'So a tree is like a God for me'
Interview with m k harikumar
[This interview is the synopsis of the long talk Mr K Santhosh Kumar, Editor, Saturday Digest, had with Mr Harikumar in Kochi.]
Harikumar, now that you have resigned from your full time job as a journalist, don't you feel it a mistake that you have committed?
No. Instead I feel I did the right thing. I would have resigned before. In fact I have more time now to pursue my passions than before. I get plenty of time to write as well. In fact I am working on three books that is to be published by January 2007. To be frank with you, I repent for the precious time I lost in the crap of a newspaper.Tell me, you said about your passions.
What are your passions?
Trees are my passion. I always dream of trees. I have a peculiar attachment to trees. As a schoolboy I used to carry a lot of leaves in between the pages of my notebook, so that I always felt the presence of something I loved most. This love has grown into a big dream today, and when I was working in the newspaper, I have to keep this dream away in some hidden cells in my heart. Now I took it our and polished in such a way that I am into a mission of planting One Crore Trees across all the nations in the world.
Is it something like "forestation"?
You may think so, and many like you do think this as such. In fact planting one crore saplings across the six continents is not a simple joke and neither it is a silly job. In fact it is NOT as you put it. It is more than that.
Can you explain it?
I call my dream-project "Aaranyakam". Simply put, it is a Sanskrit word that connotes something related with forests or trees. In ancient India, all "guru kulams" were amid thick forests and were invariably surrounded by woods. From this "gurukulams", a lifestyle of ancient sages was developed that in turn gave birth to our Vedas and traditions of knowledge. All this, of course, was influenced by the woods around them. A kind of "Aaranyakam" thus evolved.
Is Aaranyakam a conventional process of planting trees everywhere?
No. A lot depends on how you look at the process of planting saplings somewhere. Anyone can plant a sapling and leaving it on its own from the next moment. People seldom care a jungle tree or any tree for that matter. With this project, I plan to plant any tree. And I am not going to leave them on its own afterwards. I would like people to care them like a child till it is grown. I also will see that the trees planted under this project are not cut down for nasty human needs. Any tree planted anywhere in this world under this project Aaranyakam would be documented properly and a database will be created. After a few years from now anyone can ask for any data about a tree thus planted under Aaranyakam.
Sounds interesting, but why this kind of care for a tree that is planted in some remote corner of the earth?
My approach to a tree is quite peculiar because I see a lot of meanings in the existence of a tree. Normally everyone could not fathom what I mean. Not a single individual could look at a tree as I look at it. That is why I keep a documented record of each and every tree that is planted under this Project. For this I have already launched a website too. This website will have a Tree Map and a Database. Both the Tree Map and Database are the evidences for the implementation of "Aaranyakam". Anyone in the world can access the Tree Map or Database at any time and find the history of a sapling that was planted not only in his country but in any country in this world.
.Can you explain why you record all details about a planted sapling?
First, I want to make Project Aaranyakam world's first ever project of its kind with complete statistical data of each sapling planted till this date anywhere in this world. Then only environmentalists or nature lovers will listen to this global movement. Mind you, then only any international environment organizations or WWF or UNESCO etc would listen to Aaranyakam and watch where it is going. Second, I said my love of trees is like how I love another human being. Do you love another human being if you do not know him at all? This is a sensitive issue as it is. But it is here that my vision about this Project Aaranyakam snugly fits in.
Please elaborate on this vision?
Just look at a tree. It takes the sun, rain, wind, and all the climatic changes silently and still continues to grow, at the same time giving shelter, shade and protection to many animals and birds. It has no demands or complaints of any sort. It stands there tall as a symbol of universal selfless love. That is how I look at any tree. And that is why I love a tree. So when I plant a sapling today, it is going to be there tomorrow, even after my death, still giving shelter and shade to many human beings, animals and birds etc. If they bear fruit, anyone can pluck it and eat them. A Tree do not complain. It gives you all that it has FREE. It seldom asks anything from you in return at all. So a tree is like a God for me. A God never asks anyone for anything or complain about any one to his favourite worshipper. A God is not partial. So is a tree. I hope you understand what I mean.
And where does this Project Aaranyakam fits in?
Project Aaranyakam is depicting this message of universal love that a tree exhibits and my vision about it. That is how I look at this mission of planting a crore trees across the oceans..
So Aaranyakam is more a symbolic project than a scientific project?
It is both symbolic and scientific. Environmentalists and nature lovers would uphold the science behind making the earth greener. I try to find a genuine reason to plant a tree and show myself what I can do for the future generations. I am not an advocate of mysticism or symbolism, neither an advocate of science. Science is reality. Symbolism is a short cut to attribute ones vision into a representative object. To me a TREE is a representative object of the whole Nature.
Tell me do you inculcate a culture of planting trees for the coming generation?
Every culture mankind practices has some principles anchored into them. Planting a tree can be developed as a culture than a formal custom. For that you should know WHY you plant a tree. And also you must be motivated enough to attain a stage of humbleness. Once you develop to that level naturally and automatically you find no meaning in many things we do in our life. Moreover you find your past life as a net total of stress, worries, tensions, unwanted commitments etc. The life you lived so far suddenly becomes a thing of the past than a stepping-stone to the future. When you take up tree planting as a part of your daily life, it becomes your second nature. You need to give it a lot of deliberate thinking before taking it up as a "must do" for you. I would love this mission develop into as a part of one's culture. I do not find anything wrong with it.
Who do you like to come up with a willingness to associate in your mission?
