VALUE OF A TREE
English Translation: Deepti Manepalli
Telugu original: P.S.M. Lakshmi
I am Navina, just 8 years old. I live with my parents and younger brother in Kishan Guda, Hyderabad. I love my parents and brother. My brother and I always play well together. In front of my house is a huge mastwood tree (punnaga chettu). My mom says it has grown quite huge over a very long time. The branches of that tree reach and bend over our house.
My mom asked the neighbor, whom the tree belongs to, to get those branches cut as they were too close to the electricity wires. However, the neighbor never listened or did anything as she did not plant that tree. We actually don’t have a problem with the tree, but it seems to bother my mom so much that she is always irritated with how much more work it creates to have the branches so close to our house. Now, don’t they say that trees have a life too; just imagine if the tree heard everything that my mom said about it, won’t it feel sad? Now, my mom is really a nice person, but not so much when it comes to that poor tree. Do you know why – because she has to direct the help to sweep all the fallen leaves from our front yard; now these leaves amount to two big baskets each day; that is quite a task to clean even for the help; so, my mom has to step in and do that cleanup as well. This leads to a verbal fight between the help and my mom everyday as the help tries to use this cleanup excuse to ask for an exorbitant pay rise.
When I watch the leaves, I feel they create a mischief of their own. They seem to fly all around our terrace and try to catch up with each other, just like how kids run after each other. They also fall into the pipes on the terrace that lead to the rain water harvesting area and block all the outlet pipes. This results in the whole terrace turning into a small pool as the water stagnates up there. This is why my mom gets worried with those leaves. But she doesn’t realize that this is so much fun for me and my brother, playing in that pool on top of that terrace!
During the rainy season, we all went to our ancestral village. Do you know what happened when we returned back home?! When we got back home, we saw only the main tree trunk standing without any of its branches. Upon enquiry, we got to know that there was a big storm the previous day and the winds and rain knocked one of the big branches down. Now, if that branch fell onto our roof, it would have disrupted all the electricity wires, and damaged our front elevation and that would have been worse. Glad that the branch at least fell onto the street without hurting anyone, even if it disrupted traffic for a day.
The people on the street went up to our neighbor and told him that the rest of the tree branches would also meet the same fate if they are left untrimmed. This scared the neighbor and he went up to the Municipal Corporation and told them what happened. They, however, couldn’t come out to help him as they were busy with tons of other things to look into, as a result of the storm. The neighbor had no choice but to hire private help and cut off the branches of that tree. So, when we came home, all we saw was the main trunk of that tree and a huge pile of leaves and branches on the street. They were being hauled away.
My mom and the help were very happy that day. No more sweeping of all the big pile of leaves, no more blocking of pipes and no more pools on the terrace. My mom especially was happy looking at all the light that came into our house once the branches blocking the sunlight were cut. She was happy as she didn’t need to switch on lights during the day and a lot of natural light was falling in.
Everyone was happy and peace prevailed for a few days. Then, things took a different turn. It was summer. We live on the top floor of our house. The heat was unbearable. The shade from the branches used to protect us from the harsh heat in the summer. My mom, who only saw the bad affects of the tree, now started understanding how beneficial the branches of the tree actually were. We now need an A/C running throughout the day. My mom’s frustration returned. She was constantly feeling irritable due to the heat. My mom’s friend’s also stopped coming to visit her for chit-chat meetings as our house was just too hot. I missed the tree a lot.
Many people talk about the benefits of having trees. I used to narrate the importance of having trees by rote when asked by my teachers. Now, I lived through a situation where I realized the importance of trees. One cannot tolerate the heat in summer if we don’t have trees; and we also won’t have rains without trees. They take in the carbon dioxide and let out oxygen. So, all in all, it is highly beneficial to have trees around.
My mom finally realized that sweeping the leaves was much easier than tolerating the heat of the summer. Well, she definitely talks about it daily. Now she looks at the tree with such sadness, she eagerly counts the number of leaves that are now growing on the tree. She definitely understood the value of trees and misses them. We all look forward to the time when the branches and leaves of the tree return and provide us shade again.
Deepti Manepalli is a writer, translator, and Therapist. She lives in California.