A Tree Hugger
They used words, songs, skits, dance, prayers, paintings, slogans and even a fancy dress to convey one simple message – without trees our Doon Valley will be an urban wasteland, if we don’t act now, it will be too late.
Citizens For Green Doon on Sunday organized the 1st Annual Dehradun Tree Festival. Though common in the Western World, this tree festival was probably the first in India. “The concept of a tree festival is to appreciate the trees, feel close to them and celebrate being near them” explained Anku Bakshi Sharma, the spokesperson for the group. No wonder that most people headed straight for “Hug a Tree” Corner. “That was the warmest hug I ever received in my life, after my mother’s of course” grinned Shashank Maithani, a 16yr old student who hugged a tree for the first time in her life.
The yellow dragon with a "green" spirit
The Festival started with an hour long Artists Convention & Poster Making. “We have purposely not labelled our events as ‘Competition’ said Ruchi Singh Rao, a volunteer of Citizens For Green Doon “competitions raise our tension levels, this on the other hand is a festival, where everyone comes to enjoy” she added. Over 350 students from over a dozen schools of Dehradun participated in the event. The youngest participating artist was 3yr old Niharika Gulati, who drew her house with a tree. After the judges assessed them, these paintings were then put up on a wall as leaves of trees.
Setting the ball rolling was Mrs. Sonia Pandey, who called upon the youth to work actively for protecting the trees of Dehradun. She said that time has come for Doonites to take the reigns of Dehradun into their own hands and not to trust the politicians. ”Most of us have shed tears helplessly when trees were cut over the last few years in silence. Now we must wake up and act” she added.
Singers of the Aina Group
Highlight of the show as a performance “Ek thi prithvi, Ek thi Gaura”, a 20 min play by artists of the Sambhav Group. Based on the life of legendary Gaura Devi who ignited the Chipko Movement in the hills of Uttarakhand in the 70’s, the play moved a number of spectators, including the host of the show, Alok Ulfat, a renowned theatre activist himself, to tears. Said Alok “I was so moved by the play that I went backstage and cried!” Alok’s play “Hari Zindagi” was also staged in the festival. Directed by Raman Rawat, the play tells the story of a village headman, who buys air conditioners & cars by getting the trees of his village cut and the protest by the villagers. Both the play received a thundering ovation from the crowd.
Giving a new dimension to the issue of tree chopping, leaders of various faiths talked to the audience about the importance of trees in various religions. While Rev. JP Singh quoted the Bible, Dr. S. Farooq quoted verses from the Koran to highlight the need to save trees. Ms TC Luding from Sakya Hospital read the English translation of a poem by HH The 14th Dalai Lama “The Sheltering Tree”, which points out that Buddha was born under a tree, he gained enlightenment under a tree and passed attained Nirvana, under two trees. She pointed out that in Buddhism it is forbidden for monks to cut trees. Nuns from Sakya Monastery lent the festival a spiritual bent when they prayed for the trees of Dehradun. Monks from Sakya Center also presented “Garcham”, a mask dance, which left the audience speechless.
The Mask Dance
Yamini Negi, a student of St. Thomas College, gave a passionate talk on the need to protect the trees of the Doon valley, asking the audience to remember how green our valley was, only a few years ago. “Where have all the trees gone? Where is the fresh air, the morning dew and the monsoon rains? Where are the birds of Doon?” she asked the audience passionately. On the same theme, a group of youngsters, led by Abhinav Goyal, under the banner of Aina Group, sang a song “O Jaag Jay, Bhatke Musafir…” Students of Doon International School sang a beautiful song “Vraksh Mat Kato” and Shweta Kothari, of the same school, gave a talk on the importance of trees.
Paintings on the Wall
That the three hour Tree festival left an indelible impression on the mind of visitors was clear from the feelings it provoked in them. Said Swati Bisht, a class 12 student of St. Thomas “To be honest, I had never heard of Gaura Devi before, now when I go home I will search the internet for her. I have become an ardent admirer of Gaura Devi. I wish when I grow up I become as strong a person as she was”
Summing up the evening, Alok Ulfat said “All revolutions come through dance, drama and art. Today we have tried to awaken the love for trees, in these young people using all these three mediums. I think the people of Doon are waking up”.
Paintings on the Wall
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