In Sanskrit and many other Indian languages, Nandadeep means the “forest of happiness”. It bring images of a serene paradise of greenery. To almost everyone that Nawang and I know from my childhood it means “Cricket”. Much before we realized that there was a deeper meaning to this word, we were playing cricket in the garden of Shirish Bhai and Ranjani ben. This was the space that we had claimed as our own all through our childhood
Now, cricket is not a game which many would allow in their back-yard. For one, it involves 22 very boisterous children, it means hitting a fast thrown ball and results in many broken windows. I realized it only much later how patient Shirish Bhai and Ranjani Ben had been with us because when we where kids, playing in Nandadeep was considered a right, in line with getting bedtime stories from our grandparents. Never once did we even realize that it was necessary for us to be considerate for the family staying in the house.
Nadadeep brings back so many memories, it was not only cricket, sometimes it became a tennis court, a ship, a forest, a battle ground, what Nandadeep became was only limited by our imaginations. Our closest friends were all there with us, Deepak, Mrinal, Kuntal… name it they have played there. Today each of us is successful in our chosen paths, but Nandadeep is where our paths started and the love the family that let us into their lives stays.
When Ma started the plantation of trees in the memory of Nawang, it was Shirish Bhai and Ranjani Ben took the lead in this and planted a tree in the memory of Nawang at Nandadeep.
This tree is Sona-Champa.or golden Champa it has fragrant yellow flowers ,long hard petals. This tree now stands tall at the place which in our cricket game was the bowler’s wicket. It was a place that we all remembered well. It was place that Nawang had loved as a child and now he is forever of part of it.
After seven years, the tree has grown strong and big, it towers over the otherwise concrete blocks of Mumbai. All of us are a little fatter, a little slower and a little greyer but the tree is forever rejuvenated, it is forever strong and it forever young. Just like the 24 year old Nawang who was taken from us. He remains forever young and forever courageous.