Half a decade of living with immortals

A view of the forest garden

Same place around 4 years back

It is uniquely beneficial to live with others who have longer lifespan. Consider a group of retired aged old men. Out of these some  would have better health and longer life span. While others in the group would die due to age, these guys with long life span will survive for a few more years. Effectively the people who passed away would have gone while they still have their walking-mates, their friends around them; lucky of them! 

Above example was just to give a perspective of what it is like to live with a tree.

A maintenance free hedge made with a fountain grass variety collected
from charmadi ghati

Trees appear to grow forever and let us see their grandeur grow with time. I am lucky to have made them join my life, so that I will have my mates until my end, for sure.

Life of trees is as eventful as ours or more, just that it is spread over a much longer lifespan. For a tree of 1000 years lifespan, 1 year in its life is like how 1 month will be in our life.

I have closely lived with around 250 potential trees for 5 human years, which are now effectively like 5 month old human babies. 

Each one of these saplings were hand collected, grown from seed or collected from nurseries or gifted by other plant-loving friends.

Now after 5 years, many of them stand double as tall as me. I have thoroughly enjoyed this process.

Seats to sit during evening walks - from some left over logs 

The species introduction dilemma

Every plant, animal or micro organism will manipulate its surroundings in its own way. As a general rule, it should manipulate sufficiently enough to maintain its survival but not beyond so as not to crumble the surroundings down due to such a manipulation. 

Planting and growing is a manipulation as well. Too many times I have questioned the urge to nursery and plant the flora. The typical rule book says that we should not introduce external species to our surroundings which could potentially put the system to imbalance. 

But the very spread of species across the globe has happened due to seeds, spores and pollen having been carried away by wind, water, birds, animals, ants and other factors. We have the "leaf cutter ants" which grow the fungus they use as food. Some insects like ants and termites pass on the necessary bacteria needed for food digestion to their next generation by making them eat their faecal matter.

However, there is difference between how humans do it versus how rest of the creatures do. Other carriers just carry using their muscle power and let the ‘carried’ survive on their own with no special attention towards them. However, humans take the power of mass transport, mono culture plantation, irrigation and other means to ensure the survival of their interests. There is definitely a need to strike a balance.

Humans have a natural tendency to depict what they see in nature as a painting or a miniature representation, or sing about them or dance, write about them or collect their dead samples. 

Growing a planned forest is a similar such temptation and I have succumbed to it. While doing this, I have ensured that I leave the plants to their ability to survive and not provided them much support except occasional watering using a hose pipe during hard summer (which I have only done myself only when I get time). I have taken care not to extend this to places where there is already a forest grown.

In spite of the above justification, I know how to be an opponent to my own arguments and defeat them.

Species introduction is debatable at length - should we ever? how much? the definition and range of ‘local species’ etc. But it first needs us - participants of the discussion - to live out of ‘local resources’ to take part in such a discussion of ‘localness’. I am afraid none of us qualify enough.

My takeaways out of this exercise

Fancy and pompous tag names to these works like ‘saving nature’ is nearly a self-deceit. I plant and grow for me to enjoy - out of a pure selfish reason. Over the last couple of years I got to learn quite a lot about how annuals and perennials survive, behave and follow austerity and opulence in various stages of their life. In that sense I have grown along with my trees. I would like to grow for a few more decades until I fall behind my trees and part ways with them.

Ensete superbum - seeded banana variety - my long time dream

Alpinia galanga - a ginger family member - a draught resistent medicinal hedge plant

Lotus inside an old JCB tyre.


  1. Thanks Vasanth for sharing your vision. This will inspire many others.


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