Saturday, 25 August 2007

How the Tree-thing all started.

I remember very little of my childhood, which is a pity, because alongside the bad, I've missed out on the good. Much of my life, I've pretended to remember, nodding and laughing at stories I've put together from other people's anecdotes or old photographs. So I don't really remember the planting of the first tree. It was a magnolia of some sort, I think. The ones with those big waxy white flowers that smell so heavenly. In Urdu, it's called 'franjipani'. My father planted it just inside the gate of House 429 in Awali, Bahrain. It doesn't matter that I don't remember the planting of it, though, because over the years, every time we drove down to Awali, we would pass our old house, and seeing the tree that Daddy planted was a significant part of every drive. I'm sure I have a picture of it somewhere. I hope it is still growing. It must be around 40 years old now, just a bit younger than I am.

My father was a planter of trees. And so, every house that we've lived in, that had a patch of earth, would be home not just to us, but to the trees my father would plant and leave behind as a legacy. In Gufool, in the 80s, it was two 'gulmohars' (Flame of The Forest), one of which was still as glorious as ever the last time i saw it. In Adliya in the 90s, it was a lemon tree in the backyard and more gulmohars flanking the front gate.

At our first Indian home, the Awali township's namesake here in Bangalore, the trees have gone, replaced by a rather glossy commercial building that I'd ask you to please not begrudge - that building makes it possible for me to work full time on Askios (my voluntary job on CSA awareness). And now, at the new family home 'Dilmun', there are many new trees - a custard apple tree that's already borne two seasons of fruit, the 'kari-pattha' tree whose leaves I meet at lunch most days, a remarkable drumstick tree that has seen thousands of sticks distributed over the years to friends and neighbours - and that brings delightful little brown and yellow bee-eaters twittering to its flowers, a lime tree that gave up the ghosts just this year - and of course its heir Tree #1, the new lime tree planted a few days ago.

I've inherited my father's eyes and feet. His ability to make a great tomato jam. His artistic skills. His way with birds. And his tree-planting tendencies. Back in Abu Ghazaal in 2000, I turned a rubbishy old back yard into a fertile little garden and have left behind 6 ficuses growing in a row there, as well as a citrus tree and bougainvillea in the plots around the sides of my house. I often wonder how they grow (and would love it if a Bahrain-based friend who knows where I lived, could pop in and check on them for me!)

Barren spinster I may be, but I'm going to leave behind a hell of a lot of trees!

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