The tree of life

Sunday, 26 January 2014 - 11:20am IST | Agency: DNA
How much do you love trees, or have you not given them a second thought? On February 8 and 9, Neralu, the Bengaluru Tree Festival, will make you fall in love with trees all over again...

Every inch of greenery that we have on this planet is a privilege and that is something most people don’t quite care to remember anymore. But a few Bangaloreans do, and to revive the charm of trees, they are hosting Neralu (shade in Kannada), a crowd-funded event, which will be all about celebrating trees.

The two-day festival at Bal Bhavan, Cubbon Park, will see a host of film screenings, workshops, theatre performances, art shows and even nature walks that will teach attendants about mapping and journaling.

Sangeetha Kadur, one of the facilitators of the event, explains, “The story goes back to the time when Uma Bharath, Arpana Basappa, Mallikarjun Javali, Anush Shetty, Jahnvi Pai and I did a taxonomy course at UAS (University of Agricultural Sciences). We were talking about how we can make a difference and decided to reach out to people who could help us. We approached Deepak Srinivasan, a media practitioner and present member of faculty at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology. He was enthusiastic about it and we realised that if our goal is to create awareness about trees, why not create a festival and bring our ideas together on a platform.”

Poornima Kannan, one of the facilitators of Neralu, highlights the activities of the two days, “We will have workshops, film screenings on trees, theatre performances, walks and an art exhibition of works by Rumale Channabasaviah at the Venkatappa Art Gallery. We are not protesting against anything. The idea is to celebrate trees and to make Bangaloreans understand them and love them. While we aren’t doing any ‘adopt a tree’ activity or planting trees, we will be giving away free saplings for people to take home.”

In fact, Neralu has the city excited as the event has raised funds of more than Rs2 lakh, slightly more than the required amount, in a matter of weeks.

Wildlife enthusiast, active blogger, photographer and environmentalist, Karthikeyan S too gives Neralu his vote. Speaking about his involvement with the project, he says, “I know most of the people involved in organising the festival and I have been acting as their sounding board from time to time. I am also conducting two tree walks during the festival,” adding, “I believe that Bangalore is one of the best cities where such a festival can be hosted. We have been known as the garden city for years and trees and gardens are an integral part of our culture. And the fact that people are interested in trees was only proven by their eagerness to assist financially when funds were being raised. It goes to show that perhaps people didn’t know how to help and where to go, but are willing to. I hope people will rediscover their interest in trees and given the way Bangalore has been losing its green cover to development, they will do their best to regain what is being lost.”

Neralu has also gained support from various personalities of Karnataka. “I love their enthusiasm! This Tree Fest is such a good idea. It’s high time that Bangaloreans came forward to celebrate the trees that they are enjoying all the while with every breath they take,” theatre-person Arundhati Nag said.

Sportsperson Ashwini Nachappa said, “The tree festival is a beautiful way of bringing people together to appreciate and learn more about the fabulous trees we have in our city - we are so blessed! Ironically Bengaluru name”benga’ has a floral original which many are not aware of. Neither was I until recently. Lets together revive the garden City that we were all so proud of once upon a time.”

Mapping Kattes
Bangalore is a unique urban neighbourhood for its display of Kattes. This ‘City of Lakes and Trees no-more’ displays many Kattes that were once rural, marked a sacred grove or ecology and were special public spaces. Ever since the British takeover of the region after defeating Tipu Sultan in 1799, this region has slowly changed in its demeanour.

To understand this natural infrastructure of the Katte as it still stands with the tree- alone and isolated in these neighbourhoods — some students of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology set out to map the density of Katte structures and their trees. They took walks in these neighbourhoods, and took pictures of the Katte and their trees.

What can an exercise like this show us? Will urban dwellers take note of their fast disappearing trees if they saw a Katte map and understood its significance? Will corporators and the local municipal body change their attitude towards city based infrastructure development and invest in a new way of thinking about urban development if they got to know the cultural and ecological significance of Kattes?

The key perhaps is in recasting the role trees can play in our lives by learning about them.
— Deepak Srinivasan

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