It was about 9:00 pm and I had been sitting on the half dead Raintree, 25 ft from the ground for over 7 hours. The sound of djembes being played with all the excitement had disappeared with the sunset, the candle light vigil was over and everyone who had come to show support had left to continue with their daily lives. The hullaballoo that was triggered after two fools decided to climb a tree and spend 24 hours on it lasted a few hours and then we were left alone up there with a couple of volunteers under the tree for any support that we might need in the night.
Sitting on a bosons chair tied to two trunks and connected to a lifeline I sat on the tree restless, shifting, moving every 5 minutes to help blood circulation. A few bats were circling the tree, perhaps wondering who these unwelcome guests are. Some of them were least bothered and found the highest branch to suspend themselves upside down, as if looking at us and saying, “Stay the night by all means as long as you don’t wake-up the baby.”
Waiting for the sunrise which was still 7 hours away I started thinking, “If only this tree could speak for the night.” I could only imagine the stories that it would tell me.
I don’t know how old that tree was but I am sure it must have seen Bangalore change for bad. It must have seen the first bullock cart cross the narrow stretch of Sankey road many years ago and now witnesses hundreds of cars that pass the road every single day, spewing tons of CO2. Being one of the tallest trees it might have seen unplanned development grasp the city like molten lava which burns everything that comes in its way.
It must have been home to so many generations of squirrels, birds, and insects. I wondered how the tree would have faced questions from its residents about other trees axed in front of them. May be it screamed when one of its branches was axed, but no one could hear it because of the passing traffic.
I wondered if it just asked me a question, “What did I do? I have given you food, shelter, shade, wood, leaves for so many years without asking for anything in return so why did you just chop my arm off?” I don’t think I would have had any answer to that question. I would have just hung my head in shame and sat there with a lump in my throat trying to think why did I fail in the biggest and most important test of my life.
I spent most of the graveyard shift in an uncomfortable silence worried that the tree might just speak up and shoot a flurry of questions at me which I will not have any answers. I was desperately waiting for the sunrise, for the birds to start chirping again, for the squirrels to start running around the branches, for people to wake up in their warm beds drinking a cup of filter coffee and reading the paper to find out that two fools have spent a cold night on top of a tree to save that tree. I wanted people to throw that paper and rush to Sankey road in solidarity. Very few did and most of the city carried on with their daily routine some of them rolling down the windows of their cars and giving a thumbs up while they sped off to work or wherever they are going.
It has been almost two weeks since I spent 24 hours on the tree. Last Sunday I cycled passed the same tree on my way to another protest happening at Malleswaram play grounds, the banner we left on the tree is still there. With help from the wind it is screaming out the message at each car driving past, “NO TREES, NO FUTURE.”
Images: © Greenpeace/Vivek M