A reserve site has been transformed into a mini forest in New Damu Nagar.
It’s 3.30 p.m. and the Sun shines bright. Acho, enna veyyil, is a common refrain. But not so in New Damu Nagar. The canopy created by the avenue of trees here has kept the heat at bay, almost.
In 1987, when industrialist Mahendra Ramdas moved to New Damu Nagar, the land was almost barren. Early residents in the area coaxed and nourished the land. Today, every house is an oasis of green.
The greenest and coolest of them all is the reserve site. A profusion of trees, many of them more than 25 years old, soars towards the sky. “There was no specific plan. We just planted saplings that would develop a canopy and attract birds,” says Ramdas.
Many locals have chipped in with saplings. No plant is turned away; that explains how Singapore cherry, naaval, kari palaa, kodukapuli, papaya, ilavan panju, tamarind, lemon, cassia fistula (golden shower), badam, custard apple and pomegranate share space. The pods of the silk cotton tree in the edge have recently burst and showered the ground below with silken fibre. Blooms of the golden shower carpet the floor in bright yellow.
In a corner, the flowers of the Day Queen spread their fragrance. In another, blooming frangipani, magizham poo and jasmine vie for attention.
The squirrels feed on the ripe papaya, birds peck at the pomegranate and butterflies and bees buzz around the bright blue and red flowers that grow in profusion here. The purple-black fruits of the kariverpilai attract birds. So do the bird baths and feeding trays that hold a mix of grains.
The residents don’t use the produce from this site. Birds and bees have right over the fruits. “In the mornings and evenings, the air is full of birdcall,” says Ramdas, whose house adjoins the site. Regular visitors include mynahs, crows, parakeets, kingfishers, woodpeckers, koels, jungle babblers and crow pheasants.
With help from his domestic staff, he has dug trenches to store rain water and some others to compost kitchen waste. A drip irrigation system is also in place. The compost generated is applied to the 100-odd trees. Excess compost is piled in bunds protected by coconut husks. This retains moisture and prevents the soil from eroding.
In one corner of the site, a banyan has sprouted from a hollow in a Flame of The Forest tree. The staff has filled the hollow with soil and let the sapling grow. Nearby is a marudhaani shrub, which attracts the bees, and, in turn, the birds. The area has been kept plastic-free, but the wind brings with it a profusion of carry bags.
There’s also a zig-zag walking track of sorts through this urban jungle. Residents use a vacant space at the entrance for hosting small gatherings. Cool breeze, the chirping of birds, the scent of flowers…. it can get heady in there.
Pungan (Pongamia pinnata)
Aala maram (Banyan)
Arasa maram (Ficus religiosa)
Marudha maram (Terminalia arjuna)
How green is your neighbourhood? Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of any colonies in the city that take pride in their trees