This used to be a forest, you know. A forest where animals prowled and the tiger ruled. For hundreds of years. Now the tiger will never hunt in these parts again and the forest will never be.
Ironically, they have plans for reviving this forest. At least that is what I heard some of them saying. I nurtured faint hopes for a while, particularly when they made some attempts to knock me down and went away. I told myself that they had changed their minds. That I would not be the only tree alive in this vast wasteland. That it would be as it used to be.
The hopes didn’t last long. The bulldozers returned – to finish the work they had started.
And the plans became clear. Apparently, the reason they had demolished the forest is because they planned to clear the land and construct a massive housing complex here. Even to my ears, it sounded ridiculously ambitious. The complex is to consist of more than a 100 buildings of 15 storeys each. They say there is need for this monstrosity.
I heard them describing the layout. The buildings will be spread across this entire 100-hectare area. About 50 yards to my right, they plan to erect a state-of-the-art entertainment and recreation centre called Giggling Stream. Ironically, it was the very site where a giggling stream used to flow for hundreds of years. Until they filled it up in an exercise they called a reclaiming of land. And the real giggling stream was no more.
All around me was a huge grove of trees, mango, coconut, the stately Ashoka, the banyan, the palm tree, the sandalwood tree, and so many others whose names bring tears to my eyes. We all lived together in harmony. Your ancestors were wise people. They believed in green wealth. When they ate our fruits, they were grateful, and they showed their gratitude by plowing the seeds back into the soil and harvesting it with the sweat of their brows.
Ironically this grove will now play host to those apartment buildings that I told you about. And the complex is to be called Natural Harmony. Each building is to have similar names, evoking the beauty and splendour of nature. How strange indeed that while the trees hold no appeal for them, humans are hugely enamoured of the monstrosities that will sport our names!
You see, the builders like to prove that they are cultured folk. So some of those names will be in Sanskrit and others in English, and some others in Spanish and Italian, but all will evoke nature. I also overheard them say that the entrance to each building will be graced by an interesting fibre glass display which will offer glimpses into the origins and uses of the specific tree that the building is named after. That’s good, huh? That will give your children the chance to know more about the gulmohar and the mimosa and other trees. It will give the residents the illusion that they are truly surrounded by nature.
A team of landscape designers has been contracted to work on the site. This looks like a wasteland right now. But that will soon change. These landscaping chaps will transform the area. Once the buildings are constructed, they will swoop down, and work their magic. Freshly manicured lawns will unfold and beautiful potted plants will be placed at certain sites to enhance the beauty of the place.
In a matter of days, no less. It will be so much of an improvement over us trees that used to hold sway here. At least, that is the message the brochures are proclaiming. Ah, you should see the pictures there. I wonder if the forest looked like that when all the trees were alive and thriving. Unfortunately, no one ever thought of immortalising us into a brochure.
They even plan to get in some birds into the premises. So that when the residents pick up their first cuppa in the morning and head out to their spacious balconies to savour it while they read the daily quota of bad news (to supply which, by the way, thousands of trees are killed every day to make newsprint), their ears will be treated to the sounds of the koel and its friends.
Take my word, it won’t last long. No matter how much you spend to bring in these birds, they won’t stay here if there are no trees. Those wooden birdhouses aren’t going to interest them. They need trees for shelter. And birds aren’t easily fooled. Your language has a word, bird-brained, but make no mistake, our two-legged feathered friends are wiser than you. They won’t be taken in by the artificial gulmohar and Himalayan mulberry.
Nature is an intricate mechanism in which each creature, no matter how large or humble, depends on others for its existence. You upset that delicate balance when you felled all those trees.
Some of the wild animals that you displaced have begun to encroach on your civilised life. That bothers you. And yet you won’t take responsibility for this mess.
I miss my friends, all of them. Above ground, it seemed as if each one of us stood proud and tall, unmindful of the others. But beneath the ground, our roots were entwined. And when you uprooted the first, you struck against all the others.
You don’t realise it yet, but that is how it is with everything. You cannot destroy the least without destroying all others and ultimately, yourselves.
And now, in case you’re wondering why I’ve escaped the fate of my friends, I must tell you it was only because they found my wood too strong to cut down, so they’ve gone to the next town for reinforcements. They should be back any time now. Ah, there they are.
Ironically, we trees survive drought, disease and storms, but are powerless in front of fools.
What is that? You want to know if I have any last words.
Oh yes, I do.
Here they are:
I really must stop using the word ironically.
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda