“Lush green fields, pure air, horse carriages, bullock carts… this is the Thiruvananthapuram I once knew. But now, the reality is daunting,” poet B. Sugathakumari told the students who had gathered at her house as part of the summer vacation classes organised by Kerala State Child Welfare Council on Thursday. “God made trees, rivers, and hills not just for human beings. Then how can we use them for selfish purposes,” she asked the 80-odd students who sat under huge, shady trees, listening to her in rapt attention.

Referring to the recent rape of a 5-year-old girl in Delhi, the poet advised the girls to master self-defence. “No one has the right to touch your body. Martial arts will strengthen your body and mind. Learn to be bold and to question if you want to survive,” she told the girls. To the boys, she said, “There is a relationship called ‘brother.’ Men of yore did not permit atrocities against women, they retaliated. Now they just walk away if they see a woman in trouble.”

When asked whether she was keen on politics, she said on a lighter vein that it was too late to be a politician. “I do not like to be a politician, but I like making politicians work,” she said. She was soon joined by her sister Hridayakumari, who told the students to learn from nature.

Later, Sugathakumari told The Hindu that the programmes organised for ‘Earth Day,’ on April 22, were more of a celebration, with nothing useful emerging out of them. Organisations came up with events like cycling, walks etc. “If children were made to clean roads or wells, that would have made a difference,” she said.

Many trees were being felled in Vanchiyoor for road widening. Then, thousands of trees would be cut at Technopark for the National Highway development. “We have requested that the trees be retained as a median. If all the trees are cut, the place will look like a desert,” she said.

Her advice was, “look around nature, learn to love. Earth needs our love. Give plenty of it thinking that she is your mother.”