Honouring the banyan tree

The renowed dancer, Daksha Sheth, talking at the Fifth Tree Festival organised in Fort Kochi on Sunday. The artist, T.Kaladharan, looks on.  

GOING BY local history, the banyan tree existed at the barrack grounds in Fort Kochi even before the Portuguese set up their flag post. For the last five years, a group of Nature lovers have been honouring it by draping it with a `ponnada'. The `Tree Festival', organised by Janaaranya around this `Ammachi Aal' or `grandmother banyan tree' today, has become an annual affair, scheduled for the second Sunday of August.

This symbolic gesture by Janaaranya is meant to instill a concern for Nature among the younger generation. Many people make it a point to attend the festival, at times out of genuine concern for the environment, or out of nostalgia and mostly, just for the feel of it.

The organisers had invited Daksha Sheth as the chief guest this year. As someone who had been searching for the organic connection with Nature through her medium of contemporary dance, Daksha looked comfortable in her role.

Splash of colours.

Splash of colours.  

But it was artist T. Kaladharan who stole the show.

He led a group of children in working on a big canvas placed along the tree. Kaladharan put on a special attire to suit the occasion, as he believes that "when one works in the public, one becomes a 'visual' and needs to dress up accordingly".

There were Hindustani notes as Sanita T.K., a young disciple of Ramesh Narayanan, rendered melodies beneath the tree. In between, Paul Mattanchery, a face familiar to the locals stepped in, playing old Hindi film songs on his mouth-organ.

And there was also a dose of poetry and story-telling. While Manu Jose, who has already established his ability to bowl over children with the art of story-telling, gave a display of his skills, Joshua Wietz, from the U.S., recited a couple of poems.

Even as the immediate neighbourhood of the tree was coming alive with songs, colours and poetry, a group of girls and boys could also be seen fine-tuning their skills at base ball and cricket at the farther end of the ground. May be they were not ready to waste a Sunday on trees and music.

By Anand Haridas

Photos: H. Vibhu