Under the Pilkhan Tree: Sunil Sharma

“To dwellers in a wood, almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature.”

― Thomas Hardy


It is a well-known address for those seeking a tryst with arts in the capital of India.

The sanctuary for a post-modern soul seeking sublime in a concrete forest; a haven for getting some quick respite from a deadening culture of consumerism and utter materialism, in a burgeoning megapolis of migrants and neo-rich and power elites.

Such addresses are disappearing fast in the city where old tombs and monuments coexist along with new monuments to the capital.

It is a sizzling June evening.

Evidence, real-time, of extreme climate change. The mercury hovers at degrees that can trigger orange and red alerts in a dry and dusty north of the country.

It is distressing, baking outdoors.

The long street has got rows of neat bungalows on both sides. There is no honking vehicular traffic---bane of every urban centre. Silence prevails in this tony neighborhood.

Soft shadows hug the green enclave.

As we---Sangeeta and I---walk into the well-maintained property, there is this sudden realization of walking into another dimension of existence and cognition---the dimension of beauty, of aesthetics, of finding patterns and designs that transmit and give direction and meaning to an individual and collective.

It is a place where art is not an abstraction, a concept but real; art as a praxis.

Kind of studio-lot where colours, sounds and words intermingle, and produce a heightened sense of other realms, beyond the ordinary ken.

Where poetry lives and works with the everyday.

A rich and multi-hued landscape unravels before our startled eyes.

Like any property, it has its usual facade but unlike other structures of steel and concrete, it possesses a unique element, a native soul. The walls have got their own language. Trees whisper songs. Birds add to the music of the spheres. Squirrels flit across the lawns.

It is a serene stratosphere!

Welcome to the House of the Lals---Malashri and Robey Lal---sweet home to the fine arts!

A refreshing discovery!

An open inner courtyard with a fountain. Front and back stretches of grass. Walls with photographs and paintings.

Breath of art here.


The famous Pilkhan tree, in the front lawn, beckons the poets who often congregate under its welcoming arms for a rendezvous, special and lyrical. The swing in the corner; the chairs and tables arranged artistically; the fairy lights and lanterns; these combine to lend a touch of the ethereal to the mundane.

Over the last couple of years, Pilkhan tree has emerged as a haunt for fine poetry and serious discussion, attracting talents from many parts of the capital---and country.

Pilkhan tree is an event---and a participant in the activities of his human cousins.

They understand each other, the poets and the tree.

The readings are well attended and camaraderie, rare.

A happy family of multilingual poets and professionals; an event that gets wide attention, thanks to social media.

The space reminds us of the salons of Paris.

Here you are welcome to recite poetry and listen to others, as the evening lengthens into the night, ushering in subtle transformation.

A fulfilling encounter with spoken and verbal artifacts.

Many poets found their voice here.

The group is called Poets under the Pilkhan Tree.

Pilkhan welcomes all.

Delhi is known for its poetry readings and has got a long history of such mehfils. A decade or so before, Alka Tyagi, an eminent bilingual poet and academic, started an initiative, inviting poets to read in the gardens and under the monuments. It was a great hit.

Then the Pilkhan happened---the new place of meeting.

The open-air dialogue continues to engage the best creatives.

Poetry is the star here.

“I am happy that so many poets are writing today in different languages. There is already a big market for poetry. It is being read and recited everywhere. We are happy to organise such sessions here, under the tree and exchange ideas,” says Malashri, the eminent poet and academic, and our generous host, sitting under the Pilkhan.

Her own collection of poetry Mandalas of Time is creating global waves.

It compresses many timelines and evokes historical moments and mythological memories of an ancient civilization in short and terse lines that continue to resonate well, post-reading, very much like the haunting music of the gentle waves that often returns to the solitary traveller walking along the star-lit path, in a forest, or to a person awake, in a lonely cottage, near the lakeshore, on a lonely night.

Lines that are deceptively simple, but profound, keep on recurring in mind:

In the gem cutters’ hands

Twinkling green-eyed emeralds

Emerges out of blobs of stone from Zambia

Who knows what love and loss are ingrained

In this heritage?

(“Jaipur Bazaar”, p.37)


As well-known poets---Sangeeta Gupta and Satbir Chadha along with her spouse Balbir Singh---join the soiree, the energy field gets further surcharged.

Poetry, politics, travel, feminism, patriarchy, cuisines, food, visual art get covered in a free-flowing conversation.

The delicious food is served--- a delectable spread of Bengali dishes---lovingly and caringly.

An intimate portrait of friendship.

Of an evening soaked up in images, metaphors and of meaningfully living and being.

Of being alive in a reified society through art, ethics and philosophy.

Laughter and wit attend the dinner, turning it into a memorable evening.

Robey Lal’s repartee and one-liners add to the charm of the select gathering. The bulbs glow on the front lawn and change the scene into something magical, special!

As I look across the glass doors, I catch Pilkhan wink in the merry way known only to their hardy species on a degraded planet.

Thomas Hardy is right about the trees and woods---I  clearly hear the tree- voice, within the depths of my heart and primeval memory coded in some part of my brain.

And a song is born, a light shines.

I smile back at my many-limbed tall friend.

Communion is over.

The young night is enchanting---so is the company!

Poetry and poetical dialogues are like the sacred songs that revive and revitalise the soul in a mass culture. A culture that deadens and makes humans into one-dimensional beings.

Art restores sanity and humanity to a commercialised culture.

Let thousands of such Pilkhan trees bloom in courtyards and streets!

To arrest the advance of the dry deserts lying outside the gates of the cities and towns, waiting to invade the dark interiors.

Trees of hope, love and compassion.

Stirring lines of Malashri, the poet, can help in stopping the slide into a sterile, empty void of nothingness; lines that deliver the truth of existence, in striking simplicity; beautiful and stark message:

Buried bulbs know they will creep upwards in season

Life’s renewal is a beautiful certainty.

(“Easter Lilies in an Empty Home”, p. 108)



A tree.


And a loving home.

Nothing else matters!


  1. Excellent write up of an evening as part of an epoch, a home that is an oasis in the concrete desert, and the message that no virtuality can replace human bonds.

  2. Thanks. The Pilkhan tree, and we, were delighted to meet you. Thanks for this heartwarming description of the evening . Malashri


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