The second-last and last day of my Arunachala visit of 2013 was much occupied with a desperate pitch to see those trees saved. The local DFO rang to meet me for some reason, and in his office the bright idea came to persuade him to look into the prospect of their future. I drew him a map to ensure he knew their precise location and he did promise enthusiastically to go across and make sure they survive to adulthood in prospering circumstances. He really did. The following day I battled back across to his office to transfer a heap of good films on ClimateChange and related Natural History issues which during the previous months I had failed to arrange for screening to Trainee Teachers. And since he said he would screen those films also, I was grateful he had suddenly called at the last minute and I left the mountain with the impression my intentions for that year’s visit would be realised after all.
Several email enquiries over the following months were in-replied by the DFO, however this is not unusual for India, so when it was time to return to the mountain this year – September 2014, it was in as optimistic a frame of mind as ever and my morning walk over to the place where those saplings had stood so neglected under a fateful shadow the previous two years, was jaunty.
It took some time to digest the huge piles of dead saplings; I was overwhelmed with defeat, choked tears, surges of hopelessness passed through my body as if all the desolation of thirty-five accumulated India years resurged a tsunami that poured out my eyes and ears and the very pores of my skin, out over the wasted heaps of our most precious possessions, representatives of the entire Botanical Kingdom – the ones who have only ever generously given.
Since the beginning they have purified our air, provided all our food and fuel, protected our waters, shaded us from heat, enlivened us with flowers, fruit and medicines, rejuvenated us and inspired our creativity all the livelong days and nights since the beginning of time.
They all died in their root-bound plastic packets. They died of neglect and total lack of respect. They died at the hand of ignorance, greed and basic human shoddiness. I am ashamed of all the pleasure I ever took in greening Arunachala. It wasn’t worth this.