Arre, Aarey: Requiem for a tree closer home, farther in time

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Last weekend the death knell was sounded for 2,185 trees to make way for a Metro car-shed in Mumbai’s sylvan Aarey Milk Colony.  The first lot was killed in the dead of night, leading to hundreds of mainly young activists rushing to the site, the imposition of Section 144, and high drama. Naturally, if eco-warriors come, can twitter-warriors be far behind? The birdsong was stilled, but the tweets filled the ether. Ah well! Social media is now the designated Crusader in Chief, Toppler of Tyrants – and Sire-r of Unsavoury Side-effects. To the last-mentioned’s usual suspects, add ‘celebindignation’. While the cause with the designer label has always been there, its Net gains have increased manifold.

Personally, I wish trees hadn’t created the Darth Vader image of the Metro. Of course, I know of their environmental worth, but i’m equally convinced that this project is the saviour of a Mumbai starved of public transport and strangulated by vehicular pollution. So without diluting this belief, let me tell you about another time, another tree.

It was a majestic Rusty Shield-bearer standing tall just outside my former home. It held its own in very august company: flamboyant gulmohur, cascading laburnum, patrician banyan, ruthless strangler fig, generous jamun, even the rare mahogany and ebony, all of which created the envied idyll of the Dadar Parsi Colony.  My tree spread a golden crown to the sky, and then, as the winds blew, a carpet of similar hue, covering up the shameful pavement. Even the dull brown pods, which give it its popular name, sheathed it in a sombre beauty, and pinned a Post-It reminding us of subtle season change.

We woke to its bright promise, slept to its shadowed reassurance. At random hours it seduced us to stand and stare at the incessant activity in and around its depths. Birds of every screech and squawk, bats hanging like bough-snagged black plastic bags, bees, butterflies, squirrels, bandicoots.

Then one day, with a mighty heave, it fell.  Taking away all that it had stood for, leaving bereft the generations it had indulged. It was like the passing of a patriarch. Or the demolition of an old mansion. Yes, the death of even one tree diminishes us all.

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Alec Smart said: “Sedition is being used seditiously.”

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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