Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Celebrating Bangalore’s Trees

Written about a ficus tree at NGMA, Bangalore, to accompany a photograph by Kalyan Varma, displayed as the centrepiece at the 2nd edition of Neralu, Bangalore’s annual tree festival

Photo copyright: Raji Sunderkrishnan

I was different. I could sense it.

Each time my roots were clipped, I didn’t buckle and fall.
I moulded myself differently.
I sought the sky. My connection with the earth changed. 
But I found a way to stay.

It made me different.

I saw it in the eyes of the gardener who tended to me.
I heard it in the whispers of the people who saw me.
I felt it from looking at the trees around me.

I told myself - “So what if I’m different?”

So what if children don’t swing from my roots?
So what if people don’t worship under my canopy?

My heart is the same as any other.

I love it when you come seeking the patterns I make on the ground.
Shade, you call it. Neralu.
I love sheltering the nuts the tiny squirrels trust me with.
I love the feel of an aching back resting against my gnarled trunk.
I wish I could make your pain go away.

I am always back-lit, photographers say.

I say I’m shielding you from the harsh sunlight.
The sun is always behind me. I have your back.
Come, enjoy a nap beneath me.
I promise you - you won’t need a photograph to remember me by.

Don’t judge me by my appearance.

I have the same love to give you.
I make you look up - at the sky beyond me.
A sky you sometimes forget to look at.

It’s been over 100 years.

I now see love in your eyes.
My difference no longer makes a difference.
You love me as you love any other tree.
For that, I love you even more.

I’ve learnt from my life. I wouldn’t swap it for anything.

It’s okay to be different.
People will eventually love you for who you are.
Even if they don’t, keep standing tall and proud.
Be there for them when they need you.
Give them your love.
Don’t give up when your wings are clipped; find a way.
And reach for the skies.


This over-100-year-old ficus tree at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Bangalore, is one of the many beautiful trees found in Bangalore. Whether you are a nature lover or are simply looking for a different experience in Bangalore, tree walks can be an enjoyable and off-beat addition to your itinerary. These are usually informally planned on weekends, by the city’s active naturalist community. However, planned tree walks can also be booked at:


Both agencies are highly recommended: for visitors to Bangalore, as well as locals looking to know their city better.

If you are visiting Bangalore in February, though, you can enjoy Neralu (meaning ‘shade’ in Kannada) – an annual citizen-funded and citizen-managed tree festival, one-of-its-kind in India. Do look up the festival’s website and join the celebrations: Neralu.in

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Neralu: Bangalore’s Tree Festival

A short note about 'shade', written to accompany a large print of a photograph by Ganesh Shankar, displayed at the 2nd edition of Neralu, Bangalore’s annual tree festival

The shade of this tree at Halebidu, Karnataka, attracts a lot of afternoon visitors

Shade is why Sonali chooses that large Gulmohar to stand under, preferring to run the short distance to the actual bus-stop once she spots her office bus rumbling down the dusty road each sweltering morning.

Neralu is what makes Basavaraja smile and take off his sunglasses, as he drives through a stretch of highway surprisingly lined with Tamarind trees, which embrace each other across the otherwise-barren route.

Chaaya from the colourful Semal tree is what tempts Bijoya into playing a few more rounds of hop-scotch, not heeding to the sternly clanging recess bell.

Tanal is why Kuttan relaxes under a cluster of Coconut trees when he returns from a hectic morning of fishing, sitting there to eat lunch, keeping an eye on his boat moored on the beach.

Savali helps complete Nitin’s summer afternoon fun, of stealing mangoes from Bhonsle kaka’s orchard and slurping the pulp out of them, seated under the very same tree.

Nida is what draws Gowramma to the Banyan tree for a spot of gossip with friends, after a tiring day walking around parts of Kakinada, selling home-made khajas.

Chaanv is what makes the Banbehi tigress at Bandhavgarh crawl into a Bamboo grove in the afternoon, to escape the unforgiving summer sun.

Nizhal is what momentarily cools down Senthil’s blistered feet, as he seeks refuge after hopping across the scorching stones at the Madurai Meenakshi Temple in the afternoon.

Saaya gently nudges Ismail’s eyelids shut, and he naps unawares, though he only meant to rest under that Neem tree for five minutes before he pushed his guava cart ahead.

Celebrate shade in all its forms. Celebrate Neralu.


Neralu (meaning ‘shade’ in Kannada), is a citizen-funded and citizen-managed tree festival, one-of-its-kind in India. Festivals say a lot about a city and her people - Neralu reflects Bangaloreans’ passion for the trees that the city is so lucky to be endowed with.

The annual tree festival usually spans across a weekend or two, and has events for everyone – tree walks, storytelling under trees, audio walks through parks, music and dance about trees, art and craft sessions, yoga in parks, street plays, sketching workshops, games, talks by experts, and nature film screenings, to name a few.

If you are visiting Bangalore in February, do look up the festival’s website and join the celebrations: neralu.in