I Can’t Climb Trees Anymore
Read the story given below. Find out why the visitor feels that
he can’t climb trees anymore.
He stood on the grass verge by the side of the
road and looked over the garden wall at the old house. It hadn’t changed much.
The old house built with solid blocks of granite wasn’t altered at all. But
there was a new outhouse, and there were fewer trees. He was glad to see that
the jackfruit tree still stood at the side of the building casting its shade on
He remembered his grandmother saying: ‘A
blessing rests on the house where the shadow of a tree falls.’ And so the
present owners must also be receiving the tree’s blessings. At the spot where
he stood there had once been a turnstile,
and as a boy he would swing on it, going round and round until he was quite
dizzy. Now the turnstile was gone, the opening walled up. Tall hollyhocks grew on the other side of the wall.
‘What are you looking at?’
It was a disembodied voice at first. Moments
later a girl stood framed between dark red hollyhocks staring at the man. She
was only twelve or thirteen, with lively eyes and long black hair.
‘I’m looking at the house. Is it yours?,’ he
'No. It's my father's. Why? Do you want to buy
'And what does your father do?' 'He's only a colonel.'
'Only a colonel?'
'Well, he should have been a brigadier by now.'
The man burst out laughing.
'It's not funny,' she said. 'Even Mommy says he
should been a brigadier.'
It was on the tip of his tongue to make a witty
remark (‘Perhaps that’s why he’s still a colonel’), but he did not want
to give offence. They stood on either side of the wall, appraising each other.
'Do you want to buy it?'
'No', he said.
'Well' she said,'If you don’t want to buy the
house, what are you looking at?’
‘I used to live here twenty-five years ago. As
a boy.As a young man.. And then my grandmother died, and we sold the house and
What was the old house built
old house was built with solid blocks of granite.
Does the visitor still live in
the narrator does not live in the house still.
She was silent for a while, taking in this
information. Then she said, ‘And you’d like to buy it back now, but you don’t
have the money?’ He did not look very prosperous.
‘No, I wasn’t thinking of buying it back,
wanted to see it again, that’s all. How long have you lived in it?’
‘Only three years,’ she smiled.
‘Would you like to come in and look more
‘Wouldn’t your parents mind?’
‘They’ve gone to the club.’ They won’t mind.
I’m allowed to bring my friends home.’
‘Even elderly friends like me?’
‘How old are you?’
‘Oh, just middle aged, but feeling young today.’
And to prove it he decided he’d climb over the wall instead of going round to
the gate. He got up on the wall all right, but had to rest there, breathing
‘Middle-aged man on the flying trapeze,’ he muttered to himself.
‘I’ll help you,’ she said, and gave him her
down into a flower-bed, shattering the stem of a hollyhock.
As they walked across the grass he spotted a
stone bench under a mango tree. It was the bench on which his grandmother used
to rest, when she was tired of pruning rose bushes and
‘Let’s just sit here,’ he said. ‘I don’t want
to go inside.’
She sat beside him on the bench.
They were silent for some time. The man closed
his eyes and remembered other times - the music of a piano, the chiming of a grandfather clock, the constant
twitter of budgerigars on the veranda, his grandfather cranking up the old car....
‘I used to climb the jackfruit tree,’ he said,
opening his eyes.
Do you know
A flying trapeze is a circus act
in which people swing from one end of the circus tent on ropes.
‘Do you want to climb it again? My parents
‘No, no. Not after climbing the garden wall.
Let’s just sit here for a few minutes and talk. I mention the jackfruit tree
because it was my favourite place. Do you see that thick branch stretching out
over the roof ? Half way along it there’s a small hollow in which I used to
keep some of my treasures.’ ‘What kind of treasures?’
‘Oh, nothing very valuable. Marbles I’d won. A
book I wasn’t supposed to read. A few old coins I’d collected. Things came and
went. I was a bit of a crow, you know, collecting bright things and putting
them away. There was my grandfather’s Iron Cross. Well, not my grandfather’s
exactly, because he was British and the Iron Cross’ was a German decoration
awarded for bravery during the War - the First World War - when my grandfather
fought in France. He got it from a German soldier.’
Do you Know
The Param Vir Chakra is the
highest wartime gallantry award, given to soldiers of the Indian Armed Forces,
for the display of utmost courage and complete selflessness when facing the
enemy. Since its inception in 1950, 21 fearless heroes (14 posthumous) have
been awarded the medal till January 2019.
'Do you still have it?’
‘No’, he said, looking her in the eyes. ‘I left
it in the jackfruit tree.’
‘You left it in the tree?’
‘Yes, I was so excited at the time, packing and
saying goodbye to people and thinking about the ship I was going to sail on
that I simply forgot all about it.’
She quietly said, 'It may still be there. In
the hollow part of the branch.'
‘Yes’, he said. ‘It’s twenty-five years, but it
may still be there. Unless someone else found it….’
‘Would you like to go and look?’
climb trees any more.’
‘If you can’t, I will go and see. You just sit
here and wait for me.’
‘I’ve found it!’ she cried. ‘I’ve found
And now, barefoot, she ran breathlessly towards
him, in her outstretched hand a rusty old medal.
He took it from her and turned it over on his
‘Is it the Iron Cross?’ she asked eagerly.
‘Yes’, he said, ‘this is it.’
‘Now I know why you came. You wanted to see if
it was still in the tree.’
‘You may be right. I’m not really sure why I
came. But you can keep the Cross. You found it, after all.’
‘No, you keep it. It’s yours.’
‘But it could have remained in the tree for
another twenty-five years if you hadn’t climbed up to look for it.’
1. What did the
visitor hide in the jackfruit tree?
visitor hid his grandfather's Iron cross in the jack fruit tree.
2. When did the visitor actually
hide the iron cross?
visitor actually hid the iron cross twenty-five years ago.
‘But if you hadn’t come back again....’
‘On the right day, at the right time, and with
the right person’, he said, getting up and placing the medal in her hands. ‘It
wasn’t the Cross I came for. It was my youth.’
She didn’t understand that, but she walked with
him to the gate and waited. Where the road turned, he looked back and waved to
her. Then he quickened his steps and moved briskly towards the bus stop. There
was sprightliness in his step, and something
cried aloud in his heart.
The mango scented summer breeze made the blood
course in his veins, and he forgot, for a moment, that he couldn’t climb trees
About the author
Ruskin Bond was born on 19th May 1934.
He is an award winning Indian author of British descent. He is much renowned for his role in promoting
children’s literature in India. The Indian council for Child Education has
recognized his role in the growth of children’s literature in India. He got the
Sahitya Akademi Award in 1992 for 'Our
Trees Still Grow in Dehra'. He was awarded
the Padmashri in 1999 and Padma Bhushan in 2014. As a prolific writer, he has
written over 500 short stories, essays and novels. His popular novel 'The Blue Umbrella' was made into a
Hindi film and was awarded the National Film Award for the best children’s film