Going to my grandmother’s house always used to be an interesting journey years back. It was an extension of the city, or a suburb if you wish to call it so. But for some strange reason the rural mindset and the atmosphere was intact inspite of the proximity to the city. Everybody knew everyone around them, which was a clear distinguishing factor to establish that the city had not swallowed the erstwhile village completely.
My protectionist parents never taught me (not necessarily prevented me) to mingle with all the kids there. I was choosy in selecting my acquaintances with my interactions limited to my cousins and a couple of friends (the number came down to one ultimately). I therefore never got to indulge in the rural game of goli-gundu, which must have been an ancesteral game of golf played with marble balls that needed to be dropped into holes on the ground. I still remained a city boy, playing cricket inside my grandmother’s house with my solitary friend – there was enough space there for the two of us, and watching TV – it was ironical that television came to my grandmother’s house before we could buy one.
Now coming away from my digressions into a distant memory to the actual story that I wanted to tell, there were trees – lots of them. There were huge neem trees in the backyard of my grandmother’s and at the frontyard of my friends house. Sandwitched between these two neem trees the spacious varenda of my grandmother’s was always blessed with a gentle breeze. There was a a fairly large garden at my aunt’s place nearby with various varieties of trees on which we could climb and play. A sturdy but flexible guava tree was my favourite – it was apt for the ameteurish adventurer in me, who could never dare to try climbing the tall cocunut trees.
Zooming ahead to the present, the erstwhile village is now stripped naked of its green outfit. Shorn of all trees, it has gained an eery look. Small houses have mushroomed all across. There is not a single space for even a shrub to shoot up. The spacious breezy verendas are gone. The last of the neem trees had been felled during my recent trip. My bedridden grandmother who spent most of her life under the breeze of the neem tree was complaining about the malfunctioning fan. There is no trace of the garden at my aunt’s house which had now shifted to a bigger version on the garden.
The plight of these semi-rural semi-urban areas is getting aggravated un-noticed. Even the cities have some of the greenery left. The ultra-rich apartments have to boast of in-house parks and gardens besides the swimming pools and gyms. The ministers have to plant trees now and then at strategic locations. The NGOs and ‘responsible’ corporates adopt roadside parks. But who cares about these sub-urbs which are aping the cities with more vigour than the cities themselves? Trying to get rid of the rural identity, they are gaining a city-slum-sort of makeover. Depleted of all the trees that adorned every rural house and devoid of any kind of urban planning, the garbage and stink are pervading throughout the streets.
To silence my awakened conscience, I bought a Philips CFL lamp (my first) for my grandmother’s house, thereby making my contribution to control the global warming! And of course, the screeching fan also needs some attention.