“To Embrace”

“Embrace the trees and
Save them from being felled;
The property of our hills,
Save them from being looted.”

On 25th March 1974, twenty seven women from the Reni village in Uttar Pradesh, near the Himalayas, hugged and linked arms around the trees that were to be uprooted ; and subsequently succeeded effectively to halt the felling of trees. It was a collective emotional will by nature-bound group of women against a blunt, mindless authoritarian decision which finally almost achieved the impossible. It was a self-organised non-violent resistance to the destruction of forests popularly known as “Chipko” tree-hugging movement. Originating in the Himalayas, the environmental movement spread throughout India and successfully stopped the deforestation in Vindhyas as well as the Western Ghats of Karnataka. The same subaltern model of resistance has been practiced in an evolved mode even in the present urban scenario, in order to save the trees, since ecology is the most relevant and immediate concern of the time. By now, Chipko movement is considered as a tested model of an eco-feminist environmental movement, throughout the world.

In this background, these photographs are about women embracing branches of a single large tree in rural Bengaluru. The big banyan tree ‘Dodda Alada Mara’ is four hundred years old and spread over an area of four acres. It is now aged, fragile, vulnerable and is preserved for posterity despite daily mundane danger of ill treatment by those unaware of its age, historicity as well as antiquarian prominence. It is still an abode for monkeys, birds, insects and wide varieties of flora and fauna. People from many centuries and innumerable generations have adored and felt it’s overwhelming presence, while the tree itself has been an objective witness to many historic events, has withstood the nature’s fury as well mutely borne human vandalism. Over the passage of time, this firmly grounded tree carries marks and scratches all over its skin-natural textures as well as graffiti carved over as witness and evidence of human violence.

“To Embrace” is to celebrate the existence of this grand old tree by hugging, thus duly paying homage to the first eco-feminist movement wherein a simple step of women hugging trees was a big leap in creating the non violent movement in saving ecology, relevant to all times.

2. If a tree could wander…

If a tree could wander
and move with feet and wings!
It would not suffer the axe blows
and not the pain of saws!

The saw contains the negative cut out of the silhouette of leaves and branches, representing the loss of trees, from within. Hence the saw embraces the rusting motifs of flora as well as the absence of lost leaves and branches, simultaneously and ironically. Hence, the traces of what is contained within the instrument of destruction, unveiling the emptiness from within. It is like a barren earth emptied of its greenery.

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