I do not invite or force anyone to associate with me. I wish those who can understand my vision in its full worth can associate with this project. Only such people could sponsor this. In fact I am looking for sponsorship to my project from anyone who can realize and understand the meaning of this project. I know it is hard to come by as any involvement in this would bring no fame or publicity for the sponsor.
I heard that you have already launched this project in Kerala State, India. Where do you like to start this project next?
I have already launched it in a humble way in Aluva, near to my hometown, on the banks of river Periyar. Immediately after that the first ever module of 1000 saplings has started in Bangalore, in a most beautiful academic premises I have ever seen in my life. Now I am moving on to the Middle East countries to promote the next sequences of modules there. I am looking for some sponsors who can accommodate my Project Officer and me for three months in the Middle East till we finish our second stage of Project Aaranyakam there.
What kind of trees you plan to plant in the Gulf?
I am not particular about the types of trees. I believe palm trees are the best suited for the Middle East climate. I would plant 1000 palm trees as modules in each gulf nation.
When do u begin the Project in the Gulf?
Incidently, I have already launched the Project in Dubai with the kind help of Dubai Municipality. But that was a small effort, of course. I am looking out for solid sponsors to help Aaranyakam take roots in the Gulf region. As soon as I get a sponsor who can afford our, mine and my Project Officer's, accommodation, travel and food there for three months. Mind you, we will visit all the seven nations in the Middle East region, and plant 10000 trees in total within three months.
Do you plan anything else other than planting trees while you travel all over the globe?
During this mission I get more time than I had in my life as a journalist in Kerala. More time means I can write more. I plan a research book on Khalil Gibran, and a metaphysical study of the Desert and a novel too. A new publishing company from the Gulf will publish both books in English. I do not want to reveal who they are right now.
How do you meet the expenses involved in implementing this project all over the world?
We came into this world as a helpless child with no money. But we lived on and on and we earned and spend too. My trust in God will see that my vision is materialized somehow.
Such is my faith and optimismWhat do you find as the most difficult aspect in implementing the one crore trees project?
Finding a suitable spot to plant a three-inch high sapling is the most difficult aspect I have found so far. I can easily find one crore saplings, but not enough space to plant them. Land is dearer than life here. Those who have land think that they would take this land with them when they go away from this world. That is why land has become more dearer than life.
How can you then find 250 acres of land to plant your symbolic forest of trees from all the world?
I am sure if I can complete this one crore trees project as I planned, I can get this piece of land as a donation from any nation. It would be the property of that nation and my symbolic forest would grow there.
Is Aaranyakam the name of your symbolic forest?
Yes. I cannot find a better name that conveys a universal feeling. Aaranyakam is anybody's not mine alone. Aaranyakam stands for selfless love and global peace. Every one can hear what global peace is. But seldom one understands selfless love. That is why Aaranyakam becomes more important a project as it is as a symbol of "selfless love".You said in the beginning that a tree is more than just a tree for you.
Can you take me deep into your vision?
There is nothing complex in my vision. Look at the Nature. Nature is omnipotent and omnipresent. You cannot control Nature, but it controls you. A tree is a pocket edition of Nature. You cannot control the growth of a tree, but you can kill the tree. And a tree can influence your existence. The trees control the very climatic condition of our nature. Science has proved it beyond any doubt. I believe that a tree has a religion of its own. It practices that religion and we are beneficiaries. After all every religion speaks of selfless love. The trees do practice the same without our knowing. They take the brunt of nature and protect animals and man by giving us shade and shelter and food and in fact themselves.
Which part of a tree is unusable for man or animal?
That is why I said a tree is selfless and generous. Every religion preaches us to do the same things. But we do not do as it says. But a tree does it. All trees do it. That make me think and believe that they do have a "religion" of their own, which man should understand and recognize. I see a lot of things beyond our imagination in the life of a tree. I told you just one example now. So Aaranyakam stands for selfless love. Once love is there, peace follows. That is my vision of Aaranyakam. It is my mission to make others know of it. That is what exactly it is.
Is it hard to mix your "vision of life" with the "mission of life"?
Once you understand what is what, both seem the two sides of a same coin. One is a purpose, and the other is a method to reach your goal. A vision is endless, where as a mission can end abruptly. I want the whole world must recognize the vision behind Aaranyakam. I want every nation should help me carryout my mission till one crore trees are planted from corner to corner of this planet earth.
.Can I say your God is "tree"?
I am happy if you say so. Because no quarrels or war break out in the name of my God, tree. No crusades will happen anymore in the name of a tree. No politics or any other religion work dirty tricks in the name of a tree. No terrorism will be there in the name of a tree.
Can you imagine one quarrelling in the name of a tree with another ?
Remember no tree has an enemy. Only man has an enemy. So it is better to worship a tree than a God created by the man for the man and of the man. One more thing makes the tree important to me. A tree never dies. It grows and grows throughout its life. Whereas a man or an animal stops growing after some biological stage. A tree cannot copy a man or an animal into its life. Still it lives uniquely different than man or animal. A tree drinks, eats, reproduces, and expresses its own moods as the Nature around it changes. But they do it entirely different than a man or an animal. That is what exactly made me LOVE the tree more. My love is a passion, a burning passion. Only those who can understand the underlying meanings of all that I have told you will realize the worth of this project Aaranyakam.
What message do you like to give to the world, Harikumar?
Find a place to plant a tree and have a room in your heart for another human being. By loving a tree, you love your posterity without your own knowing. So plant a sapling for Aaranyakam, and help me spread Aaranyakam everywhere