One early morning, a few days ago, I woke up to the sound of hacking from outside my window.
I assumed the trees lining the road where I live were being pruned and went back to sleep.
I was somewhat right. I say ‘somewhat’ because the trees weren’t exactly being pruned, they were being mutilated. So much so that all that’s left of one of them is the trunk and a few boughs that mostly end in jagged edges.
I don’t get it.
Why doesn’t anyone know how to prune trees? A tree without the balance its boughs and branches provide will tip over during the monsoon in Mumbai or during a storm in Delhi and probably kill someone. But that’s not something that seems to bother the BMC or civic authorities up North.
When I lived in the National Capital Region (NCR), winter was the time everyone wanted the trees pruned. Why? Because the shade from Delhi’s gloriously green trees that protected everyone during the searing summer, prevented the sun from entering people’s homes during the bitterly cold winter.
My dad planted two Gulmohar saplings in a space below our flat 23 years ago. They grew to become lovely leafy trees that shaded a large part of the road outside our block during the summer. Two of our beloved dogs are buried under their shade. At the start of summer, they bloom outrageously. The colour of the blazing red flowers would enter through the windows of our second floor flat and tint a few walls a happy orange. The whole block competed to park their cars under the wide canopy during the summer.
But come winter and the neighbours would fuss about pruning them. When my family and I still lived there, the pruning was always done under our watchful eyes. We intervened if the pruners targeted branches that didn’t need to be touched. But on my recent visit there, I was saddened to see that in our absence, both trees had been hacked so much that most of their canopy was gone. Only a few scanty branches right at the top have survived the assault. And by the looks of it, I doubt they will last one of Delhi’s big storms.
In Mumbai, the trees that line the road along which my building stands work as noise and dust absorbers. They protect residents in the flats lining the road from the constant hum and flurry of traffic. They also absorb the tonnes of dust these vehicles raise while trundling on this bumpy road.
So that morning, a few days ago, I awoke and went to my balcony. The sun came right through for a change and disoriented me for a moment. Yes, it was certainly nice to have the sun on my face given the nip in the air. But the big green canopy outside my flat that shielded me from some of the noise of traffic, from compulsive honking, from dust and from prying eyes of the building across the road was gone.
It wasn’t a good morning.