You must be having a ‘special’ tree in your life. Or at least a memory of – a mango tree you grew up climbing; the neighbour’s Jamun tree that stained your compound wall purple; Ajji‘s house Jackfruit tree and its profuse yield; the Pipal tree by the river in your ‘native’ village; the ‘haunted’ Tamarind tree on the edge of the school compound…
Tulika publishers’ latest – ‘Let’s plant trees’ by Vinod Lal Heera Eshwer, is a book for parents as much as children. It gets directly to the point – action, not theoretical discussions. It comes with real Pongam seeds. The book is a call to action and simply says, "Trees are fun and nice to be around with".
Vinod is a much awarded copywriter, organic farmer, filmmaker and compulsive tree-planter, among other things. He plants trees in and around Bangalore. He recently launched his book ‘Let’s Plant Trees’ at the Mother Earth store in Bangalore. The "mad about trees" author chatted with Charumathi Supraja.
What was the impetus/ stimulus for this book?
While a kid can’t do much about stopping trees from being cut, a kid can sure plant trees. I didn’t want another book with a story and a moral/message. I wanted a book with less talk and more fun. I wanted the kids to do something after reading the book. And what better thing to do than plant trees to secure their future?
To put it simply: I love my little son. I love trees. I love to draw. Add them up and you know why I thought of this book.
How did you become an "obsessive tree-planter"?
All credit goes to my mother, quite like a monkey, I’ve spent a good part of my childhood on trees. I used to even take afternoon naps on a guave tree. As my wife puts it, apart from my son I love only two things – Vipassana meditation and trees. She keeps saying, "Plant trees and then meditate under them. That’s all you want to do!"
This book is not wooded with words. Was that deliberate?
Yes. There’s not much to say anyway. We all know why trees are good for us. This book is just a gentle reminder and a call to action. The focus is on the action. The world is full of words. What the world needs is action.
What were the challenges in the process of writing/ putting together and getting this book out?
It began as a series of fun doodles. I strung them together and sent them to Tulika on a whim. The wonderful folks at Tulika loved it. More than anything, they opened up to the crazy idea of including tree seeds. It meant relooking at all conventional publishing practices and increasing the man-hours spent on making every book, but they did it. I love them and respect them immensely for that. This is the world’s first kid’s book that comes with real tree seeds to be planted.
You said "it’s as much a book for adults as for children." Why is it important for adults?
This book is a small step in repaying that loan and undoing the damage that our generation inflicted on mother earth. As adults, it’s high time we accept what we have done (and are doing) to the environment and take the required action to undo the damage. This book empowers both adults and children to take that small but most effective first step of planting a tree. For, planting a tree is the single most effective action that any individual can take to trigger off a chain reaction that heals the earth.
You are a trustee at www.treesforfree.org. What does this organisation do?
Treesforfree is a charity that plants trees to heal the earth. We plant trees for free for anyone who is willing to nurture and protect the tree. To date, treesforfree.org has planted over 26,000 trees in and around Bangalore city. Funds come in the form of donations from individuals and organisations that wish to plant trees but don’t have the space to do so. It is pretty much a one-woman show; the woman being the wonderful founder and president, Janet Yegneswaran. As a volunteer sums it up – "Save the planet. Call Janet on 9845449703." Treesforfree is looking to extend its reach to the famers who have plenty of land in the villages surrounding Bangalore. Corporates and individuals are invited to chip in.
How can city and apartment dwellers get involved in bringing about a ‘tree-volution’, so to speak?
Where one lives is not a limiting factor. One’s volition and willingness to get involved is. Most of the volunteers and supporters of treesforfree.org live in apartments. Yet they are responsible for planting over 26,000 trees to compensate the loss of tree cover in our garden city. It all boils down to one question, "How badly do you want help?"
For instance, I met someone who wanted to raise tree saplings on his apartment balcony. He said that the saplings could be planted in the ground when opportunity arose. That’s what apartment dwellers could do with the seeds in the book. Grow the trees where you can. Call treesforfree.org and we’ll help you find a place to plant the sapling.
Gift treesforfree.org gift vouchers. Gift this book with tree seeds. Give this book as birthday party return gifts or corporate gifts. This book is a great way to inspire kids and parents to plant trees. The seeds in the book are the seeds for a ‘tree-volution’. All you need to do is plant them.
Can children make a difference?
Children can do everything. And they must be encouraged and empowered to do so. That is what the book hopes to do. The book provides inspiration. And the seeds with the book empower them to bring about a positive change.
Children can influence their parents to act. I have seen a small child who refused to accept plastic bags and refused to let her parents accept plastic bags. The seeds in the book are more about sowing thoughts about trees in children’s minds than about them sowing tree seeds in the ground.⊕