Tree Troubles in Namma Bengaluru

S Radha Prathi, May 27, 2015, DHNS

An oft used phrase in our local lingo which is used to console people buried in troubles when roughly translated reads thus. If people don’t have problems, then do you think the trees will have them? Looks like Namma Bengaluru which has been listening to this phrase for a long, long time now has passed on tribulations to its trees.

Hundreds of trees have met their untimely and unexpected end, this year around. Torrential rains punctuated with heavy winds have been identified as the culprits.
Fallen trees are being cut into logs and firewood before being carted away. Loss of life and property, blocked roads and probable inconveniences are being reckoned with and debated upon.

After a certain point of time, the talk is no longer tree-centric. It digresses into the possibilities of people facing greater hazards from the surrounding greenery when the rainy season actually sets in. Authorities are being coerced to work on a prevention plan.
In other words, anxious populace is waiting for a green signal to do away with probable green impediments. Weak trees are being listed out. Trees that are proving to be hurdles in public spaces are also being counted.

The attitude of Bengalureans towards trees is truly perplexing. We have been happily utilising trees around us for domestic, commer-cial, medical or religious purposes. The fresh neem and mango sprouts are used to usher in Ugadi and ease the occasional measles that might have struck the community.

The winter months in Namma Bengaluru can compete for one of the most beautiful cities in the world, by night. Most trees are dressed up in resplendent neon lights and festoons around Diwali. They are seldom taken out even after ushering in the New Year.  The lights nailed to the trunks of the trees look like a series of a new species of giant caterpillars climbing up the bald, leafless trees to meet the little bud like plastic bulbs draped on the nude branches high above during the day.

By the time we enter the second month of the year, tender sprouts appear magically on the trees and unfold a verdant canopy with flowers et al to celebrate spring. Pictures of nature’s glory are splashed by the social networking sites, print and visual media for all to see.

Water crisis

Come summer, the lush green foliage of the trees becomes the much sought umbrella of one and all when the sun shines relentlessly.

As for the trees, they are left to fend for themselves. They cannot expect too much of a city in the middle of a water crisis.

If the trees do think up of alternate solutions and send their roots deep within the bowels of the earth in the hope of finding groundwater, they will be sadly mistaken. For, they are ignorant about the zillion bore wells that have sucked out the life saving liquid.
When the much awaited rains do step in, they instill dread in the hearts of Bengalureans. The very trees who were their cooperative comrades through the year are looked upon as villains waiting to lay hands on their lives and properties.

Yes, the garden city is facing tree troubles. At the same time, we must also realise that trees are also facing troubles. Trees are being pruned to stumps in installments in the name of protecting the common man from facing possible dangers of trees brushing against electricity lines. The areas around the trees are dug to check, repair or install utility cables and pipes.

Never mind if the roots are cut, damaged or forced to absorb sewage. Scalding tar is poured around them during the road making process. Stifling cement is slapped around the base of the tree to contain it.

Nails are driven on the trunks to hold notices and serial bulbs. Wires are stapled onto its branches. Toxic paints are used to paint signs on them. The trees eventually become so weak that they fall at the first onslaught of a heavy wind. If some brave trees manage to live after all that, true blue Bengalureans take the survivor for granted till they are suitably debilitated by the next rainy season.

The damage has been done. It can be reversed. It is not enough if we plant saplings and nourish them. We must give them space, let them grow and most of all let them live!

Value of Truth

Radha Prathi, May 18, 2015, DHNS

The colours of life are certainly not black and white. There are miles of shades of grey in between. Most of us fall within these brackets of life.  We are denizens of times when we do not think much before spewing white lies or shrugging away responsibility.

We pass the buck to the realms of inane when we are caught on the wrong foot. We do not hesitate to exercise our grey cells to identify scapegoats to take the blame for our faux pas.  Going an extra mile to find an excuse for our tardiness, lack of integrity or disloyalty is not a novelty in contemporary times. We do not think twice about the verity of our means in our desperation to reach the end.

In other words, when we observe the world around us, it is not difficult to see that values like truth and honesty are on the decline. However, what is more disturbing is the fact that we no longer attempt to right our wrongs.

Mankind as a race is forgetting that human values do not subscribe to the philosophy of democracy.

The fact that most of us are guilty of declining moral principles does make us the majority. All the same, it does not represent to the truth, at any cost.

