Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2088356-The-Preacher-of-Happiness
by Naveed
Rated: E · Short Story · Educational · #2088356
The story of a child who is devoted to a tree.
Word Count: 1703

“We, humans, are social animals. It is in other human beings that we find and complete ourselves and, in the process, achieve enlightenment.”

Hassan chuckled as if he had read a joke. The young lad, with about ten years of life behind him, was sitting on top of a hill with his back rested against a Neem tree, and busy in some serious reading when this sentence made him laugh. It wasn’t that Hassan found it funny in any way; or that he had noticed some grammatical flaw, but his innocent chuckle simply seemed to suggest that, for him, the sentence was incoherent with the reality. For him, humans were only capable of vice, dishonesty and destruction.

This moment sent Hassan into, kind of, a trance, and he could read no more. His entire life passed by in a flash before his eyes. He remembered how he never knew his parents; as they were killed in a drone strike when he was only an infant. He remembered how he was bullied by other kids for being a Hazara, and how they had to move to a place in nowhere as a result of it. He remembered how he never got to go to school; for the Afghanistan in which he opened his eyes in was a war zone; a place where the lives and safety of the inhabitants were the least of the concerns of either of the parties. Life had been cruel to Hassan from the get go. It was, as if, life was destined to be a suffering for Hassan. How could Hassan ‘find himself in other human beings’ when he was a victim of racism? How could he ‘find enlightenment’ at a place where even the innocents had to carry Kalashnikovs to protect themselves?

“Happiness finds those who choose it.”

Even the thought of such circumstances is enough to incite melancholy in a sensitive soul; but the thought of a mere child going through such experiences, in such a short stay, is enough to tear apart even a stoned heart. But there was something different about Hassan; in spite of all the misfortunes of his fate, he was happy. But isn’t happiness a struggle; a never ending pursuit that can never, truly, be achieved? Isn’t happiness a fantasy? That’s what the contemporary perception is, right? But Hassan was far away from our contemporary world. He was in a world where he was never lonely, but was always in solitude. He lived in a world where he ‘chose’ to be happy, but how? What did a child, who apparently has nothing, have; that we, who apparently have everything, don’t? The answer is: The Neem tree.

“A faithful friend is the greatest teacher.”

Yes, Hassan’s best friend was not a human being, but a Neem tree- an ordinary Neem tree. Hassan loved the Neem tree with all his life, and he believed that it loved him back. Hassan called his Neem tree ‘Ustaad-e-Azam’, which can be translated as, ‘the great teacher’. As one could expect, the Neem tree didn’t teach Hassan the science of engineering or the secrets of medicine. It taught Hassan things that we believe we know, when actually we don’t. The Neem tree taught Hassan the secret of happiness and changed Hassan’s loneliness into solitude. The Neem tree taught Hassan lessons which are alien to even the people of Cambridge.

“Steadfastness is the first step towards happiness.”

Hassan, still in his state of trance, remembered the hottest day of the year when even the water seemed dry as sand. Hassan remembered how it was impossible for anyone to even think of standing in the scorching heat; but the Neem tree stood unshaken. It was, from that experience that Hassan learned steadfastness. His observation of the Neem tree taught him that no day is too hot and no day is too cold. That day, the Neem tree looked like a man to Hassan- a man who was facing every challenge of life bravely and boldly. Hassan learned, that day, that no matter how hard the times may be, one needs to be steadfast.

But there was another lesson that Hassan learned that day- a lesson that is, perhaps, the biggest lesson of them all: the lesson of unconditional love. While sitting under the shade of the Neem tree that day, Hassan observed that the Neem tree doesn’t differentiate between friend and foe. The Neem tree bears the scorching heat all day and grants an open invitation to anyone who might want to enjoy the benefits, while the Neem tree faces the hardships; be it he who waters it, or he who cuts it.

“Resolve can pull one back from the pit of death.”

