My father was on deathbed. He wanted
to spend his last moments at home with family members rather than looking at
conventional ceiling of Intensive Care Unit of any reputed hospital. Keeping
his wish in mind, my doc brother converted his room into ICU with all the necessary
instruments and equipment. Patient monitor, ventilator and you name it and it
Slowly his body was degenerating organ
by organ. It was painful to see him going bit by bit. With our moist eyes, my
brother and I who were standing beside his bed on either side were gently caressing
his hands to soothe him. We were trying hard not to cry in front of him. The
whole environment was gloomy. All of a sudden, my mother who was tenderly rubbing
his feet told him, “You have distributed all your wealth and property between
your children. Also make them heir of your ‘Sankalpa’!”
My brother and I were perplexed.
She started explaining, “After
retirement as an agriculture scientist, your father took a vow to plant 1000
trees per year. And you both must know how hard he was working for this noble
cause! He had searched along the length and breadth of the semi arid area of
North West India- nurseries, fields and forests to find the best varieties of
trees. The brackish underground water had made the task harder as a few varieties
of trees could only withstand that high amount of salinity. The harsh weather
in both summer and winter would kill most of the saplings within one year of
plantation. Even on withstanding these harsh conditions, many trees die because
of termite attacks. The crickets, insects and nematodes attacks causes’ stunned
growth and sometimes they even destroy the plant when the attack is severe. Even
after such a high mortality rate of young trees that leads to frustration, he is
determined and consistence towards his target. As you, both know he is
unstoppable! No obstacle could compel him to quit from doing what he wishes to
Saddened eyes of my father now had a
“Should we plant flowering or fruiting
trees?” I asked controlling my tears.
“Each species of trees in an ecosystem has a specific niche—a
role to play. We all know, trees nourish soil, help in water conservation, ease
carbon sequestration, improve biodiversity, and increase the
number of pollinators and natural pest predators like birds. However, every tree
has its own unique feature as peepal tree provides more oxygen or dry leaves of
neem tree acts as organic pest controller, twisted stem of pelu tree acts as
windbreaker, nodules present in khejadi roots enriches the soil with nitrogen
or jungli beer provides food to many small sized birds.” She showered all her knowledge,
accumulated from editing his agri-based research papers, presentations and
All ears were on her.
continued,“Repeated irrigation of brackish water and frequent use of
fertilizers has turned the fertile land into barren. Therefore, it will be better to
go for native trees like babul, pelu, kher, frans, neem, mahaneem/ bakaan,
khejadi, papdi, sahajan, karanj, shireesh, jungle jalebi etc. The locally indigenous
trees can withstand scanty rainfall as well as foggy and misty weather. They are
pest and disease resistant therefore they grow faster than ornamental trees. Not
only their shade facilitates moisture conservation but also nutrient rich
litter of dry leaves of these trees revitalises the soil each season which will
help exotic trees to grow subsequently.”
It was his words from her mouth.
“Your father love flowering trees like gulmohar, amaltas,
neeli gulmohar, bottle brush, balam khera as they all bloom in summers when
they are leafless or have less leaves, which make flowers more conspicuous for
pollinators and a beautiful magnificent site for us! Fruiting trees like bel, amala, imali,
lehsuaa, toot, shahtoot, kajoor, kaith, cheeku and some citrus can be planted after
checking the pH of soil. Nevertheless, remember one thing that does not pluck the fruits of any tree
in the first fruiting season. Give them back to nature. Leave them for bulbul,
myna and parrots.”
“As the rainfall is scanty near about
50 cm each year and all of it in almost one or two months of monsoon, you can not go for more varieties in ornamental trees however kachnar, devils tree, palm,
kadamb and silver oak will survive.”
He held our hands firmly, put a light
pressure and ordered, “Thousand trees every monsoon.”
His eyes were twinkling.
It was time to check his oxygen levels
so my brother put the oximeter on his index finger.
We began to chant his favourite mantra.
After his demise, I planted more than
1000 trees. Because of drought like conditions and carelessness of my employee
who did not bother to water, resulted in only 2% survival rate. My time, energy
and money were wasted. My heart cried and a part of me died. Then, I decided to
modify my ‘sankalpa’ to not only just plant trees but to nurture them until
they become self sustainable.
From the past four years, I have
invested my good amount of funds on planting, tending, watering, weeding and pruning
of trees. Previous year, because of extreme shortage of funds, I had to sell my
gold jewellery to fulfil my inherited ‘Sankalpa’.
Glittering of gold would not satisfy
me, what a blooming of bottlebrush tree could!
Pic : A young babul
tree with nest as thorny branches protect it from predators like cats, shikaras