City Monument – Kesar’s Pilkhan Tree as Covid-Era Memorial, Connaught Place
A memorial to the coronavirus loss
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The trunk bifurcates into long, thick branches. Each branch is clad with thousands of glossy green leaves. Each of these branches bifurcates further into more branches, which are less thick but boasting in their turn an equally hefty number of leaves. The tree goes high up into the air, and sideways, covering a good part of the sidewalk.
This pilkhan at F block in Connaught Place is like a forest. It is also linked to the terrible second wave of the coronavirus that killed thousands of people.
Fruit seller Kesar had a remarkable relationship with the huge pilkhan tree: She had planted it. “I planted it in 2001,” she had laughed, as she chatted to The Delhi Walla a few years ago, with the tree preening beside her (her photo is from 2018). Explaining that pilkhans grow very fast, she had said that “it keeps me cool even when hot dusty winds are gusting all over.”
Kesar died during the second wave of the coronavirus, says magazine vendor Vaibhav, who operates a foreign magazines news stand nearby. Kesar had been selling fruits for years on this spot, long before the idea of planting a pilkhan popped into her mind. The tree also served a practical purpose for her. Tucked away in the branches was a spare basket where she kept kaala namak and paper plates. If the basket was there in the tree, then one knew that Kesar would be there too, sitting under it, selling fruits to passersby.
But this evening, there is no basket in the tree and no Kesar underneath. Since it is raining, a few shoppers are using the tree’s canopy as a shelter. Not many might remember that a woman is responsible for the comfort they find here in all seasons.
Indeed, so far there is no memorial in the Delhi region to commemorate the people lost to the coronavirus. But this tree, planted by a citizen who succumbed to the second wave, certainly might be considered the people’s memorial to the great tragedy of our times.
Remembering Kesar, and All