Trees Are Her Kids? 107 Yr Old Saalumarada Thimmakka Inaugurates ‘Vrukshanjali’ at St Aloysius

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Trees Are Her Kids? 107 Yr Old Saalumarada Thimmakka Inaugurates ‘Vrukshanjali’ at St Aloysius

Trees Are Her Children? 107 Yr Old Saalumarada Thimmakka Inaugurates ‘Vrukshanjali’ – an Awareness Programme on Environmental Protection at St Aloysius College {Autonomous}-Mangaluru on 3 June 2018

Mangaluru: Saalumarada Thimmakka is a household name in India for she is one among those few persons who has done everything she can to protect mother earth. Saalumarada Thimmakka has planted over 8000 plants in the past 66 years including over 400 banyan trees which have earned her the name ‘Saalumarada Thimmakka’ which means ‘a row of trees’ in Kannada. Saalumarada Thimmakka is one of the most inspiring personality in the country because this lady wanted to give up on her life when she was 40-years-old. A plant saved her life then, now she saves the plant and also gives life to plants every day. The same lady who wanted to commit suicide, beams with pride now when people call her as ‘Vruksha Mathe’ (Mother of trees). This ordinary woman has now earned the name ‘Saalumarada Thimmakka.’

Though Saalumarada Thimmakka has achieved a lot in her life and has experienced every bit of emotions a human can go through she is not finished yet. Yes, this 107-year-old Thimmakka has no plans to rest as of now. Saalumarada Thimmakka wants to build a hospital for the poor people and help them get best medical services available at the lowest fees possible. This is the dream she sleeps with every day and is optimistic that she will surely make her dream come true before she breathes her last.

Saalumarada Thimmakka has been an inspiration for the current generation and will be a guiding light and source of energy, motivating the future generation to work towards nurturing and protecting the environment by planting trees and making the greenery flourish over the earth once again. Saluting Saalumarada Thimmakka for her exemplary work in protecting the environment and for the immense determination and grit she has displayed all her life, St Aloysius College {Autonomous}-Mangaluru organized a felicitation programme for her during a programme named ‘Vrukshanjali’ – an Awareness Programme on Environmental Protection on 3 June 2018, at Mother Teresa Park for planting of two saplings; and later a formal function held at LCRI Auditorium. This programme was organized to mark “World Environmental Day’.

‘Nadoja’ recipient Vrukshamathe Saalumarada Thimmakka was the Chief Guest. Umesha B.N- a Environmentalist, and adopted son of Thimmakka; Dinesh Holla were the Guests of Honour. Principal of the college Rev. Dr Praveen Martis SJ presided over the programme. Prior to the formal function held at the auditorium Saalumarada Thimmakka was given a rousing welcome led by a Chende group. She then planted two saplings of ‘Kadamba’ and ‘Suragi’ in the Mother Teresa Park, joined by the above dignitaries, including Ms Durga Menon and Ms Shilpa B- the conveners of the programme.

The formal function began with a prayer song, followed by a welcome dance and a skit on Environment. The welcome address was delivered by Dr A M Narahari-the Registrar of the College, where he said it was a proud moment for the college to have such a great environmentalist and a humanitarian in the campus, to address the students, thereby spreading a message to follow in her footsteps to care and love the nature, for a clean and green environment. A documentary on the life of Saalumarada Thimmakka put together by the college journalism students was shown to the audience. The programme was inaugurated by opening a ‘Tree Shape umbrella’ by the Chief guest, joined by other dignitaries in also watering it- indeed a unique and nice concept, fit for the event.

Following felicitation, Saalumarada Thimmkka in her elaborate and eloquent address to the audience said, ” Even though me and my husband were not blessed with any children, we both preferred to have plants and trees as our children. In 1991, my husband Bikkalu Chikkaiah passed away, after a long companionship of 63 years. Though I miss my husband, a visit to the Hulikallu village brings back the sweet memories I had planting those thousands of trees along with my husband. And every time I think about those golden moments, it brings joy and smile on my face. I have now have an adopted son by the name of Umesha BN, who is a dedicated environmentalist, and he is quite young and handsome- I want to find him a nice girl and get him married before I die {In smiles, which also led the audience into laughs}.

“Green is my sword to fight for a better living, make it yours too,”. We are losing our trees and lakes in the city because of the negligence of authorities. Our lakes are all encroached and trees are cut for high-rises. You are the future and you must stop this. You should understand the green concept and plant more saplings, as it is no use trusting government authorities anymore. Mahatma Gandhi used Charaka as his sword to stop people from wearing western clothes and promote our very own fabric. I am using the green as a sword to fight for a better and clean living. You should make green your sword too. Take a pledge that you will at least plant 4-5 saplings every year, and also see that your college campus is clean and green. Thanks to Ms Durga Menon whom I have known her since young for inviting me here and have some close encounters with you all youth. If I could make a Green change, I think you as young students can also bring a change for a cleaner and greener environment ” added Thimmakka.

