Tuesday, December 22, 2009

When The Days of The Trees are Numbered

In my childhood, holiday travel was mostly by road. And all along the drive,  were trees which had numbers etched on them. I would count as we went along, looking for missing numbers. I was told that was how various government departments made sure trees were not felled by unscrupulous elements.

And to think that presently trees are being numbered in the Delhi University Campus to facilitate their cutting to make space for events in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. While the construction of stadia is a matter of concern, the cutting of trees is not.

It is probably the sight of barren land that has awakened my love for nature. I gush with delight when I see trees, flowers, birds ….  

( pic courtesy - VP )

The Banyan Tree, that is fast disappearing,  brings back vivid memories of the pages in my science book. Illustrate the parts of a tree was an oft repeated question and we would invariably reproduce the diagram of the Banyan Tree, neatly labeled. These trees were most visible as we drove along the highway, and constantly served as a bus shelter where district buses would stop to pick up their passengers.

Remember the famous lines by Joyce Kilmer?

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

This poem, so popular was/is thought to be  simplistic and lacking in substance. 
There is even a parody by Odgen Nash "Song of the Open Road" with more than an ounce of truth

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all

( replace billboard with apartments/malls for Indian scenario)


  1. The way trees are dwindling there soon will have to be education classes on how trees used to look like ! Sigh !

    And this is called 'common-wealth' games ! What a misnomer.

  2. You're right, felling trees is not, sadly, a matter of concern.

    When I was a child, tribals who lived in the forests near our town had a special trick to fell a tree. They would light a fire at the base, and burn it just enough that it would die.

    When the tree died, they could legally cut down the tree and sell the wood.

    Humans show such shortsightedness when they cut down trees without a thought...

  3. Hmmm, this is a sensitive subject, Radha!

    When we built our house in the outskirts of Chennai (our plot didn't have even a single tree), our neighbouring plots had many palm trees - this area is famous for palm trees, it seems. We used to sit on our backyard steps and watch birds like parrots, koyal, kingfisher, woodpecker and many many birds, whose name we did not know. And snakes too. I still remember watching mother woodpecker teaching her babies how to fly...all of them would sit in a line on the chain link fence and FALL down! The mother would start reprimanding in a loud voice! Then the babies just get up and try to fly and sit on the branch of the nearby branch of the hibiscus plant! Then again the 'falling down' started!

    Now, one 'gated-community' with 98 flats have come in that area. No palm trees...no birds. Some houses like ours have got some trees like neem and mango and very minimum number of birds can be seen now.

    Gutsy birds like the bul-buls came back this year also and have built their nests on our small flowering tree, like last year. I just hope the babies will survive this time also. No more green vegetation for them. The IT highway has swallowed all the old trees and no sign of planting new trees.

  4. Kavi - So true

    Manju - One would like to think the tribals were doing it for their survival. Unlike what happens these days!

    Sandhya - There is a lone independent house in front of our apartment. There are trees that house birds and butterflies in their branches. And what a lovely sight it is. I always wish the owner of that house a lot of wealth and prosperity and hope he does not yield to pressures to sell!

  5. A single tree can produce millions of matchsticks but a single matchstick can destroy millions of trees!

    Those forest officers, along with cutting the trees, help by spreading forest fires by smoking and throwing the matchstick carelessly :(

  6. Very true. They simply find a reason to cut the trees. Here they are cutting them on the pretext of widening trees.

  7. Nice post. Us individuals should be responsible in not destryong trees and at the same time plant new trees (for the sake of our future generation).

  8. This is a really sad state of affairs. Though i always feel that Chennai is still better, in north we hardly have any greenery in the city.

  9. Liked that bit about school science book exercise that asked students to illustrate parts of a banyan. Our schoolyard banyan in Mysore is an ideal candidate for students to work on. Wonder if thye do it at the Baden Powell school where this massive tree is located.

  10. it takes years for a tree to grow and minutes to cut it down....why is this not a matter to be considered when making these decisions?

  11. Beautiful article. I guess we have to speed up space research so that we can find another earth.


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