The story of Indian environmentalist ‘Saalumarada’ Thimmakka who decided to plant trees and took care of them as they have been her children, inspires millions of people across the world.
Thimmakka is a native of Hulikal village in the Magadi taluk of Bangalore Rural district in Karnataka. ‘Saalumarada’ (which means “row of trees” in Kannada) is an honorific title people have added to her name.
‘Saalumarada’ Thimmakka decided to start planting trees with her husband Chikkannah because even after 25 years of marriage the couple couldn’t have children. At that time ‘Saalumarada’ Thimmakka was working as a labourer in a nearby quarry and her husband was a cattle herder.
The couple began grafting saplings from Ficus (banyan) trees that were aplenty near their village. At that time the road between Kudur and Hulikal (their village) was hot and dry, but often used by the villagers, so the two evaluated it as a good place to bring life in.
In the first year they planted ten grafted saplings and from that moment they continued to plant 15 to 20 new trees each year until finally they had covered the whole 4 km distance between the two villages. 284 banyan trees were planted in total. The most amazing thing is that the couple didn’t just limit to planting, but they also took great care of their ‘children’ by tirelessly carrying pots full of water from the nearby wells and ponds, year after year, until the trees reached 10 years old.
Unfortunately Chikkanna died in 1990, but Thimmakka didn’t stop planting. It is not for sure how many trees she planted and raised till now, but according to her estimations the number overcome 8,000. Because she didn’t have the chance to an education, ‘Saalumarada’ Thimmakka doesn’t even know how old she is exactly. It is believed she has almost 90.
Because of her great contribution to the environment, Thimmakka received countless awards and citations during time among which the prestigious National Citizen’s Award of India. A U.S environmental organization based in Los Angeles and Oakland, California is named after her and her story even appeared in school textbooks.
The trees she planted together with her husband have been assessed at around 1.5 million rupees and their management has now been taken over by the Government of Karnataka.
Although she is still receiving numerous certificates and medals, Thimmakka lives on a small monthly pension. Nevertheless she has a big plan for her village. “I have been wanting to start a hospital, but no one seems interested. But I will keep trying,” she says.
There are not enough good words to speak about ‘Saalumarada’ Thimmakka, instead people should try to follow even on a smaller scale her example. Even with one tree planted by each of us the environment might look totally different in the future. Have you ever planted a tree?
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