Umesha B N also speaking said, ” Even though my Mother doesn’t travel far for functions due to her old-age, but she was determined to come to this College on the request of Durga Menon Maam, and she is happy and beaming with pride having come tom this prestigious institution. I am happy to see the greener around the college campus, but you students should also take the initiative in making the City green by planting saplings, and not allow the authorities to cut trees to make way for buildings and roads. Remember just like human beings, plants/trees also have a life, and they need to be cared and nurtured-but that’s lacking these days. If our ancestors could live without the use of plastics, why can’t we? These days plastic use is increasing, and people litter them everywhere”

” Use plastic to the limit, and dispose them wisely. Also plant 4-5 trees a year in your area, so that everyone gets a chance to breathe clean air, and also have a green atmosphere. We need to follow in the footsteps of Saalumarada Thimmakka who without any education has brought a change in making the society clean and green. Youth these days can’t live without mobiles, they would rather spend money in recharging to watch the net, but they would not buy a few plants and plant them in their area. It’s time now, that you all make a change at the young age, for a clean and green environment” added Umesha.

Fr Praveen Martis Sj speaking said, ” In the 139 years history of St Aloysius College, we had many renowned personalities visited this campus, and we are truly blessed to have a great person like Saalumarada Thimmakka amidst us today. We need trees for shade, we need trees for clean air and oxygen-then why are we not serious in planting more trees than destroying them. Let’s not end this project today, instead carry it forward and see that we make our campus and also our city green through our efforts. If Thimmakka can do it, we too also can do it. Let us all unite to create a better and cleaner environment in the college campus and beyond”. Dinesh Holla also spoke and urged the students to take environmental issues very seriously for the betterment of the community.

The vote of thanks was proposed by Ms Durga Menon-lecturer in Kannada, while lecturer Ms Bhavya Shetty compered the programme.

About Saalumarada Thimmakka:

Saalumarada Thimmakka was born in Hulikal village, Magadi Taluk of Bangalore District. Saalumarada Thimmakka has had no formal education; she used to work from morning to evening in the field helping her family make ends meet. When she was only 20 years old, she was married off to Bikkalu Chikkaiah, a cattle herder. The hardships she faced at her husband’s house increased with time. She went through a period which was both physically and more importantly mentally demanding.

She was made to do all the household chores and then help her husband out in the field. She spent several days without having any food what so ever, she used to survive only on water for long periods of time and most importantly she also went through outrageous behavior meted out by her husband’s family for she could not give birth to a child.

But all through this difficult phase, her husband stood by her. Bikkalu Chikkaiah, a simple farmer of Hulikal village, became the greatest strength of support for Saalumarada Thimmakka. When she could not conceive even after 20 years of marriage, she and her husband decided to walk out of his parent’s house and find solace in planting trees.

The couple used to work hard in the field in the mornings and would be found digging holes to plant banyan trees in the afternoon. Both of them treated these plants/trees as their children and gave all the love and care they would give to their children. The couple started by planting ten saplings in the first year, followed by 15 saplings in the second year and 20 saplings in the third year. The couple used to carry water for a distance of 4 kilometers to water the plants and also used to fence the plants for protecting them from grazing cattle’s.

This lady, who started with meager resources to plant a tree, found great joy in watching them grow over the years and this gave her the motivation to plant as many as 8,000 trees over the next 65 years. She treats these trees as her children and proudly says, “My oldest tree is 65 years old.”

The saplings that the couple planted 60 years ago have grown to be big trees and provide shade to the passerby, and the view of this line of trees is a majestic view to the eyes which is why she is called as ‘Saalumarada Thimmakka’ by the localities. This shows the immense respect they have for her amazing work.

Awards and Accolades:

In 1958, the couple were felicitated and awarded a silver medal, which is the most prized possession for Thimmakka even after almost six decades.

In 1994, Thimmakka’s life took an interesting turn, when a politician overjoyed by her amazing work gifted her Rs. 5000. The politician was so happy with the work of Thimmakka that he used to mention efforts put in by the lady at various platforms which brought the media limelight on Saalumarada Thimmakka.

In 1996, she received National Citizen Award for her exemplary work in protecting the environment.

In 2015, ‘Saalumarada Saradaarini’ a book on the life of Saalumarada Thimmakka was published. This biography written by Indiramma Belur carries all the truthful incidents that Saalumarada Thimmakka has faced in her life.

The biggest of the recognition came when BBC selected her as Top 100 most influential and inspiring women for the year 2016. This was a moment of great pride and joy not only for Saalumarada Thimmakka but also for the Indians world over.

The state government has also recognized her for her exemplary work. The Karnataka Government announced funds for ‘Saalumarada Thimakka Shade Plan’ in 2014-15 and 2015-16. These funds were announced as a part of the mission to plant trees along the roadside in every nook and corner of the state.

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