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 h
elping 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.
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:
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.