An episode from the Mahabharata establishes this point ever so well. It is said that the chariot of Yudhishtira would defy gravity. It would always be an inch above the ground. The gods had arranged it so, as a tribute to the soul who never swerved from the path of truth.

Yet when the Pandava prince uttered a half truth at the behest of his well wisher Krishna for salvaging his position in the Great War, his chariot wheels immediately kissed the ground.

Yudhishtira communicated the death of Ashwaththama the elephant amidst drum beats and passed it off as the news of the death of Drona’s son Ashwaththama. The valiant guru who heard the half truth from the speaker of truth trusted him implicitly. He laid down his arms and went into a state of Samadhi.

Though the incident could be variously justified as an act of salvaging the debilitating Pandava side at the behest of Lord Krishna their well wisher, the fact remains that the Pandava prince had lied.

It is universally acknowledged that truth will pervade ultimately. The process could jolt us out of our deep moral slumber or might very simply land us in an irreversible situation.

It is high time we recognise the  caveat and address the issue before we are addressed by it

Dare to Dream

May 13, 2015, DHNS:

Our erstwhile president APJ Abdul Kalam insists that young people should dare to dream. He foresees a bright future for our country and the world at large, on the strength of our dreams. If each individual challenges his or her potential and dares to work on his or her ambition, the world will gradually emerge to be a better place economically, environmentally, socially and scientifically.   Often, some of the youngsters who listen to his solemn piece of advice tend to treat it in a lighter vein. They often misconstrue the need to consciously visualize a concrete future with day dreaming. A story from the Panchatantra talks about how once an extremely poor Brahmin found a pot of freshly ground cereals.  He brought it home and hung it above his bed using coir. The sight of the pot filled him with visions of immense opportunity.  He calculated that the flour could fetch a good price for him in the market. He planned to buy two goats with the money and once they bred, he would sell them and then buy a cow or two.  The profits would be invested in buying some buffaloes and horses, and then he would make enough money to buy a home.  He became confident his wealth would fetch him a beautiful bride. Then on, he could start his family and beget a son who would be named Deva Sharma. He then imagined that when he would be busy reading a book, his child might disturb him and he would call for his wife to take the infant away and if the wife delayed carrying out his order he would probably hit her with a stick.  The intensity of his day dreaming was so powerful that he actually picked up a stick and hit the pot which hung above his bed. His dreams shattered even as the flour scattered all over the place. Deva Sharma dreamed passionately. He was not wrong in doing so.  However he failed because he did not invest any time, effort or caution in executing his project. His virtual success even pumped arrogance in him. Many of us fall into the category of Deva Sharma because we fall into the trap of daydreaming.

At such times we seldom realise that only thoughts can formulate into ideas. It is only when ideas are worked upon they can be turned into reality. It is quite possible that we may have to confront obstacles of different sorts while working on our plans. The impediments should not put us off at any cost. If dedication, discipline and enthusiasm become our ruling mantra, the day is not far off when all our dreams will come true.

For those Who Like Things Fuss Free

Radha Prathi, May 8, 2015, DHNS

Crown of thorns, Christmas cactus, jade plant, Queen Victoria agave, snake plant are a few popular options.

EASY GREENS Succulent plants demand very little attention.

Summer can play spoilsport to aspiring gardeners, who are not blessed with a green thumb. Then there are people with plenty of orientation towards greenery, but simply have no space to translate their thoughts into reality. There is only one solution to these problems – gardening with succulent plants. These can grow on very little soil, demand very little water and never say die even if you ignore them for a week or so. Sounds good? Then read on.

Do you already have a well-established garden? If yes, then don’t worry. You can still plant some succulents in the odd disposable articles around the home. These articles can range anywhere from that cracked commode, washbasin or bucket to the odd coffee cup or old bowl of your dinner set. Accentuate single shoes or worn out backpacks with two layers of polythene covers and voila! you have a potential holder for all your succulent plants.
Get to the basics firstOnce your assortment of plant holders is ready, it is time to prepare the soil. Get some regular red soil and some sand and mix them in the proportion of 3:1. Then rummage your cupboard for drugs that have crossed the expiry date and toss them into the soil. Coffee and tea dregs, onion and garlic peels and egg shells can also be thrown in for good measure.
Mix the ingredients together and your soil will be ready. In fact, this mix, popularly known as well-draining soil, can be used as regular potting soil, too. Visit your friends and neighbours who have succulent plants and see if they can spare a little sprig of each variety. Sometimes, even a healthy leaf of the same has the potential to vegetate well.
Planting succulents can prove to be child’s play. Water the soil first and then just poke your finger into the soil and place the cutting or the leaf in it. Water it again minimally and with this, consider the planting to be done. During the first month, water succulents only on alternate days. Succulent plants are used to dry environments, so water them only when the soil is dry.

