107-year-old Saalumarada Thimmakka is no ordinary senior citizen. She has featured in school text books and students as well as their parents feel inspired reading about her in Karnataka schools.
At an age when anyone may consider you suffering with age-related problems, anyone, Thimakka is looked upon as a legend. She is not dependent on anybody and her achievements are commendable.
She is a recipient of one of India’s highest civilian awards Padma Shri.
Saalumarada Thimmakka, also known as Aalada Marada Timakka, is an Indian environmentalist , noted for her work in planting and tending to 385 banyan trees along a four-kilometre stretch of highway between Hulikal and Kudur.
She has also planted nearly 8,000 other trees. With the support of her husband, she found solace in planting trees.
Today, Thimakka is the world’s oldest environmentalist.
Making Planting Saplings A Way of Life
Recounting her experience of how her husband and she started planting saplings on the Karnataka border highway between Hulikal and Kudur, Thimmakka says: “My husband and I began planting saplings in the 4 kilometres highway as teamwork.”
“My husband dug several small pits, planted saplings and surrounded them with twigs and branches to protect them. Then he went to a potter and brought two pairs of mud pots. We would take water from the nearby well. I would carry one pot on my head and one on my hips to go and we would water each sapling at least twice a week,” she shares.
Many of the trees planted by Thimmakka and her husband are now seven decades old.
She says: “We didn’t count them. My husband never told me how many we planted. We went on planting saplings all our lives. We just grew them. Now they are so big that three people are needed to hug it. They are 70 year old trees.”
At that time, there was no value for me, no value for my trees. My husband had been dead for 28 years. Then this boy came and showed me in his text book, that they were calling me SaalumaradaThimmakka!”
‘Saalumara’ means a row of trees in Kannada language.
Thimmakka has continued to spread the message of tree planting in the years that followed.
Her work was acknowledged with a coveted Padma Shri award this year.
Unfulfilled Dream – A Maternity Hospital for the Needy
Thimmakka does have some unfulfilled dreams.
“I want something good to happen in my village,” she says. “It is difficult for pregnant women to go for delivery. I asked for a maternity hospital in my name. But until now nobody has done anything about it. What shall I do?”
“I don’t have money to do this myself. I asked something for the good of the people. But so far it hasn’t happened – no good fortune after planting these trees. I feel disappointed,” she says.
Thimmakka and her late husband planted hundreds of trees along the highway near their home in Ramanagara district.
Those trees today stand strong. She feels utmost disappointed to watch people felling trees for widening roads.
She says “For those who have grown trees, won’t it hurt when they are cut? I said, please don’t touch the trees that I have grown. They said don’t worry. The newspaper people also came. But then they said they would cut the trees.”
“My son and I said we would lie in front of the trees. They became silent. The minister has also assured me that the trees you planted will not be cut.”
At St. Joseph’s college in Bengaluru, SaalumaradaThimmakka was given a standing ovation by the students.
Today, the living legend and tree lover by heart and soul is gently spreading her message – Make the World Near You Green and Celebrate Being Part of It.
(The author is the founder of Powerful Teachers)