“Dad, can we go to the garden?” Harry asked his father. He loved to play there with his father under the tree. His dad was his hero.

Harry liked to listen to the stories, facts and trivia his dad told him with interest. “What did you learn in school today?” his dad asked him.

“About trees, dad. We learnt about the importance of trees in our life.”

“But did you know that we cut 3-6 billion trees per year. I read in the newspaper that in 2012 more than one lakh trees were cut in the state of Maharashtra. There won’t be any trees to clean the air and provide oxygen.” Harry listened wide-eyed. He was sad to hear this.

“If we go on cutting trees like this, there won’t be any tree left.” He hugged the neem tree. It was planted when his dad was born. The tree was only as old as his dad.

* * *

Years later…

“Grandpa! Today our teacher taught us about… Oh what was it called? Oh yes, a tree! What is it grandpa? I want to see it, please help me.”

Harry was now a 60-year-old man. How quickly the days had passed! Grandpa Harry looked out of his window. There were no trees to be seen. The house next door was bright with tube lights. Even during the day, one had to turn on the lights!

Grandpa Harry rang up his village friend Ram. “Sorry Harry, the last tree of our village was cut down just last week by the factory men. There is nothing in this area now,” Ram informed him.

Next Grandpa Harry made a call to Jegan, who lived in a hill station. “Sorry friend, the last tree was cut down just a month ago. But I heard that there is a museum in which the last tree has been preserved.” Grandpa Harry desperately wanted to show at least one tree to his grandson.

The following weekend, they went to the museum. “Welcome sir! It is true that we had a tree here. But it was lost many years ago. Now we have a model of it,” said the museum official.

“Hurray! I found it, a tree at last!” Harry’s grandson shouted with joy, looking at the miniature model of a single, sad tree with green leaves on top of a globe.

* * *

Harry opened his eyes and realised that he was in bed. He could hear someone cutting a tree. “Oh no, don’t cut the tree. Please stop it. We need trees to show our children.” Harry’s dad woke up and gently patted him on the shoulder.

“Harry? What happened? Did you have a nightmare?” Seeing Harry’s troubled face, his dad added reassuringly, “If kids like you start protecting trees, we’ll save them for many generations.”

Jemilah Solomon, X G, SBOA HSS, Madurai