She was stranded by society for not being able to give birth. That abandoned childless woman got this year`s Padma Shri, India`s fourth highest civilian award. Saalumarada Thimmakka also known as Aalada Marada Timakka is not a prominent figure in a literal sense. Many people of her own country may not even know her. A naive Thimmakka of Karnataka`s Gubbi Taluk has planted about 80,000 saplings in the last 80 years and raised them as her own.
Thimmakka with her gudgeon laborer husband Chikkaiah had been abandoned by the society for not having children. In order to forget the insult and woe and console themselves this couple decided to plant trees.
It was not easy to implement this decision in their penniless life. In the absence of adequate funding, they started planting the banyan tree. In the first year 10, 15 in the second year, and 20 saplings were planted in the third year. Chikkaiah quit his job at one time to look after their arbor children. Thimmakka earned their livelihood and took care of their children with her husband after returning home. They used to walk four kilometers every day to water these plants. She along with her husband planted 284 banyan trees from their village Hulikal to Kudur. The shadowy vast trees standing around a four-kilometer-long way are the precedent of Thimmakka`s love.
Thimmakka lost her husband in 1991 but continued her journey alone. Loneliness, the pain of deprivation could not remove her from her destination. Then, she started getting acknowledgment for her work. The society that had abandoned her once, started lauding her dubbing her as Saalumarada (row of trees in the Kannada language). Even after this great work, this old woman may remain behind the scenes. Through the locals, her legacy continued to spread slowly. After the `National Citizen`s award` in 1995, the whole of India comes to know about Thimmakka. Many international organizations come forward to help her.
Thimmakka`s children have grown up now. According to a botanical survey, the commercial value of the planted treea by Thimmakka is worth crores. She could earn huge amount of money by selling these trees if she wants. But Thimmakka`s plan is a little different. She donated all the plants to the state, did not want anything in return.
This great lady has been honored with various awards repeatedly. Her excellent work for the society and environment has been found in the textbooks of Indian School-College.
Thimmakka`s journey will stop someday following the natural rule but her planted trees will carry her legacy of love and affection for more than a few hundred years with them. Thimmakka is an inspiration to the current generation. She is not a so-called environmentalist. Thimmakka, a naive woman of a small sleepy village, emerged to a unique height through her work. Her firm determination towards the environment and uninterrupted work for environmental protection will be an example for the next generation.
Bangla Insider/ SM