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16 Oct 2021, Edition - 2286, Saturday

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Coimbatore

Respect the trees, they are Gods: Saalumarada Thimmakka

Indrani Thakurata

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Bengaluru: “How we planted and took care of the trees; everyone from children to the elderly should plant and grow trees. It will be beneficial for all of us,” Thimmakka was quoted saying recently. Named one of the 100 most influential and inspirational women by the BBC, this Bangalore resident is a force to reckon with.

A story done by a local journalist brought her to the limelight and the then prime minister of India H D Deve Gowda felicitated her for her effort. Many accolades followed, so we asked her what this recognition by the BBC meant to her. “I am busy with my environmental work. It doesn’t mean much,” is what she had to say.

A woman who dedicated her life to planting trees and caring for the environment, Saalumarada Thimmakka’s life is an inspiration. Against all odds, she found meaning in life and turned it into a success. Her journey wasn’t easy.

Born to a poor family in Gubbi in Tumakuru district, she couldn’t attend school and had to start working as a coolie at the age of 10. Some years later, she was married off to Bekal Chikkayya from Ramanagar district, who also hailed from a modest background. Socially ostracised and ridiculed for not being able to conceive, they conceived the idea of planting trees in lieu of children.

“Saalumarada – which means rows of trees in Kannada – is known for growing close to 400 banyan trees on a 4 km stretch between Hulikal and Kudur and nurturing them as her children. She has planted over 8,000 trees in 80 years,” says Umesh B.N, her foster son.

According to a botanical report done by a survey, the value of a tree which Thimmakka has planted is nothing less than Rs. 1,75,00,000. One can imagine the worth of the thousands that she has planted.

“It is sad that her pension is just Rs. 500. Recognition means little if she is still struggling to survive,” says Umesh.

When we asked her for her favourite plant, pat comes the reply, “Banyan.” Her organisation, the Saalumarada Thimmakka International Foundation, is carrying forward her work on trees. An eternal tree lover, it pains her to see so many being cut for modern homes.

“Everyone should respect the trees, they are considered Gods in our culture,” she signs off.

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