In Honour Of Trees….

I grew up surrounded by trees. A huge variety of them.

Like those nostalgic songs that evoke different stages of my life, trees transport me to those carefree days when we spent every spare moment outdoors.

I remember the undiluted pleasure of reading favourite books ensconced in the leafy, low hung branches of a cashew tree. Of dawdling beneath the night jasmine, before hopping into the car early mornings, to inhale the heady scent of the red stemmed blooms carpeting the ground beneath. Of raiding the gooseberry tree with siblings and visiting cousins (and being sick afterwards). Of helping hindering the harvesting of mangoes, coconuts and arecanuts. And most of all, of just lazing under the shade of the giant tamarind, dreaming of elsewhere.

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A living sculpture in Mahabalipuram!

Later, nearly two decades spent on tea and coffee plantations, introduced me to more exotic trees. Gardening became a passion. Identifying trees and birds a matter of pride.

Then came the move to the big city. A yearning to create an identity, to get myself a ‘real’ job, ensured a disconnect from nature. And not just because of the limited green space around. I got too busy to even remember to look up. Air conditioned rooms insidiously displaced the cool shade of trees.

When a dear friend sent me details of the Neralu Photo Project last month, I was shocked by the dearth of tree images in my albums. Apart from the baobabs from Africa that were rather hard to ignore, and my mango tree that I do once I step away from my kitchen window, most were accidental clicks used to frame urban elements. I had forgotten to ‘look’ at trees.

Neralu, meaning shade in Kannada, is an inspiring crowd funded citizen initiative in Bangalore, that aims to reconnect urban citizens with their natural environments. The annual tree festival celebrates the beauty and diversity of trees in the garden city and raises awareness of the need for conservation and balanced urban growth.

I am delighted to have had an opportunity to be associated with this festival. And honoured to have two of my photographs picked for display at the National Gallery of Modern Art. Sadly, I couldn’t be present physically, but the children sent me this image:

Neralu Photo project entries

Here’s a link for readers from Bangalore who might be interested in the scheduled walks or the many planned events across town.

The rest…..remember to hug a tree this weekend.


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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

81 thoughts on “In Honour Of Trees….

  1. what a wonderful festival & congrats on having your images chosen 🙂 I also love trees though recently my posts are clouds, sunsets, flwoers & cat, nonetheless there are trees amongst my photos. Always.

    1. Keira, you are the undisputed queen of trees and sunsets!!! 🙂 Look forward to more of your stunning tree galleries.

      1. If it wasn’t so hot today (40 degrees) I would’ve gone down to Hyde Park. But Matilda Bay on Tuesday – there will be trees, hopefully ravens…. And thank you 🙂 But your photos are gorgeous!

  2. A lovely reflective piece of writing. I’m inspired every time I read one of your posts, by your writing and your thinking. And congratulations on having two images chosen for the art gallery. A tree festival is a wonderful idea. They’ve just chopped down a number of vast old trees in my neighbourhood at home in the name of street beautification!!! And more in the name of fire protection. A tree anti-festival.

    1. Thank you for reading Meg. Indiscriminate chopping of trees is always hard to witness. All the more reason why I found this festival inspiring. Our young people help dispel some of my cynicism 🙂

  3. Lovely photographs! That tree in Mahabalipuram caught my eye too! Read this unknown quote “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in” . Neralu seems to be a wonderful initiative, one that more cities should take up.

    1. That is such a beautiful and relevant quote! And yes, I would love to see this concept spread to more cities. Happy to ‘meet’ you Archana. Do you live in Chennai?

  4. Wow, Madhu! Amazing collection. Loved the different colors, height and textures, and of course your words which made me nostalgic about the trees of Himalayas around which I grew up. Ha ha ha, I also used to try climbing some of the small varieties of the trees. Fun times. 🙂

    1. Thanks Nandini. trees were my favourite hiding places from mom (when I was avoiding schoolwork) and my pesky brothers 🙂 I feel sorry for my grandchildren for all the simple pleasures they have missed out on living in a big city

  5. I’m a tree lover too – I am lucky enough to still live in a rural environment where I spend at least some of every day admiring one tree or another.

    1. The demands of life in a big city make it harder to stay connected Gilly. All the more reason why i am grateful for that mango tree 🙂

  6. Interesting you included the South Park Street Cemetery in Kolkata – the trees there incidentally are amazing and really add to the atmosphere!

    1. That is one of my favourite images and I was glad it was selected. Agree with you, it is the filtered light through the foliage that makes the cemetery so atmospheric.

  7. Congrats on having your photos exhibited! I spent a lot of time up trees as a child and live next to the woods now. Love our gnarled friends!

