Every winter the story teller came south to a heartwarming welcome. His advent was eagerly looked forward to the whole year by both the children and adults. His spun tales enchanted everyone.
He began, “Today I am going to tell you about the Wishing Tree. It is a true story.
It was an exceptionally warm day. Everyone was trying to cool off with flavored ices and frequent showers. Rains had been plentiful that year.
We were a ten strong group and moved everywhere in unison. Two brothers in our group were catholic and attended the localchurchofVirgin Mary. It was Sunday evening and we had congregated at our favorite spot near the town park’s swings. It was a sticky hot day and we had cleaned out the sweetened crushed ices seller of his ices. He had left for the evening. It was then that the two boys blurted out something that startled us all. Both of them had seen tears streaming down the face of the Virgin Mary during morning mass. They had spoken to no one but invited us to verify for ourselves.
We rushed to experience this phenomena for ourselves. We took our cues from Johnny and Tommy and knelt in the pews and stared hard at the Virgin Mary. I can still feel goose bumps even now in recollection. We all saw the tears stream down. We decided to ask the church pastor about it.
So far only our group had seen this miracle. The pastor came and verified too. He was all excited and kept making the sign of the cross again and again. In exuberance, he had the church bells rung to beckon the believers. They all came and marveled too. No one knew what to make of it. The bishop was also informed. After a week, the tears stopped. Thereafter, within the church complex, a dead tree stump suddenly came to life. It was as if the tears streaming down the face of Virgin had brought it back to life. Soon it grew to its full height with strong branches laden with healthy green leaves. It was the holy *Peepal tree, much revered by us Hindus.
A worried mother, wrote a note to the Virgin asking her aid in healing her one and only very sick child. She tied this note to the tree branch. Within a week, the child was healed. Soon others wrote notes to the Virgin asking for help. The church coffers filled to bursting and on hold repairs were finally undertaken. Then the Virgin appeared to the church priest in a vision night before Sunday mass and said that everyone whose wish is granted must untie one note from the tree and help that person as pay it forward and she would help through that person only. Next day during mass, the priest shared his vision and thus the town started helping each other through the notes tied to the Wishing Tree.
One day an agitated neighbor came and knocked our door. My father was theKrishnatemple priest and much revered among the Hindus. His advise was often sought to settle petty disputes. The neighbor had sought help from the Wishing Tree and in return had brought back a note which had shaken him to the core. He wanted advice from father on how to go about fulfilling this wish. The note said, “Dear Virgin Mary, I live in the orphanage and long for a mommy and a daddy of my own who will love me. I was left at the church steps when I was very little. Since I am nine years old, no one will adopt me as everyone says I am too old. Please help me. –signed Rose Da Cunha.”
Mr. Shiva Sharma was a devout Hindu and it would be very hard for him to fulfill this wish even though his own had been met by the Wishing Tree. He looked at father for guidance. Father suggested that he talk about this note at home and ask for everyone’s opinion. Since the family wish had been met, they were honor bound to pay it forward as desired by the Virgin Mary. It had been very easy to ask help of the Wishing Tree in the church ground but very hard to cross the bridge of religious differences. Sharma family was divided. The Sharma children were open to sharing their home with Rose as their adopted sister but their mother would have none of it. She had a hard time managing her own brood of three boys and two girls and now a sixth one and that too a possible meat eating Christian would be too much for her to handle. She stayed adamant.
It was early morning time and Mrs. Sheila Sharma was busy performing the daily prayer rituals and had lit the lamp before the deity. Suddenly, the image of herKrishnaidol became that of the Virgin Mary and she beheld tears streaming from the idol’s face. Mrs. Sharma rubbed her eyes to reassure herself whether this was real or not. Her belovedKrishnaidol had morphed into Virgin Mary! She had a change of mind immediately and agreed to adopt Rose as her sixth child. She realized that the inner divine is the same in all religions. Rose was rechristened *Roshni Sharma as she had brought enlightenment into their lives.”
The storyteller then dropped a bombshell. He said his wife’s name was Roshni.
Notes: Roshni means light and Peepal tree: The Sacred Fig, Ficus religiosa, or Bo-Tree (from Sanskrit bodhi: “wisdom”, ” enlightened.