Literary Shelf

On Killing a Tree by Gieve Patel

On Killing A Tree by Gieve Patel  as a poem describes how a tree is cut, chopped, axed and hewn and felled by us oblivious of the years it has taken in growing, striking the roots deep into the earth, branching the twigs, shading us with cool shade and adding to the canopy of the skies and the green cover. It is easy to cut and fell, but not easy to rear it for so long, either Nature rears them or man.

The poem reminds us of Dilip Chitre’s banyan tree, but we do not know which was written first, either Dilip’s or Patel’s.  Ramanujan’s love of champak trees we have not forgotten them. People can cut easily, but it is not easy to plant and make them grow over the years. The earth is green as for rocks, stones, trees which but Wordsworth often goes on talking about in his poems. But Patel using Indian English tries to say the Indian things in his own way.

Though famous from the start, his poems and books were not available to us. Most of them were out of print or meant for private circulation. A poet of Bombay, he is of the Bombay circle. One from  the group of four Parsi writers, Daruwalla, Jussawalla and Katrak, he scales heights in poetry, but something goes wrong with Katrak and he fails to draw the same attention he must have in his time. Patel’s case is the same as it is with the writers of P. Lal’s time. He too had not so many in the beginning, just a book or two.

Whatever be that, let us see what Patel says here in this poem. There is something of the lab visit of Aldous Huxley as he has after making a trip to Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose’s institute. A medical practitioner, Patel, he presents the whole panorama of mindless tree-cutting before us and we really feel benefited from reading it.  How is a tree cut? What does it happen? How is the life of a tree? What does a tree give to us?

The poet says that it takes time in killing a tree which is but a fact. A tree does not die so easily. It cannot be cut so easily. It dies after taking time. Just a jab of the knife cannot kill it as it claims human lives and the irrational maniac fellows do it wildly. Here it is a tree. Here the knife will not do it. The wood-cutter knows it the best. As the tree has taken time in growing and developing so does it take time in dying out and drying. The tree grows consuming the earth, rising out of it, feeding upon the crust, absorbing years of sunlight, air, water and so on. Even after it is felled, leaves keep sprouting over the stem and the body, but the bark keeps getting peeled off.

Even though it is chopped and felled, the twigs keep sprouting over the stem. The bleeding bark will heel it in time. The twigs may take wings from the root or the ground level if it is allowed to grow or the twigs are nurtured. The tree will re-grow it in a new form and will attain the same heights.

But our activity does not seem to exhaust it then. We have become so greedy that we keep hacking at even the roots as for burning the hearth, cooking food, using for them, trying to pull them out of the cave and to be bought for cheaply. We seem to grapple more while drawing the roots from the earth.  The roots when pulled out of have a white colour of their own to see. The strength of the tree lies therein in the anchoring of the roots. How do the roots move into? How much area do they take up in spreading the roots? The hole will say it. While pulling out the roots, traditional tools are needed to make up for. But today we see the earth-moving machines uprooting the tree, breaking the twigs and branches, clearing them with a dash or bang or pushing them aside. We often come across such a thing while crossing the highways where the roads are widened, repaired or cleared by the roadway construction men.

But how long can one struggle it? So the case is with the tree. When the stem is pulled out of the earth with the roots, the bark starts getting harder under sun and light and gives away to. We require the pickaxe and the spade to clear earth circling the tree stem and roots.

The poem lessons it that we should kill a tree as it is a source of our life. It gives not only air, but saves us from heat and dust, offers cool shade. A big tree cannot be grown in a day. It takes years and years to grow. To see it otherwise, the tree is our life. We must save and protect. We must save green earth from climate change and global warming. The matted Indian sadhus can be seen sitting under the banyan tree so full of aerial roots. The neem trees have a herbal value of their own. The peepul tree is spectacular.  The long-long shal, timber trees have a beauty of their own. The older wild trees dotting the natural forests too can see as for an interpretation.  The God of Hills and Forests knows it best.

It takes much time to kill a tree,
Not a simple jab of the knife
Will do it.
It has grown
Slowly consuming the earth,
Rising out of it, feeding
Upon its crust, absorbing
Years of sunlight, air, water,
And out of its leprous hide
Sprouting leaves.

So hack and chop
But this alone won't do it.
Not so much pain will do it.
The bleeding bark will heal
And from close to the ground
Will rise curled green twigs,
Miniature boughs
Which if unchecked will expand again
To former size.

The root is to be pulled out —
Out of the anchoring earth;
It is to be roped, tied,
And pulled out — snapped out
Or pulled out entirely,
Out from the earth-cave,
And the strength of the tree exposed
The source, white and wet,
The most sensitive, hidden
For years inside the earth.

Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air,
Browning, hardening,
Twisting, withering,
And then it is done.

On Killing a Tree is a poem of how to keep the environment green, how to keep the surroundings eco-friendly and healthy. It is a poem of greenery and vegetation. Here the poet speaks about his love for the trees which are but a part of our environment in which we live.

Can we cut our connections with the tree? The artificial lilacs cannot give us permanent joy in the dressing room where sit we to spend our time. We the Indians have hesitated in cutting the bel, the peepul and the banyan trees, the fruits and flowers trees. Most of our mud houses and hamlets had been under the riverside green covers.  Bereft of exotic flora and fauna, how do the forests seem to be now? Even the jackals can be seen loitering around our garbage heaps as there is nothing to eat in the forests.

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More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey

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