  8. Trees are something too special to really ignore… they are around us, if you have the chance to live in the country, but even in the cities there still are few of them, sometimes shy and afraid, trying to catch the look of the busy citizen. In my country we may be very fortunate because trees are well cared and even in my small city, there are a lot of them among the high palaces… Just yesterday when I did my “lunch-walk” on the lake side, I realized the hugeness of some plane-tree across the Embarcadero. I wished to have a photo camera (I don’t have a smartphone) and I promised myself to take a picture next week. The particularity of these are some type of “balls” on the branches which create a strange apparition…
    As you lovely said, trees and Nature have the power to bring our memory back in time… It’s so special to write about trees, to photograph or todrawn them. They are giving us much more than shade, fruits, warmth or constructions wood… they keep us alive!
    Serenity 🙂 claudine

    1. Ha, i was exaggerating about ignoring trees of course 🙂 But we do spend less time admiring them now than we did when we lived closer to nature. That is but natural. Look forward to seeing images of your special ‘ball’ tree 🙂

  9. Your reminiscing about trees makes me think of the many trees I’ve enjoyed in my life – climbing, eating fruit from (apple, cherry, peaches), and just enjoying the cool shade from. Lovely post, Madhu.

  10. Oh, I adore your description of growing up among so many wonderful trees, Madhu. The whole post made me ache and smile—both. Thank you.

    1. Came through fine Riba. I ached at the memories of all those trees writing this. We have vowed to spend more time outdoors in the days ahead. Gets harder in the summer heat, especially since I am not a morning person, but am going to give it a try. Thanks for reading 🙂

  11. Could we even survive as humans without trees? The many functions they serve for us: generating oxygen, shade, fruit, nuts, medicine (bark, oil, leaves), beverages (think maple syrup), buildings, bridges, firewood…..but I prefer them as quiet companions in the landscape.

  12. First, congratulations on having your photography on display for such a significant and worthy project. All my life I have been surrounded by trees, some more special then others. You have jarred loose a lot of memories. As a child, my criteria for the best tree was whether or not I could climb it. I have seen the effects of diseases wiping out the citrus trees in our area, wooly aphids destroying the fir trees in the North Carolina Mountains and the the affects of pollution on the urban environment. Trees enrich our lives. We must preserve and respect them and as you say…honor them. 🙂

    1. Thank you Lynne. I agree and am impressed by the efforts put in by these young nature lovers to build awareness. I was unaware of this festival and would have remained ignorant if my friend hadn’t sent me the link.

  13. While your whole post is thought provoking, your first photo leaves me in awe, thinking of the preservation and struggle that tree must have faced to survive rooted in those rocks. Obviously, the little fellow had the will to not only survive, but to thrive as well. It makes me think of ‘The Little Engine that Could’. 🙂

    1. I was struck by its tenacity as well Marcy. And the lone tourist framed by its branches. I rememeber wondering if the art of Bonsai was inspired by such a tree 🙂

  14. I love interesting trees and there are so many types as well. Where I lived when I was young, in northern Canada, the wind was so strong that the trees were all only 3 feet high and they grew bent to one side. You could stand in the middle of a forest that came to your waist. 🙂

  15. Congratulations on having your photographs exhibited, Madhu! As ever, an interesting and thoughtful post. 🙂

    1. I don’t think that I do MaryAnn. Seems like Google hasn’t either 🙂

      Pleasure to see you here. Belated New Year wishes to you and your family.

  16. Madhu, pls delete the previous message, it wrongly got typed…

    Indeed a lovely and very nostalgic post, we all have had our tryst with nature and tree in particular, we all have childhood memories of playing around trees and those with hyperactive energy and audacious were jumping like money from one to the other…as we grow ironically we distance ourselves from nature rather than nurturing the nature. Trees are no doubt are the epicenter of nature’s bounty…we are at awe at trees diversity and beauty.

    Congrats Madhu for your selection of your photo, wonderful one.

      1. Yes, you are right our children and grand children, we don’t know much they will be able involve and cherish the moments around the trees…trees are there and the co-existence is amazing.

  17. Lovely picture – my link with the city is the decade of the 80s when my parents lived there. And now on my infrequent visits, i miss the green cover!! But, then thats true of most of our cities….

    1. Yes, most of our cities have lost much of their green cover, but I think the transformation in Bangalore is by far the worst. Perhaps because it was the most beautiful to begin with. Happy to ‘meet’ you Sita. Are you a blogger? I couldn’t locate a link on your Gravatar.

  18. And what about the joy of climbing in trees as a child? Higher and higher! Mango trees were not too good if I recall: sticky with sap. Not to mention giant red or black ants! 🙂
    (Thank you)

  19. This might sound odd, but I like the photo of the cemetery with pigeons best. Madhu I noticed you never use galleries. Is it because your theme does not support it, or you just prefer slideshow?

    1. Certainly sounds odd knowing your relationship with pigeons Paula! 🙂 I do prefer the compact format of a slideshow, although it probably does not display my photos well.

  20. Sounds like a great initiative, Madhu. It’s so sad that we can get so caught up chasing progress, that when you have a moment to slow down and look back, you wonder if what has been achieved is the opposite of progress. When I lived in Bangalore, there was no need to even turn on fans – the weather was so lovely throughout the year… but these days ACS are a must. Gorgeous photos… and congratulations on your photos being picked for display!

    1. Thank you Kan. We used to be togged up in sweaters and monkey caps when we visited Bangalore as kids!! One barely needs warm clothes there anymore.

  21. Wow! Congratulations on the selection of your photographs, Madhu! And thank you for sharing stories of your growing up–love the image of you raiding gooseberries with your siblings and cousins!

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