As one travels to Huligal village, an avenue of banyan trees greets you, creating a wonderful canopy for over a distance of 3 km. A world away from the flyovers and large roads on the Tumkur Highway, these trees on Tumkur-Kudur Road are a treat that you can't take your eyes off.

This tree-lined avenue is the labour of love of Thimmakka and Chikkaiah, a childless couple, who began planting trees over three decades ago and nurtured them as children. Now a celebrity in her own right, “Salumarada” Thimmakka, as she is known, has planted over 400 trees from the ficus family.

For this octogenarian resident of Huligal village in Magadi taluk, who has made selfless contribution to environment, World Environment Day was just another day as she went through the daily household chores. In fact, Thimmakka, who lived by example, was not aware that World Environment Day was being observed on Saturday.

“I hope that these trees have opened people's eyes (to the importance of environment). I have not kept count of the number of trees that we planted,” Thimmakka told The Hindu and credited her husband for starting this endeavour. She expressed happiness that people know about the trees that she has planted. “I never dreamt that I would receive such respect for it,” she said.

Despite her deteriorating health, Thimmakka continues with her routine — cutting firewood, cooking and maintaining her house. Even at a ripe age of 85, she travels a considerable amount to attend functions. “It is no trouble at all. People come to my house and take me, and I happily go,” said Thimmakka. On her failing health, she said: “I have spent a lot of money on doctors, they send me home with tablets and ointments, but nothing helps.”

Hospital

A hospital for women at Huligal village, which has about 1,500 families, has been her dream. Though a building has been constructed for the purpose, equipment and medical staff have not been provided.

Meanwhile, women continue to depend on hospitals in neighbouring villages for maternal care. “I just want to be able to see the hospital functioning, nothing more,” said Thimmakka.

“Let every child tend to one sapling and watch it grow to a tree. If anybody has to cut a tree, let them ensure they plant two in its place,” advised Thimmakka.

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