Downtown

‘Tree of Mylapore’ being nurtured

A vendor taking care of a punnai sapling at South Mada Street, Mylapore. Photo : K. Pichumani    | Photo Credit: K_Pichumani



Muruvamma, a flower vendor at South Mada Street, Mylapore, usually brings a bottle of water to keep the flowers fresh. For the last six months, she has been bringing an additional bottle every day, but not for the flowers. The water is meant for a punnai sapling.

Like her, a few other vendors around the Mada streets of Mylapore are tending to punnai saplings, planted last September by Nizhal, a Kottuupuram-based non-governmental organisation that works towards conservation of trees.

According to Nizhal volunteer Latha Nathan, a resident of Mandaveli, “We chose punnai because the tree, though native to Mylapore, is rarely found in the neighbourhood. Mylapore was once known as punnaivanam. It is held in such reverence that the sthala vriksham of Kapaleeshwar temple is the punnai tree. Also, Tamil literature classifies punnai as a tree suitable for neithal landscape (sandy soil along sea coast). Under the project, Nizhal plans to plant punnai trees in and around Mylapore.”

P.M. Abdul Hamid has a neem tree in front of his tea shop at TSV Kovil Steet. He has been nurturing it for the last 10 years. Now, he has taken the additional responsibility of tending to a punnai sapling. “I open the shop at 3.15 a.m. and my first job is to water both the tree and the sapling. I’m a native of Kerala and we used to have a lot of trees and plants around our house. I long for such greenery and I’m growing a few trees in front of my shop. Whenever I go out of station, people at the neighbouring shops take care of the trees,” says Hamid.

Opposite Hamid’s shop is R. Ramachandran’s juice shop. Apart from nurturing the punnai sapling, Ramachandran is growing a few other saplings — cannonball tree ( nagalingam maram), mango tree, bulletwood tree ( magizham maram), and peepal tree ( arasa maram). Ramachandran waters these saplings with a pipe connected to water tank installed on the terrace of the building, where he has shop.

A few weeks ago, widening work began on the pavements of South Mada Street and vegetable vendor Aarumugam and a few garland vendors shifted the pots to a safer location. They say the saplings would need additional protection during Panguni festival, when devotees would throng the temple.

Another Nizhal volunteer Suresh Ramanathan, a resident of Abhiramapuram says, “Nizhal believes in community involvement and so we roped in the vendors because they can care the best for the sapling there.”

Around six Nizhal volunteers who call themselves ‘ punnai patrollers’ guide these vendors. The Nizhal volunteers visit the streets once in two or three days to monitor the saplings.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 10:01:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/%E2%80%98Tree-of-Mylapore%E2%80%99-being-nurtured/article15616907.ece

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