The 11th of June, 2016: Tree Survey Kannur.
This is a sequel to my post ‘Green thoughts’.
There is a strange disquiet within me as I write this post.
Why are we Indians so laid-back when it comes to matters of real significance? Is it that we are lazy and all our passion and zeal evaporates into thin air when it comes to executing our ideas? Or is it that we do not attribute much significance to the planning and organization that is crucial in the execution of an idea? Or is it just that we do not give an idea the due merit and seriousness that it deserves? Are we perhaps carried away by the other aspects of such a task that are more emotionally appealing to us than the central goal that we ought to be committed to?
I do not know the answer to this question, but what I do know is that these factors revolving around the implementation of an idea are as important (probably more important) as the idea itself.
For in their absence, an idea remains just that- an invisible piece of thought in our minds. It spills in occasionally into the statements we make or the speeches we deliver. But in due course, it dies a natural death. It never realizes its potential in the real world.
I still remember our meeting on World Environment Day– the day we officially formed the Tree Conservation Committee. The passion of the committee members had been infectious. They had both knowledge and experience to act upon. My hopes with regard to conserving what remains of the forests, orchards, wetlands and trees of Kannur district, were renewed. It was evident in that meeting that we were here for a common goal and that we were committed to its cause. There could be no vested interest in this.
‘Tree survey’ had been our first step.
I loved the idea. Conduct a survey of the trees in the territory from Chovva junction to Caltex junction- a stretch of road that had once been fringed by trees in abundance. We fixed a date for the survey. Somebody suggested putting up a small post in the newspaper to attract public attention to the act. We could perhaps generate a few volunteers that way. Following the survey, a detailed report would be provided to the District Collector in order to trigger a political initiative for the project that aimed at conserving existing trees and at identifying suitable spots for the planting of trees.
On the decided day, we all gathered at Chovva junction. I was a little disheartened to see a very small group, largely made up of the same individuals who had been at the meeting. The newspaper intimation had been conveniently forgotten. Our group members arrived in a slow, laid-back manner. The whole event had the feel of a chore in a laid-back government office in India. The zeal that characterized our meeting was palpably absent. We made a slow start. We chose a spot where a tree had been recently cut in order to widen the road. That tree had been rooted into our memories of Chovva junction. It was a massive tree with branches that spread out and provided cover to a large area of the junction. It reminded me of what someone once said:
“You cannot go to the market and buy shade for one lakh rupees.”
We put up a banner and the members took turns to address the public. Some of the speeches were deeply inspiring, but the tragedy was that the public demonstrated no interest. People looked on in amusement as they walked past or sped by in their vehicles, but no one bothered to lend an ear. Also, I was amused by some of our group members who were busy clicking and getting themselves clicked. Eventually, when the speeches ended and it was time to start the procession, many of our group members started to leave. Most of them had only come for the inauguration. They bid farewell and we were now a very small group on our mission.
As we started the procession, I was further amused by what was happening. The group had split into pairs. Only one pair was making a serious note of the trees, their age, location, condition, etc. The rest were busy talking about things that were far more interesting than the subject that we were meant to address. A few older people were at least educating us youngsters on environmental concerns and facts.
A tree stood by a tea stall. One of my friends went into the tea stall and asked for a tea. As the group moved ahead, he said to us, “You guys carry on. I will join you shortly.” I laughed and said to him, “This reminds me of a Sathyan Anthikad movie.” He laughed.
Truly, it did. Remember ‘Manasinakkare’? A CPM worker (Sukumari) retorts to her spouse (Oduvil Unnikrishnan):
‘Why should I listen to what the leaders had to say in their speeches? My task was to show the party’s strength by representing numbers. I did that. This was the best opportunity to visit all the temples I had been longing to visit. We had enough time to pray in peace. In the evening, by the time the party vehicles were back to pick us up, we were ready.’
I suppose that is what we did in this survey. Many of us proclaimed our contribution by being present. And that was the end of it.
The coordination between us was also very poor. We had no idea what was being recorded and how the main members went about the assessment. I had hoped for it to be educative, at the least. I had hoped that it would at least provide me enough experience to conduct a little survey on my own in a different group in another locality. But we were highly dismantled.
At one point, we couldn’t spot our team members. We called them on their mobile and to my amusement, they had apparently dropped into a hotel. It was half past twelve. Everybody started talking about lunch. I called it a day and went back to work.
At the end of the survey, nobody talked about the observation, conclusion, setbacks or lacunae. A newspaper reporter was informed and he turned up dutifully to take a picture of the team. The report matter was subsequently mailed to him by one of the members.
‘Wonderful experience, right?’, people said to each other.
‘Of course’, they replied in consensus.
There could be no disagreement on that. After all, we had made a task list and the first item on this task list could now be conveniently ticked off. In any case, that was all we cared about.
This morning, I was amused by the picture in the newspaper. ‘District tree conservation committee conducts tree survey in Kannur’, it read. It went on to explain the details of the survey in all seriousness and I couldn’t but help laughing!