.

“Three months ago, we planted two tender Madhumalti saplings near the guard room, at the entrance to our society,” writes Shambhavi, our co-passenger and caregiver at The Little Space. “One of the Madhumaltis had an electric cable near it. As is its nature to climb, it soon gave out its first climbing shoots. It seemed that it was ready to begin its ascent. The other sapling, too, sprouted a few new leaves. But there were no climbing shoots to be seen. We waited. Nothing happened. So, we waited more…”

Waiting is of two kinds. The first waiting is part of a restless effort, where one anticipates getting somewhere, achieving something. The other kind of waiting is simply being present. It is knowing that life is a force that is constantly flowing. Taking care of itself. Like the untouched alpine forest.

“And then one day,” she says, “We saw that the first bel of Malti had started coiling around the black electric cable, starting to grow by leaps and bounds. It grew nearly 3 to 4 inches in a day…! Much excited, we ‘thought’ we should give it more support, since the cable was quite short. So, we put a metal wire in front of both the plants for them to climb around. But, three days later, we saw that both Maltis had turned away from the wire…!”

Listen…says the forest. Don’t think. Sit here with me, watching with your heart.

Maali Kaka, Shambhavi’s guide and ally intuited, “They are asking for something smooth to climb up on…Iron wires won’t do…” He was interpreting the signals, just as he had learned to over the years. “But where does one get smooth-surfaced things to help the Madhumaltis, and what?” thought Shambhavi, concerned.

 To care about someone other than yourself, enough to open your heart to its life, is the Gomukh of bliss.

“Find the sweetness in your own heart, then you may find the sweetness in every heart.”
– Rumi

“The wires get heated up, I guess… Let’s try coir ropes then,” she decided quite like a child, trying to come up with ideas she never had the need, rather, the sparkling chance to think of before. “Then, we got a coir rope. But our society guard, whose help we had enlisted to put it up, literally created a web of rope around the creepers to induce them to make their ascent! In addition to that, he nipped off the apical meristem of the Malti that was now more than 5 feet tall. The creeper stopped growing…!”

The apical meristem of a plant is that tender green tip that produces something called auxin and that helps the plant grow. To push up its head and look out at the world it is born in. It’s almost as if your curiosity pushes you to grow. Somehow, that sounds true…

And to have it blocked…cut off…

“As the first Malti stopped growing and the second one still refused to give off any shoots…” Shambhavi shared, trying to make sense of the drama, the struggle. After a week, Maali Kaka again made the same humble submission: “It needs something smooth… Let me think of a way out…”

How often do you know the answer in your heart but don’t take the leap…?

Maali Kaka decided to listen to it. “He removed the web of coir, allowing the creeper to breathe and free up,” she, said, as if exhaling along with the plant. “Then, he took a smooth black pipe and fixed it near the second creeper. And within two days it let off a climbing shoot!”

The Madhumaltis of The Little Space (Shambhavi Singh, Winter 2020)

What wonder! What relief! The plant gave a roaring sign of approval of their understanding. Yes, now you are with me and now our hearts are one–it might have breathed silently, showing its gratitude by shooting up fast, as if time didn’t matter. It doesn’t.

Thinking cannot reveal what life can.

And so filled to the brim, Shambhavi wrote, “Hopefully it will start coiling around the pipe and begin its ascent. And what shall we do once it reaches the end of the short pipe? Well, we’ll just let the Madhumalti tell us!”

There’s movement in those words, the promise of a new relationship, of joy and deep change. Isn’t there? It is so liberating to know that you don’t have to try too hard. That life guides you to the next step and the next… Isn’t it remarkable to feel this connection with it? All one has to do is to sit down next to it and listen…

To a tree. To a dog. A raincloud. A little boy. A waxing candle. The moon. The seasons. Everything. Everywhere. 

Shambhavi picked out her marvelous learning from this class and wrote, “I have observed that Maali Kaka never claims to know it all. All he ever does is to observe the plant closely. As if hearing it’s voice. Sometimes, when he feels a plant isn’t looking well, he tends to it a little more than usual, giving it some water, a bit of manure…just that extra dose of love.”

“Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens,” said Jimi Hendrix. He also said, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky…”

Let’s slow down to kneel and kiss the ground, and the sky… Slowing down doesn’t mean giving up. It means tuning in to the frequency of the other. And your own. For the real you who needs to rise and breathe, and coil up on the smooth arm of this Universe. Like the Madhumaltis of The Little Space, to whom we are grateful for this sublime new learning.

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