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The 14 year old brother and 10 year old sister hurried with their mother across the crowded city to reach their grandmother’s shop by the road side . Most evenings they came here to help the grandmother pack up the containers and other materials, untie the long chain of masks that she sold ever since Covid phase and also drop her back home. The shop though right in the middle of the hot,dusty and smoke filled city was cool and secluded – this was due to the presence of 3 trees in front of the shop that buffered them from the heat and dust. Their mother would often recite the lines from famous poetess Sugathakumari’s poem “ In salutation of the Tree “

Let us salute the one

Like Neela kanta swamy

Who consumes toxins himself

The tree gives life giving oxygen

The girl liked to watch the leaves of the Ficus tree as it changes color from pink to light green to dark green. It is like the leaves did not miss even a small whiff of breeze  that passed by , ever ready to move in unison. Their grandmother, a staunch devotee of Lord Krishna believed that the baby God resided in the leaves.

Since a few months, the grandmother along with some auto rickshaw drivers have been waging a battle with the road sweepers who made a mound of dry leaves and other waste under the tree and set fire to it. The boy felt that the burning of the bark, the exposed roots and leaves would destroy the tree.

It is by chance that on a warm mid morning a young man who took the small uneven path behind the tree to reach the main road noticed the burnt part. Unlike the majority who  passes that way, he stopped for a while, took pictures and approached the grandmother with questions.  The grandmother answered in her usual straightforward manner.

Little did the family realize that there would be a event under the tree next day evening.. a small group of people assembled under the tree and started their activities. Some took out paper and pens and started planning poster making. Others set about tying a white cloth around the tree. Some others were taking pictures. On the whole it was a live, active scene filled with energy and involvement.

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The boy was very excited and offered to do some posters. The group agreed happily and gave him some ideas. It has been wish to draw the tree and write some slogan about this for many days…. And here is a golden chance. The poster papers were cut into right sizes and pens made available for him. His grand mother offered a table.

The tree lovers group really encouraged the boy to draw and liked the trees he drew. They wrote slogans and facts about trees below his drawings.  They also discussed about the health of a living being like the tree and how activities like nailing on the bark and setting fire to waste under the tree would irreparably damage the tree. The boy had noticed that many of the neighbors also sweep dry leaves and plastic under a tree and set fire to it…their idea of cleanliness was indeed very strange. It was new knowledge to him and his little sister that there is a branch in Ayurveda healing system that addresses the health of a tree called Vriksha Ayurveda. One kind looking aunt in the group explained how they brought a person specialized in this from Kottayam and healed two trees in the city that were damaged by indiscriminate cutting and also burning of waste. She showed them pictures of the 2 events – there were some children in the group and it looked like a very interesting process. She also promised to inform them when the next event occurs.

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In this case they did a process called Water healing in which water was poured over all the affected parts of the tree. The little girl was most excited by this process and she really prayed fervently that the tree would heal fast. The mother and grandmother shared phone numbers with the group and promised to inform if any more burning is done. Obviously this was a very symbolic event to highlight the fact that trees can be made dangerous and lose their stability if such thoughtless activities are done by humans. The boy was shocked about how a tree that has been growing for so many years could be destroyed by an activity in so short a time. He started noticing many atrocities that are being done to trees and other living beings. On the way to his school he saw 2 trees with nails driven into the bark to hang advertisements. His sister showed him the iron railing of the footpath piercing the bark of the tree. At times the tree guard meant to protect a growing tree becomes an obstruction to tree growth. Most often the branches of a growing tree are cut in the most haphazard manner that results in the tree losing its balance and stability.

One of the members of the group narrated how the High Court of Kerala responded to a letter written by students from a school about how nails damage tree growth and ordered that the nails be removed. The boy decided to write a letter with the help of his class mates and members of Eco Club once school starts functioning in full swing about such atrocities. The boy and his sister said good bye to the group with a full mind. They promised to monitor the tree and inform in case there is any issue .

As if in answer to the wishes and prayers of the group and this small family , it rained heavily the next day evening. Though the posters were spoilt there was much joy and relief.

The group was happy and filled with hope and new energy by the presence and enthusiasm of these two dendrophilics. Unlike the Covid virus, they wished to be tested positive for Dendrophilia !

Anitha.S ,Coordinator of Tree Walk, a Citizen’s Collective based in Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) writes after the Water Healing event where a huge Pipal tree under whose bark waste was being burnt was brought to the attention of Corporation and the public. She can be contacted at tvmtreewalk@gmail.com


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