Yesterday the first pre-monsoon showers hit us. The temperature dropped a whopping 10 deg C in a single day. We had the air cooler on till the previous night. Yesterday night, we had to reduce the speed of our ceiling fan. What a contrast!
As the hottest summer in the past 5 years came to an end, I felt the need to pen my observations and thoughts. It seemed all the more apt considering all the hype about the World Environment Day on June 5th.
For once, I was at home throughout the month of May. No vacation. No office trips. Every morning I woke up to the 100 W sun. Watched each day get brighter and hotter, culminating in the peak white hot 2pm sun. And observed how people residing around my (upmarket) colony dealt with the summer heat. In simplicity, this came down to a tale of two trees – or two Neem trees to be precise. One in the vacant land next to my house and the other in a vacant land opposite to my house.
Both the trees were fully matured providing a sizeable cover of at least 20 feet radius.
One sheltered life; the other died gasping for air. Died because the sophisticated people living next door could not care less about what happened to her.
Because people like them owning property worth a crore of rupees would not pay 200 rupees a month to have their trash, generated by consuming items worth Rs20000 a month, collected by the organized garbage disposal bundi. Because their servants dumped their trash in the vacant land under the neem tree. Because they could not bear the sight and stench of this trash and burned it under this tree. Because the flames of this burning junk of blatant consumption licked the branches of the neem tree.
Because the carcinogenic fumes of burning plastics throttled the pure scent and medicinal leaves of the neem tree. And because they did it not once but continue to do it day after day as the apathy of others and the inaction of the authorities gives them a license to kill. And because they could shut their windows, draw their curtains and turn on the air conditioning and not have to see, smell, hear, taste or feel the decay of death. They park their cars under the now dead bark of the tree. But does it matter? Not at all, the drivers turn on the AC and chill the car before these upstanding members of our society and media darlings get in and move around spreading their message to the fawning masses.
And what of the tree which lived. She lived because she was protected by people. By a fence erected by us who wanted to protect her. By allowing nature – sunshine, rain and autumn to take its due course as it has always done since life on earth began. Tired road sweepers sit under her to eat their lunch in otherwise sweltering heat.
The salesman making house calls catches a few minutes of cool before moving ahead. Cars lie with their open windows wallowing in her shade and the cool breeze. Bulbuls, doves, sparrows, parakeets and the lone kingfisher swear by her twittering and calling in the high branches every morning. And we who are fortunate to partake apportion of her bountiful shade – survive summer after summer without air-conditioning.
It is not one dead tree or one fire that this story is about. It is about hundreds of such trees and fires burning in colonies all over our cities and across the country. About thousands of air conditioned houses and cars in addition to the fires which are all contributing tonnes of carbon dioxide to our atmosphere – which the world now calls Global Warming.
A simple neem tree can do more to fight global warming than a hundred petitions, causes, socialite discussions and debates. All we have to do is allow it to live life as it has always done – let nature run its course as mandated by GOD.