Next, Hassan remembered a day of the autumn, when the Neem tree was leafless. Hassan pictured how the Neem tree looked almost…sick and ailing that day. It seemed as if all the days out in the sun; and bearing the unbearable heat, had taken a toll on the Neem tree. But even in that tragic state, the Neem tree was teaching Hassan a valuable lesson- the lesson of resolve. Hassan learned that no matter how loving and gentle one might be, life would still punch him straight in the face and make his nose bleed. Hassan learned that it’s wrong to believe that nothing bad ever happens to good people, when actually, it’s the good ones who are tested the most with hardships. When such we are faced with such circumstance, it’s important to show resolve, like the Neem tree. It’s okay to fall down, but not okay to give in.

Hassan also observed that the tree, that looked majestic during the summers, was now…ugly. This was another lesson- the lesson of not judging a book by its cover. The Neem tree was ugly now; but how did it come to be so? Hassan remembered how the Neem tree battled against the sun when it had branches full of leaves, instead of protecting its beauty. In this way Hassan was taught that it’s not the looks that one should value, but the acts. Beautiful actions can sometimes lead to terrible faces.

“He, who has the most to give, is the strongest.”

Hassan’s visions flowed from autumn to winter, and Hassan remembered how the Neem tree was still leafless, but also fighting the cold winds of the winter, with each gust of wind intending to rip it out of its roots.. It was in even more trouble now than it was in autumn, but that did not stop it from fulfilling the duties it had undertaken. The Neem tree continued to stand on the top of the hill, steadfastly; and also provided wood for Hassan and his Grandma, so that they may protect themselves from the cold. This was another lesson for Hassan- the lesson of sacrifice. The Neem tree faced the rough weather, but it sacrificed a part of itself (its branches) for Hassan’s well-being. The Neem tree was strong, and so it sacrificed itself to protect the weak. It’s a misconception that tormenting others is an act of strength. The truth is that real strength is only visible in sacrifice.

“Humility in the good days leads to aid in the bad ones.”

Finally, Hassan’s trance brought him to spring. Hassan remembered seeing the Neem tree, on a warm spring day, lively again. The Neem tree looked like it had never been seen before; its beauty was incomparable to anything he had ever seen. Green leaves were weighing down its branches, and the surroundings were the soothing with the aroma of its fruits and leaves. This was the best sight Hassan had ever seen, but it also carried a lesson- the lesson of humility. Only a few months ago, the Neem tree was deciduous and ugly and now it was majestic again. Hassan learned that it’s pointless to boast about a momentary high, because a low is, always just around the corner. It’s foolish to regard yourself as a king during the spring, because autumn is always only a few months away. It is only with humility that we can ride the highs and survive the lows.

A thing to note here for us is that Hassan was a simple and innocent child, who barely knew how to read. He didn't understand the various stages in the life cycles of plants and trees, just like he didn’t know the tricks of marketing or the traits of finance. He didn’t know why leaves fall and grow, just like he didn't know how to run a company, or whether democracy was better than monarchy. Perhaps that’s why he was as cheerful as a bird. All he knew were simple life lessons, but they were all he needed to know. He was uneducated, of course, but he was happy. Isn’t that what we, the educated ones, are after?

Anyways, Hassan was brought back from his thoughts by a familiar calling of, “Hassan! Hassan! It’s getting late. Come home now.” It was Hassan’s Grandma and without wasting a second, Hassan grabbed his book and went downhill towards his home.

After a week or so, Hassan returned to the hill, with a book in hand, to see his old friend; but he saw that his friend was no longer there. The Neem tree had been taken down, and all that was left of it was the stump, which signified that its roots were still in the ground. Hassan broke down in tears, for he had lost his friend, his only refuge; but more than that, he had lost his teacher. Hassan suddenly stopped crying, for he realized that this was another one of lessons; the final lesson- the lesson of death. No matter how great, powerful, majestic, wealthy or loved one might be; everyone and everything is to return to its roots in the ground, just like the Neem tree.

Hassan got up, picked up his book and sat on the stump of the once great Neem tree and read:

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

Hassan didn’t chuckle this time, for he knew that this was as true as the moon and the stars. Hassan vowed, that day, to change his fate. He vowed to become a teacher, and be cherished after he was no more, just like his friend: The Neem Tree.
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