There is something about the trees that ‘touches’ my heart. I have had this experience many a times, how about you?
The first tree which spoke to me was at our bungalow in Khopoli. I had spent a lot of time sitting under it. If you sit under a big tree you have to be a bit careful. You feel good to take shelter under the canopy of a big tree when it is raining. And when it is not, some insects keep falling on you! I had touched this tree before we left Khopoli for Mumbai, it seemed to speak to me. This was decades before the ‘Chipko’ movement.
You don’t hug every tree. One can’t say all trees speak to you. Just like you get along with some people and don’t get along with some others, and you never know why. There is a big peepal tree at Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo. Since Buddha attained enlightenment under peepal tree, it is sacred one. King Asoka’s daughter, Sanghamittra, is believed to have brought a piece of the tree with her to Sri Lanka. The peepal tree in Gangaramaya temple stands tall majestically, but like all men in high places, a bit distant. They dwarf you.
Similar is the feeling when you meet the banyan tree at Howrah. Huge. They say it is four hundred years old. The size and age make you feel very small. The peepal tree at Colombo and banyan tree at Howrah are like old monks, you bow in front of them respectfully but do not talk to them.
You would expect the same to happen when you see the ‘Tree of Life’ in Bahrain. One tree stands in the desert. No sign of vegetation anywhere in the desert, but this huge, more than a hundred year old tree spreads out covering a large area. You are surprised, you want to go and touch the tree. It’s like Sunil Gavaskar standing alone at Shivaji Park, inspecting his club ground but no other soul in sight. A pleasant sight. Brings surprise and smile. You thank your stars for catching him alone. You may want to go to him and shake hand and tell him how much you admired him. That’s the feeling when you meet this ‘Tree of Life’ in Bahrain.
There is a banyan tree which must find a mention, it is undoubtedly the most neglected banyan tree in the world! This is near Taj Hotel in Mumbai. Near Gateway of India. Taj hogs all attention. Gateway joins the attention seeking club. The Government has shown some wisdom in retaining where it is, in the middle of the road, and not cutting it down. I faithfully stand in front of this tree and give him a dekko that it deserves.
All these thoughts came to my mind because I met this huge [is there a better word?] tree at Kew Garden, near London. There is a note placed near the tree which says it is a hybrid, and give reasons why they call it so. In the characteristic English way there is history of the tree, it is placed next to the tree. It was discovered in 1765, the same year in which Clive was appointed as Governor of India.
So we have two trees, one in Sri Lanka and the other in Kew Garden with known ancestry! And two trees without it, one in Bahrain and one in Howrah, but all mystery around them. And one tree which saw me grow and talked to me. And yes, not to forget the tree near Taj. Botanically in different ‘families’ but how does that matter? They are a part of my family and my world.