Considering the fact that you have planted them in unconventional containers with no drainage points, be doubly sure that water does not stagnate otherwise, your plants will start to rot. The other way to circumvent this problem is to toss a few pieces of coal or coconut coir at the bottom of the container before filling it with the prepared soil. The cutting or the leaf will grow new roots in a matter of two weeks. Place the plants in a sunny spot. They can be placed between your regular garden plants or sturdy branches of your trees. Dainty holders with flourishing plants can be placed on office desks, windows and mantelpieces.

More than a plant

Succulents can actually double as home decor material if you invest some time and exercise your creativity. For instance, if the container that holds your succulents has a wide opening, you could arrange sea shells, pebbles or colourful marbles on the exposed soil. This measure will not only retain the moisture in the soil, but also lend a la dee da effect for your plant.

If you are very particular about using organic material, you can use pistachio shells, peanut shells or pieces of coconut shells to cover the soil tastefully. Just in case you prefer to choose the latter option, then make sure that you arrange the said shells after watering your succulents. The shells will become soggy in a couple of days  and can be replaced with another set of shells of your choice.

If you want to create a little landscape using these succulents, pile a number of  natural stones, preferably in the centre of your garden. Toss a bag of prepared soil interspersed with a leaf or two of different varieties of succulents on the structure and allow the soil to settle in the nooks and crannies. This can be achieved with a little watering. As the days pass by, the plants will bear roots and emerge from the crevices between the little rocks. Within a matter of a month or two, the entire mound will be covered with plants of your choice without much ado.

Some succulent options you could look at are crown of thorns, jade plant, pincushion cactus, snake plant, hens-and-chicks, Christmas cactus, sempervivum, and Queen Victoria agave, to name a few popular options. If your plants outgrow the small containers, replace it with a larger one. Fill the surrounding space with some prepared soil and allow the plant to vegetate, enveloping the extra space. Or you can grow another variety of a contrasting nature in the extra space.And when your cup of succulents overflows, enjoy the sweet success.

Theory and Practice

May 05, 2015, DHNS:

These days the system helps people to quantify their learning, achievements or experience through certificates, trophies and medals. Individuals pursue their dreams and goals on the strength of these documents. The unpredictable journey of life often throws some unprecedented challenges in the way of people.

The equation of the testimonials with that of the person’s genuine caliber can be calibrated only during times of crisis. A story from our hoary past puts across this perception ever so well. There once lived a Rishi in a hermitage amidst a thick forest. A lot of parrots inhabited the place.

The Rishi developed a fondness for the feathered creatures. Once he saw a hunter in the forest. He was concerned about their security.

Therefore, he taught them a song, which said, “The hunter will come, he will strew grains, he will spread a net but we shall not be tempted.” The parrots learned the words in tune and sang the verse incessantly.

The Rishi was pleased and relieved. As expected, the hunter came along. The birds sang their lines as usual. The hunter was stunned by their wisdom.

His heart sank as he realised that he could not trap the intelligent and wary avians. Yet he did not want to go away empty-handed. He decided to give it a shot. He scattered some food grains on the earth and spread a net over them.

Then he rested under a nearby tree, hoping for the best. After a while, the familiar song woke him from his reverie.

He found the parrots singing and pecking away at the grains oblivious to the fact that they had been ensnared. The hunter thanked his penchant for his never-say-die attitude, even as he bundled the birds away.

Quite like the birds, most of us have a theoretical knowledge of life skills and many subjects.

We pass on our awareness to those who seek them and to those we care for. However, this process alone does not make anyone intelligent or wise.

It is only during testing times one can see whether people have understood what they know. It is only their faith in their learning which can give them the necessary impetus to translate their comprehension into action.

When the essence of our learning fails to percolate into our actions, we can safely consider that we have not learned much.

The fact that we have internalised our learning and stored it as knowledge to salvage us from the sticky wickets of life can be proved only at such times.