Being unable to have children is generally a heartbreaking situation in most parts of the world especially in rural India where infertility carries an added stigma for women.
They could be as outcast!
After twenty-five (25) years of a childless marriage, Saalumarada Thimmakka and her husband Sri Bikkala Chikkayya dealt with this situation in an unusual way.
The farm laborer from Karnataka in southern India planted hundreds of trees calling them children. The couple nurtured and watered these ‘children’ all their remaining married years
“It was my fate to not have any children, because of that, we planned to plant trees and raise them to get blessings. We have treated the trees as our children.” Saalumarada said.
The Green Hero
The woodland is said to number almost 300 trees — a remarkable achievement for an area with arid humidity, dusty landscape and records of little rainfall. It stretches four kilometers both sides of the road from Thimmakka’s village of Hulikal and unto the next, Kudur.
Thimamakka has come to gain much recognition as an environmentalist having a foundation created in her name coupled with frequent invitations to tree planting ceremonies all over India.
Never having attended school herself, she’s now even featured in the Indian national curriculum, with a poem dedicated to her honor not counting the laurels in her honour.
What’s more, the blessings Thimmakka sought appear to have come her way — though there are no birth certificates to confirm this, the passionate nature lover says she is 105 years old and is very happy with life’s outcome.
“I am very happy seeing all my children. We have looked after the trees with love and I am happy and proud.”
She is considered an environmental hero in her locality!
Over the years, after each day’s work on her farm, she would dig holes and plant saplings collected from the local area and also haul water several kilometers from the well to nourish her green offspring. The rain doesn’t come always but she remained consistent and optimistic.
Her husband proved helpful by consistently carrying water and planting thorny bushes to protect the young trees from hungry wild animals until his death.
Their work has bestowed a great legacy to the village and state. In that not only are their trees valuable for firewood and furniture, but has left the urge in the region’s chief minister to dedicate a pot of money to continue their eco efforts.
The Much Awaited Child
It has also brought blessings closer to home.
Attracted by her outstanding conservation work, a 14-year-old boy Sri Umesh approached Thimmakka to introduce himself.
“I was encouraged by Saalumarada Thimmakka’s thoughts and ways and came to meet her, I shared my views with her of conservation with she was very happy and she adopted me. I felt that was a moment in my life I would never forget.”
Passionate about the environment from an early age, Umesh was granted permission for the adoption by his biological parents — “It is a very difficult question. To tell you the truth, all three are my parents.”
He has since followed in her path, acting as president for her organization and running a nursery that distributes trees to farmers. “I didn’t want her to be alone,” he said.
Together, the pair now urge others to do the same — plant trees for future generations.
“I have a suggestion to everyone: We are born as human beings and will die as human beings, but to live we need to conserve nature. We cannot live without the environment,” said Umesh.
“How we planted and took care of the trees, everyone from children to the elderly should plant and grow trees,” Thimmakka added. “It will be beneficial for all of us.”