Life & Style

Hyderabadis find solace in green memorials

Haritham memorial park at Prashasan Nagar, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad

Haritham memorial park at Prashasan Nagar, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

Sandeep Gajawada, an IT professional, lost three family members to COVID-19 in 2021. A year later, planting trees in their memory as part of the Haritham initiative has brought in a sense of healing for him and his father. Haritham is a green memorial for those who lost their lives to COVID-19. The first phase kicked off in July at Panchavati Colony, Banjara Hills. The second phase was inaugurated last weekend at Akshaya Layout park, Prashasan Nagar, Jubilee Hills.

These memorial parks have been made possible with the efforts of COVID-19 volunteers Sai Charan Chikkula and Sri Uha, with the support of GHMC (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation) and Department of Forests, Government of Telangana. The volunteers who were proactive in helping patients get medicines, hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and financial aid, have vivid memories of the trauma faced by COVID-hit families.

Like every monsoon, this time too social media was abuzz with the Government of Telangana’s Haritha Haram or green challenge to kick off a campaign of planting saplings across the city. “The idea of a green initiative that can be a memorial for victims of COVID-19 came from Shanta Thoutam (chief innovation officer, Government of Telangana). When we discussed this in a Twitter Spaces session, volunteers we knew and others came forward,” says Charan, director of Tsirs Pharmaceuticals.

The Panchavati Colony park, which resembled a dump yard, was spruced up and turned into a green memorial. “The GHMC helped us identify parks for Haritham. Moving forward, we are open to suggestions from the GHMC as well as people who can identify parks in their neighbourhood that can be green memorials,” says Sri Uha, program officer at WE Hub.

The plants for Haritham include native varieties of jamun, mango, banyan and badam. “The indigenous varieties require less maintenance. A few plants are about four feet tall. As they grow, they will require less human intervention,” says Sandeep.

Some of the plants have heart-shaped tags with messages written by friends and family members of COVID-19 victims

Some of the plants have heart-shaped tags with messages written by friends and family members of COVID-19 victims | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

Volunteers check on the maintenance of the park from time to time. The GHMC will be maintaining the memorial parks for the first year, after which it will be a community-driven effort.

Tree-lined memorial
Haritham 1: Panchavati Colony, road no.10, Banjara Hills
Haritham 2: Akshaya Layout park, Prashasan Nagar, Jubilee Hills
The Haritham programmes also witnessed participants extending their support to small businesses run by survivors of COVID-19 or their family members. 
For more details on project Haritham, look up @AGreenMemorial on Twitter

The plantation drives at both the Haritham parks turned out to be a gathering of people who planted saplings and left heart-shaped tags with messages remembering their dear ones. Nearly 60 saplings were planted in the first phase and in the second phase, nearly 100 people participated and planted 100 saplings.

More memorial parks are on the anvil in the city; plans are also for similar initiatives in Adilabad, Suryapet and Warangal with the help of local volunteers.

The plantation drive has been cathartic for the volunteers as well. Charan recalls, “We helped more than 200 families; SOS messages and calls kept pouring in. There were cases where people lost their lives within hours or days. It is traumatic to look back at that phase. With some trepidation, we reached out to some of the families, cautious that it might rekindle their tragic memories, to ask if they would like to participate in Haritham. A few of them came forward.”

Some of the participants at Haritham

Some of the participants at Haritham | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Sandeep was among those who had called Charan when his aunt’s condition began deteriorating with falling oxygen levels: “It was 2 am when I called him. He soon helped us get a bed with oxygen facility at Gandhi hospital, which was no mean task. Unfortunately we could not save my aunt. But the manner in which he, a stranger to me back then, came forward to help motivated me to join the volunteer group.” Sandeep planted a sapling near his residence so that his father, who had lost three siblings, can find solace in maintaining the tree: “It is a healing process to grow a tree in memory of someone you lost.”


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Printable version | Aug 19, 2022 1:15:12 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/hyderabadis-find-solace-in-green-memorials/article65774749.ece