Of Trees and Tree Hunters..

Recently I participated in an interesting event- A Tree Hunt organised by the Pune Muinicipal organisation along with some organisations and noted tree expert Shrikant Ingalhalikar. Rest assured this is not another post describing trees. Its about how people reacted to the trees around them.

Instead of wasting time, lets get straight to the point.  Most Tree Hunters were ladies of the baby boomer category. Hardly any men participated and I did not spot any youth- If some did take part, I have missed them.

Our task was to travel along a given route and identify and write down the trees we see on both sides of the road or those in people’s homes/gardens but visible from the road. Simple right?

We were given a list of common trees that would not be counted in the final tally! Now this complicated the situation as Buccha, Khaya, Gulmohor, etc were the most obvious ones and more populous. One could write number of each species thereby getting more points but that gave the event a tinge of being a Tree Census rather than a Tree Hunt. Any way. That is not the point.

Being a sunny winter day, there were many people grouped around trees on the roads. At one particular site, I just could not identify a particular tree and kept going round and round it trying to look for any flowers or fruit. The leaves were too high to be able to touch them so I had to make do with what I could see. A couple of youth had parked their bikes and were busy chatting. They just couldnt figure out what I was doing. One of them finally came and stood beside me and peeked into my papers. Now both of us were peering up at the tree.
“Do you know the name of this tree” I asked.
“No, I am trying to find out!”
Not much help there, so I turned to a shopkeeper with premises right under that tree.
“Do you know the name of this tree? Does it flower and what do they look like”
“I dont know,” he said, “I have never seen flowers in so many years!”

How could anyone ignore such majestic greenery growing above them? If this is the situation with mute living trees, then it explains people’s apathy to reacting to any accident or misdeeds around us….

A little ahead, a tree grew right along side a hutment. It had an interesting flaky grey bark and plenty of legumes hanging amid its leaves. Again this was a stranger to me. Inquires with people there yielded nothing. They did not know the name, if at all the tree flowered or bore fruit (yes, there are some trees in Pune that do not flower or fruit). The tree had grown such that it was almost stuck between two homes. A staircase went up to a home, right along the huge trunk but obviously people gave it as much attention as a stone lying on the wayside. A friend of mine later told me that it was a Phansi (Dalbergia lanceolaria var paniculata). I plan to go back and properly see the tree in April when it is supposed be flowering!!

Across the road was a huge tree with a massive trunk. By now I had no hesitation in asking people around about its name. I still hoped someone would give me an answer; not to ‘help’ my answer sheet but just to reinforce my faith that people paid attention to trees around them. I was not disappointed. Yeah!! There was some hope after all… The gentleman sitting under the tree pointed out a paper pinned high on the bark that listed various trees and this one’s identity was ticked off… Waval… His next question totally floored me:
“Are you going to cut this tree?”
It took me quite some time to explain that I was not any ‘tree authority’ and did not have any such nefarious intentions. I was only trying to identify the tree.

The people living there must obviously be proud of their tree and concerned about its survival. I do hope it is not axed down as part of any development plans.

Trees give us shade, oxygen, flowers and fruit besides being home to some other fauna or at times plants. Like us they are a part of Nature. They are necessary for our healthy existence. Plenty of trees have been cut down in our city for various reasons- some avoidable some not.
Its not too late. Wake up. Look around. Take care of your trees and they will take care of you…

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