I grew up in Khopoli in the fifties and there were no rain trees there then. Then we moved to Mumbai. We stayed in Tata Power’s housing colony at Chembur. The colony has many rain trees. That’s where I met the first rain tree or Shirish.
Two Shirish trees were so beautiful that I always admired them. Both were huge with a big canopy. One of them is still alive, and the other one is reportedly dead!
It was in 1969 that our class landed at Powai naka. I was a student then. This is the point where the LBS Marg crosses the road connecting Eastern Express to IIT Powai. As you drive towards IIT, you will notice only the canopy of a Shirish tree. Things were different in 1969. There was no land fill to the extent we see now. So the Shirish tree stood majestically and the road turned around it like a man’s arm around a lady. My Botany class sat under the tree. We ate our breakfast under the tree. This Shirish tree now stands buried under the elevated road. As I climb down the small hill from IIT, driving towards Kanjur Marg my eyes look for this old friend. It stands there neglected just behind Navy colony. I guess it will not be long before some builder pulls it down to construct tall building.
We moved to Kalyan soon after my graduation. And then moved to Rambaug in Kalyan. I would walk down every day to the station. Every day I would cross Murbad road near Railway Colony and moved towards the level crossing. I then used to turn right to take the concrete path which ran parallel to the railway line. When I returned from work, the routine would be in the reverse. I walked down the concrete path and came to Railway colony where I would have turned left. But I often stood there. Bang opposite on the edge of the railway colony stood a huge Shirish. There are people who speak to trees. [I am also one of them so I know]. I have often spoken to this tree, stopping there. This Shirish was as big as the one near Powai. Both were so big that it is not possible to compare.
Somebody told me that it died. I haven’t been there for a long time. There is now a bridge over the level crossing. Presumably building the flyover must have damaged its roots.
I met Shirish again, and on this occasion on a foreign location. When you land at Nadi in Fiji and move towards Lautoka city, you will see big Shirish trees on your right. Some locations in Lautoka also have huge Shirish trees. So big that tree lovers will stop to admire them. I did.
Trees, like people, seem to enjoy better quality of life abroad.
Vivek S Patwardhan
Pic courtesy Google