The Kerala woman who has been planting trees on her land for the last 27 years

"I planted whatever saplings I got and now it has become a craze," said the homemaker, who has successfully packed her 56 cent plot with greenery. 
Jayasree with her beloved trees.
Jayasree with her beloved trees.

There are people who only plant a tree on June 5 (World Environment Day) for the sake of it and then there are those like Jayasree. 

For the past 27 years, the Mavelikkara native has been planting saplings on the half-acre land attached to her house.

"I planted whatever saplings I got and now it has become a craze," said the homemaker, who has successfully packed her 56 cent plot with greenery. 

Jayasree said she has never had any special preference for any trees and has been bringing home whatever saplings she could get her hands on from nearby nurseries and exhibitions. Teaks, mahoganies, mango trees, banyans, wild jackfruits etc. are the prominent species of her "artificial forest".

Jayasree said her family has benefitted enormously from allowing nature to flourish in their backyard. She talks of how, for instance, the groundwater level has improved in her land over the years.

"Water scarcity was a big problem when we moved here 27 years ago. Our well used to dry up by the end of January. Since there was no pipe connection back then, I had to go to neighbouring places and collect water until the monsoon arrived in June," the mother of two recollected.

"Our well was 16 rings deep initially. We tried adding another 16 rings, but still, there was no water. But now, even when the summer is at its peak, our well remains full and families where I used to take water from back then depend on our well," she said proudly.

People always point out how her house remains a cool haven no matter how searingly hot the weather is, she added.

Since the trees are planted next to each other leaving very little space in between, they don't have broader trunks. They grow very tall and dense instead and this keeps wood merchants and dealers away, she said. 

"Even if somebody approaches, I'm not interested in selling any of them," she clarified.

The homemaker says she had little idea that she was doing something special. It was only when her son's friends from college started to visit the place and appreciate her efforts that she understood it was "a big deal." 

Thickly populated with trees, the man-made forest cover also offers a habitat to countless birds, squirrels and other animals, whose chirping is a constant feature of the house where she lives with her sons Vishnu and Visakh, a research scholar. Her husband is no more.

"Some of my family members, in the beginning, used to ask why can't I farm something cultivable instead of filling the plot with random trees. That stopped over the years. Now, I have started to looking at medicinal plants as many of them have become hard to find in the market," said the diploma holder in Ayurvedic cure. 

Asked what becomes of all the dry leaves shed by the countless trees, Jayasree agrees that sweeping her courtyard demands extra effort. But she said it is an exercise and she will happily do it as long as she remains in good health. 

"I don't usually burn the leaves as it is hazardous to the environment. All I have to do is sweep them to the tree beds as they are good manure. Not sure if I will change my mind when I become older," she said with a laugh before withdrawing to plant a gooseberry sapling on World Environment Day.

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The New Indian Express