Love for trees is a biological process and as long as we are alive, the longing for staying close to nature resides within us in various forms and shapes. I feel great affection for trees because they represent age and beauty along with the countless blessings of life and growth.
Here, I would like to excerpt a fascinating story about a man lasting love for trees from the city of Lahore that I have read about a decade ago. I read it from an online newspaper source by the name Daily Times. The purpose of sharing this story is to realize the importance of trees in our folklore and traditions.
Trees are an integral and valuable part of our natural and cultural heritage. When we even look at our history, our literature and poetry, our music and art, we discover trees as a fundamental element of our identity and expression.
This story as narrated by Abdul Hameed who was a renowned novelist and short story writer of his time. He was also particularly remembered for writing a prominent children’s TV play Ainak Wala Jin for Pakistan Television Corporation which used to broadcast on PTV during the mid-1990s.
Abdul Hameed used to write a column every week based on his memories of old Lahore in a very pleasant and storytelling style. He started writing a column for Daily Times newspaper on a weekly basis in his native Urdu language. His recollections of old Lahore in the mid-1950s or early years of independence (as we called this a golden era) should be appreciated greatly because of the fact that such proactive writing is rare in our literature. Moreover, we should also not forget the exceptional work of Khalid Hasan who is the person behind the translation of these masterpieces into English without losing any of the original composition and rhythm.
This story is about an undying love for Banayan Trees. It is believed that between two banayan trees lies a doorway to a new world or heaven.
There are two ways to read this story either by browsing here or by purchasing this book of 266 pages from any reliable sources that you usually prefer such as
(As narrated by Abdul Hamid in his weekly column for Daily Times and willingly translated into English by Khalid Hassan.)
I was associated with the Lahore radio station for close to forty-five years as a staff artist. My friendships were mostly with singers, composers and instrumentalists.
Those radio years gave me the opportunity to get to know artists who had few, if any, equals.
They were such nice people also, seldom asking anyone to share their burdens, which were considerable.
They were people of such childlike simplicity that even minor things would make them happy.
They were also very tender-hearted and sometimes a single note of music would bring tears to their eyes.
The famous sarangi player, I remember was Ustad Ghulam Muhammad of Kasur, who had accompanied some of the most famous classical singers of those times.
He would always accompany Lahore’s great classical vocalist Ustad Kalay Khan. In his later years, he had come to be associated with the Lahore radio station, which afforded me an opportunity to observe him closely.
He was thickset and his hair had disappeared except over his temples. He had a peculiar walk, weighted somewhat to one side.
The station had moved into its new building by now. Behind the canteen, they had set up the central production unit and the recording studios where classical, semi-classical and Punjabi folk music was recorded.
The musicians associated with the central production unit were a separate group, and they included Ustad Ghulam Muhammad.
He would also, when needed, provide accompaniment to performances being broadcast or recorded for the main station.
To go from the central production unit to the main station, you had to walk under a huge banyan tree.
Ustad Ghulam Muhammad would always look up at the tree’s thick branches when passing under it.
There was another banyan tree facing the engineering rooms, which was not so thick-leafed as the big one.
The two trees were a hundred, maybe, a hundred and fifty yards apart.
“Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” Herman Hesse
Ustad Ghulam Muhammad once said, as we sat in the canteen sipping tea, that the tree next to the central production unit was female and the one facing the engineering rooms was male.
“When the wind blows, that is when the two of them make contact. They are very much in love with each other,” he told us. We loved his childlike talk – a hallmark of the Ustad’s personality.
It so happened that the engineering people decided to build a few more rooms but this could only be done if the smaller banyan tree was chopped down.
Little did they know or care about male and female trees and so they sent for men who began to hack the tree down.
When Ustad Ghulam Muhammad learnt what was going on, he rushed to the chief engineer’s office, begging him not to bring down the tree.
He argued that if this tree, which was a male was cut down, someone would lose his life. But he failed to convince him.
The tree was brought down and construction got underway. I witnessed all that with much sadness.
Now whenever Ustad Ghulam Muhammad would pass under the remaining tree, he would look up and say, “Its mate is dead; this one is not going to survive long.”
While the tree did not die, Ustad Ghulam Muhammad did.
It happened one day when he was walking under the lone tree. He shuddered, fell to the ground in a heap and died.
The symbolization of Banayan tree in relation to this story
“A tree which has lost its head will never recover it again, and will survive only as a monument of the ignorance and folly of its Tormentor.”
– George William Curtis
Love for trees is a natural process and as long as we are alive, the longing for staying close to nature resides within us in many forms and shapes. I feel great affection for trees because they will teach us what we cannot learn from all the educators of the world.
While the tree did not die, Ustad Ghulam Muhammad did.
It’s indeed a heartbreaking story of a man profound commitment for trees and how he cared for them and worried about their protection when he used to walk under the shade of these trees.
That banayan tree did not die because of the fact that it represents longevity and immortality in South Asian culture. It has a notorious attitude of surviving for centuries regardless of its surroundings.
It is believed that between two banayan trees lies a doorway to a new world or heaven. This is because of the fact that banyan tree in our culture represents eternal life and everlastingness.
Thank you for reading and highlighting my work. I frequently write for trees and think about them in my happy time. Please visit my blog and do comment on my posts for giving me a little dose of encouragement that I rarely receive.