The koel sat on a dry branch of the dying tree and consoled his friend. “Don’t you worry, Mango Ma,” said the koel, “I’m with you.”

It was a huge mango tree with many branches. The tree was full of green leaves, bearing juicy, delicious fruits during the summer. Hundreds of birds and insects had made their homes in the tree for several generations. Wandering animals rested under its shade before moving on.

Luckily, mango tree, grew in the middle of a thick forest. No human had ever stepped near it.

One evening, a hunter came chasing a deer. The deer ran for its life, with the hunter following closely behind. The deer tried losing him by entering a thick part of the jungle. But the hunter could not be shaken off.

The hunter fixed an arrow and drew his bow. The deer dashed behind the mango tree for protection. The arrow flew, missed the deer by a few centimetres, and struck the mango tree instead. The deer ran away. The hunter gave up the chase at last. It was getting dark.

As the day broke, the birds and the animals of the forest were shocked to see their favourite mango tree shedding its leaves. The arrow was dipped in poison, which had entered the tree’s veins and was sucking its life force.

Bereft of its leaves, the mango tree now presented a ghostly picture — all its branches leafless, dried up, crumbling. It was clear to all animals that this tree would die. The birds flew away to find new homes. They were sad to leave the tree, but they had their life to live. All left, except a koel (cuckoo).

The koel sat on a dry branch of the dying tree and consoled his friend. “Don’t you worry, Mango Ma,” said the koel, “I’m with you.”

The mango tree was moved by the love shown to her.

“Why don’t you leave, like the others? Leave me to die. You are young. You have your own life,” said the tree.

The koel shook his head. “Mango Ma, this is my home ever since I remember. You are my mother. Please do not ask me to leave you.”

Winter had set in. The tree knew it wouldn’t survive that winter. It was going to die soon.

“I have lived a great life, and made many, many friends. I made them happy and what’s more, all my life I’ve been happy” said the tree to her lone friend, the koel. “I’ve no regret. I’m prepared to die.”

The koel asked gently, “Is there anything I can do for you, Mango Ma?”

“I wish to hear you sing once more — one last time,” said the tree.

The koel remained silent. He was used to singing when new leaves sprouted from the mango tree. He remembered how the leaves would turn from red to fresh green. Unfortunately, this happened during the spring. And right now, it was winter.

The tree also did not speak further. It was too tired. Its final moment had arrived. It had a feeling it was floating far, far away. Then it heard the song. It was very faint, hardly audible at first, but soon it gathered strength and it could hear the song clearly.

It was the koel singing!

The koel himself did not know when or how he had found his voice! He was silently watching Mango Ma dying in front of him. The biting cold wind was blowing and the warmth of the sun was missing. Yet, the koel found himself singing. Faintly at first, a little louder after a while, then full-throated. The koel forgot the winter wind, the biting cold, and the dying tree. He simply sang and continued to sing even as the day broke.

The koel’s song reverberated through the jungle. Animals in hibernation moved. Sleeping animals opened their eyes. The sun got curious and looked down wondering where the song was coming from. The mist melted. The wind became warm. Birds flew in the direction of the sound of music. Animals followed them on foot.

Suddenly, they came to an abrupt halt. There it was! The mango tree which they had deserted was standing tall in all its glory wearing new leaves — tender reddish leaves. They could spot delicate flowers too! And a lone koel was singing!

All the birds and animals bowed to the mango tree in awe.

The mango tree lowered its branches gently, swaying the koel, who continued to sing.

That year, spring had broken out sooner than expected! All because the koel was singing the song of life.

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