City Nature – Tree Tomb, Kasturba Gandhi Marg
Trees of Kasturba Gandhi Road.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
In this megapolis of tombs, this too appears to be a tomb. A tree fell down some years ago, here at Kasturba Gandhi Marg. All that is left is the stump of the trunk. The site resembles a memorial because a circle of unpainted bricks borders the tree’s remains (see photo). As if these remnants were sacrosanct, not to be stepped upon by an unsuspecting passerby.
What tree was it?
A quick investigation ended up in a catalogue of all the trees lining this side of the road. The survey begins at the KG Marg’s starting point, across the radial from Connaught Place’s N-block inner circle, and ends at British Council. You can cover the distance on foot in 10 minutes flat. Recording the trees demands more time. Understanding their entrenched relationship with the pavement society even more.
The first three trees are peepal.
Next, a neem. It harbours a colony of pigeons that helps a woman make her living. Chanda sits on the facing road-divider. She sells bird food to passers-by, who feed those grains to the neem’s pigeons—the birds frequently shuttle between the road-divider and the tree. (Chanda’s friendly head is a popular landing point for these kabutars.)
Next, a peepal, followed by a bargad–its severely wrinkled trunk is draped with a “Pollution Checking Centre” banner.
Next, a cluster of three peepals, reminiscent of Chekhov’s Three Sisters.
Next, a neem. It shelters the stall of fruit seller Phoolwati (her palms are tattooed with phool, or flowers.)
Next, a large peepal, followed by a small peepal.
Next, the aforementioned “tomb” flanked by two unfamiliar trees. (A few passers-by are approached. They look up at the two trees, guiltily shrugging.)
Next, a bargad, under which hawker Khurshid Alam used to sell masks during the pandemic. He is no longer seen.
Next, a gigantic bargad. It shelters a letterbox, plus two samosa stalls manned by Rajesh Kumar and Vibhishan respectively. The helpful Rajesh identifies those two mysterious trees to be jungle jalebi. “And that dead tree”–he means the one within the brick circle—“was also a jungle jalebi.” Rajesh finds it difficult to explain why the tree is named after a sweet dish. “Everyone calls it by this name in my village in Ayodhya.”
Next, a neem. It shelters Rahul’s shoe-repair stall.
Next, a neem again. This one shelters Pinky
Gupta’s cigarette kiosk, which she runs with son Radhe.
The trees ahead: four neems, and five peepals, one of which shelters Pappu Chaat Bhandar—the kiosk serves yummy aloo chaat.
Next, two more peepals, followed by a keekar, which shelters Brij Kishore Gupta’s fruit juice stall.
Next, two peepals, a bargad, and a gular, which is currently bearing fruit, but its leaves are crisscrossed with tiny holes.
Finally, the last tree. The bargad faces the British Council. Its massive trunk and its great entanglement of aerial roots makes it look supremely sacred. You impulsively bow your head, offering the bargad an extempore prayer.