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25 March 2007

The Speaking Tree

Suddenly the saplings and trees in the housing complex have sprouted a black tag with a number. It may be part of the tree census in Mumbai. Even as I am horrified at how last week as part of a tourist beautification drive at Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu, almost all including many 60-year-old large trees were chopped and rammed down.

Pamela has given more details in her blog at interact.newint.org/blog/pamela-nowicka/the-price-of-tourism.

When did it happen, the journey from a country that accords trees status of worship and celebrated vanamohatsav to short sighted selfishness? Many years ago the members of the chipko movement were derided for being impractical tree hugging idealists -a term that has stayed on - when they opposed commercial logging in the Himalayas.

I am not part of any movement but I have been a passionate gardener when we had one, have always planted trees wherever we lived (once even in the complex where I worked) and with V, had prepared and implemented a tree- planting project in a part of Navi Mumbai when it was only a bare complex of housing blocks to what is an oasis of greenery now.

I think that if Asterix characters were based on real people who lived,then in some life I must have been Dogmatix. I want to yowl in miserable anguish when I see a tree destroyed. A tree in my line of vision, inspires, comforts and makes me happy.

"I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree
Poems are made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree”


These are lines from Joyce Kilmer's most famous poem, "Trees". It is read at arbor day celebrations in the USA; it has been set to music several times; and it is taught in elementary schools around USA. It is loved, but also mocked by critics as a simplistic poem, lacking in substance. Each year at Columbia University, there is a Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poetry Contest.

From Wikipedia:

The Philolexian Society hosts this open-to-the-public event in honor of Alfred Joyce Kilmer (Class of 1908), vice president of the society and the author of "Trees." Contestants get up and read their wittiest and worst original poetry, hoping for cheers and a shot at winning the title of Poet Laureate.


Kilmer born in 1886, lived most of his short life in New Jersey. He was killed in 1918 in France. Before he enlisted in the army, he was on staff at the New York Times, and wrote Trees in 1913.

As is normally done, the first and last lines are used and I had seen it inscribed on the top of Dodabetta peak in Tamil Nadu where for some reason, it was attributed to anonymous.

Mumbai does have its share of tree lovers- Friends of Trees, Flower and Vegetable shows, the Mangrove supporters and as a hobby and interest- individual terrace and kitchen gardens and bonsai lovers. But the average citizen in India, and in Mumbai has either blissful ignorance or utter disregard for trees,the flora and fauna, and environment in general, its upkeep and its welfare without realising that, that which we sustain, in turn, sustains us.

2 comments:

rajen nair said...

I share most of your views expressed in your blog. Pls visit my website www.rajennair.com and care to offer your comments

Deepa said...

@rajennair Thanks Rajen. Did so. You have a lovely blog.

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