As with so many long term residents of Bengaluru, I have wonderful memories of growing up in this lovely city of beautiful trees. My friends and I played with the red sepals of the Gulmohar tree, peeling them off the flowers to stick onto our fingers, creating ferocious looking “asura” talons with which we chased and scared others.
We popped the yellow buds of Cassia flowers to hear the loud sounds they made; and assiduously collected Gulganji (Abrus precatorious) seeds to play board games. It has been one of my greatest pleasures to introduce my daughter to some of these – but our opportunities to play them have been rare. It is rare for children today to find a public space with trees around, to climb, pluck from, and dissect. How much they miss out on!
A world without trees is a world devoid of imagination. And yet, in this city’s mad rush towards “development” – how little attention we pay to the importance of imagination. Or to the needs of our children. The city plans to replace thousands of trees with lakhs of seedlings – which will take at least 20-30 years to reach full height. This shortchanges an entire generation of our youngest and most vulnerable, leaving them exposed to air pollution, urban heat, and the psychological stresses of city life, without the gentle green buffer that we had the privilege of taking for granted.
The struggle for saving trees on the Bellary road is not just a battle between a few trees and a steel flyover – it is a battle between competing visions of urban development.
Many people think that a city is no place for trees. Yet, imagine a city of wide roads, fast moving cars and high rise buildings – and no trees. How would it breathe, live, sustain itself – a city of gray, lacking the vivid colour of the Gulmohur, the summer call of the koel, and the welcome shade of the rain tree?
Saving trees in the city is not “stalling development” – it is merely that most rare of imaginations: common sense!