By: Barnali Bose, Editor-ICN World
KOLKATA: I looked at the bare ground where till last summer had stood a mango tree that a raging storm uprooted. Visions of the many colourful birds that I would so often, sight perching on its branches flashed before me.
The Mango tree had also been the favourite haunt of hordes of monkeys that would often come to my garden. It was interesting to observe them, as they swung from one branch to the other, chattering endlessly, as if without a care in the world.
The Mango tree would remind me of the story of a man I had read in my childhood.Once a passerby gazed at a mango tree and wanted to feast on its juicy yellow fruits. He saw that the mangoes were dangling very high and therefore beyond his reach. Disappointed, he decided to go on his way.
He paused when he spotted some monkeys swinging on the branches. An idea occurred to him. He picked up a pebble and threw it at them. Immediately , the monkeys began to throw mangoes at him. His strategy had literally ‘borne’ fruit.
I had narrated the tale to my children, who were then in their single-digit years. They had tried to emulate the man in the story but the monkeys had responded in the least expected manner. ‘Attack!’, was what the tailed arboreals had seemed to scream and on hearing my children’s screams, I rushed out to gather them in the shelter of my arms. I could see that they were visibly shaken and it was quite sometime before I was able to pacify them. Years later, whenever we recollected the incident, we were in splits of laughter.
The Mango tree in my garden, is now conspicuous by its absence. A Neem tree stands in its place. The Neem tree has grown on its own, spreading its leafy branches and never tiring as it fans me on many a sultry summer afternoon.
A row of Papaya trees almost slants to one side as a strong breeze blows. I cannot help but smile when I see colorful birds pecking away at the half-ripe papaya fruits.
A squirrel scampering across the garden, stops to pick up something, it obviously treasures. Standing on its hindlegs, it holds the ‘ treasure’ with its forelegs and quickly nibbles away at it. Then, swishing its bushy tail, it rushes through the green grass before disappearing behind the pumpkin creepers in the corner. I watch in awe. How beautiful and varied nature is!
On hearing a buzzing sound, I try to track its source, but soon enough I run for dear life with an ‘army’ of furious bees in hot pursuit, visibly alarmed at my intrusion. I promise never to infringe upon their right to make honey, in peace.
The once-familiar chatter of the monkeys has now given way to angry grunts as they come looting and plundering like invaders from the pages of History. They tear flowers off, wring soft papaya stems and pluck brinjals that they bite into but mostly throw away. They even pluck rose buds if any. The anger in their eyes is palpable.
As I ponder over their fury, I realise regretfully that their invasion is in retaliation to that of humans on their dwellings.There now stands many a residential complex where earlier flourished mango orchards.
The locality is one that once boasted of overproduction of Himsagar,a local mango fruit. The particular variety had flourished for decades and we used to buy mangoes very cheap if we ever did have to buy.
Almost every household boasted of at least one Himsagar mango tree if not more. Neighbours owning such trees prided themselves in obliging others with the golden fruit. Now, mangoes here are as cheap or as expensive as they are anywhere else.
Sadly, in our quest for modernisation, we have been knowingly and unknowingly destroying the wonderful gift of nature- ‘trees’. Deprivation is ultimately ours but we fail to realize it.
This Van Mahotsav, I have decided to stop lamenting over the loss of the Mango tree and plant two mango saplings in my backyard to ensure that at least one thrives.
‘Van Mahotsav’, from July 1 to July 7 has been earmarked every year, in India to celebrate the existence of forests as well as trees in our immediate surroundings.
‘The festival of forests’ reminds us to replenish their depleting numbers and encourages us to conserve them for the perennial existence of life in all forms.
The week- long festival coincides with the much-awaited South-west Monsoon that brings heavy showers to rejuvenate existing trees and nurture the newly planted saplings.
I remember a few lines from ‘Trees’ composed by Joyce Kilmer.
‘I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray.’
This Van Mahotsav, let us remind ourselves that saving a tree means saving the biodiversity that exists in and around it. Happy Plantation drive.