By Sangeetha KB.
I stepped in doubtfully, and the screeching noise form the gate made her look up towards me. She smiled and said she knew I was coming. She offered a share of her lunch, some ragi mudde and rasam. A dozen crows surrounded her to share her lunch. She smiled and sheepishly mentioned that this sharing was a daily affair. At that moment, I knew that my two hour ho-ho (hop on hop off) bus journey was worth it. I was with Salumarada Thimakka this morning, and I’m glad I spent some time with her.
Thimakka is an octogenarian; she lives in Hulikal Taluk (about 70 kilometers from Bangalore) and is a mother to over 800 banyan trees. Yes! Over 800 of them. A number she refuses to mention because she does not appreciate the logic of counting her actions. Frail and friendly, Thimakka and her late husband took up this epic task of planting Banyan trees to get over the fact that they didn’t have children. They’d walk many kilometers every day to tend to the saplings and water them. As expected, people laughed at their insanity. But Thimakka never gave up, she knew what others didn’t. She found her calling in being the ‘Green Champion’.
Our conversations continued and she spoke at length about her village, the people, the changes in climate, state politics and everything you could expect from your grandma :) Though she complained of physical illness and about her fractured leg, she always ended her statements with a deep sense of peace. Her house is adorned with plaques and awards in recognition of her commitment towards the trees. She modestly admits that it was a joint effort with her husband, and cannot take full credit for her actions.
Her next plan is very clear. She insists on having a primary health center in Hulikal and is fighting head on with the state to release the funds. She knows it will take time and isn’t sure if she’d be alive to see it happen. But there is no bitterness in her tone. She has faith and knows it will happen. Simple and practical.
Thimakka had a great aura around her. She spoke not with pride but with humility, as if she wasn’t responsible for all this but it was bestowed upon her by some magic. As I was leaving, she handed me a bag full of beans grown locally, because she believed that people who visit her, shouldn’t go empty handed.
|The Green Tunnel|
She wanted to walk with me and introduce me to her trees, like a curator would walk you through a piece of art. She was too frail to walk, and so I promised her I would see every one of her trees before I head back to the city. Her beaming smile kept me smiling for the next 4 kilometers that I walked in the canopy.
In Kannada, salu means line and mara and trees, which gives you Salumarada Thimakka. As I walked the stretch, on both sides of the road were gigantic banyan trees aligned and spaced beautifully. 70 years and still growing strong, these trees formed a coveted green tunnel. A walk in the hot afternoon was a walk in the park, literally! At the end of the tunnel, I knew what Thimakka and her husband planned when they began tending to banyan saplings. They did it, not for themselves, but for generations to come. If you thought grandmas could only narrate stories, I happened to meet one grandma who created the story. I took a leaf from her life & several leaves from her trees.
Salumarada Thimakka can be visited as a day trip from Bangalore.
How to reach: Take one of the buses that go towards Kunigal, Bangalore. Get down at Marur Housing Post (I have no idea why it is called a Housing Post). Take an auto / bus to reach Kudur bus stop, which is 10 kms away. 6 kilometers from Kudur is Hulikal, and there are many buses that would drop you at Hulikal. One can drive down the same route. The roads are good.
|Kudur Bus Stop|
What to expect: Typical village scene, every house will have goats and cows. Coconut and mango trees adorn both sides. The local people people are polite and more than happy to help. Don't miss the coffee and vada at Thimakka’s house, reserved for every guest.
Author Bio: The author is from Bangalore. She travels to get a life and works as a business analyst for a living. She believes that every journey has something new to offer, the idea is to remain disconnected from the noise and connect to the place, and you’ll pick up a lot more than just souvenirs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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