The Green Hands That Make All The Difference

“Shall we plant an Ashoka tree in Papa’s (my father in law) memory, since we are going to the Inner Wheel Forest on 9th?” I asked Abhay. “Why, the Ashoka tree?” A counter question in response. “Because Papa’s name was Ashok, so an Ashoka tree would be an apt one to plant.” “Going by that logic, what tree would you plant for me? I don’t know of any tree called Abhay.” “It would be a banyan tree for you because you are big and strong and support every one who you meet, just like the banyan.”
Inner Wheel Forest is a small green patch in Kandivali. Nusrat ji and Afzal Sir, have been instrumental in converting a dump yard into a sprawling forest teeming with life. A place where humans and nature cohabit. The couple have turned it around into the present green lungs, with about 1000 indigenous trees growing here. They’ve been working on it for the past six years and Inner Wheel adopted it five years back. Having seen my ScientyKids videos, Nusrat ji wanted me to do some science thing with the children from the slums as she personally conducts lessons in hygiene and moral values there. It was to be done on the 9th of July and Abhay and I had spoken about us planting a tree there.
It so happened that 9th of July happened to be the 13th day of Abhay’s death. So, I requested Nusrat ji to plant a Banyan tree in Abhay’s memory. She promised that she would do so and would personally ensure that it is taken care of. She informed me about the plantation and I promised to visit the Forest but could plan a visit only in November, just a few days before Abhay’s birthday and informed Nusrat ji about it. She told that both she and Afzal Sir would be waiting for us. 
When we reached, I eagerly asked about the plant and she sort of tried to delay talking about it. I patiently waited for some time and asked again. It was then that she told me about a major fire at the forest, the previous day. About 45 trees were burned along with the grass all around. She was not sure about what had happened to the banyan tree, all the trees in its vicinity had burned down. When we went there, only Abhay’s tree stood unscathed, though lonely. 
Nusrat ji gave us a can to water Abhay’s tree. Both Shubham and I watered it stood by the tree for quite some time. I wanted to pluck a leaf and bring it back with me but Shubham stopped me from doing so as there were exactly five leaves growing. 
On our way back home, we moved out of the forest and got into a rickshaw. As we turned the corner to touch the main road, a leaf fell upon my lap. It is not a banyan leaf but a leaf nevertheless. May be it was Abhay’s way of telling me that all was fine and he was very much around.
Today’s post is dedicated to Nusrat ji and Afzal Sir who have been looking after Abhay more than me. I am forever indebted to them for all that they have been doing. I will go and meet Abhay again but they meet him regularly, nurture him and are the reason that he’s strong today. Ever a fighter, I know he’s big enough to take care of himself and also of those who visit him for food, support and shelter. Abhay is growing well and may be I should grow up too and make myself useful.
Thank you very much Nusrat ji and Afzal Bhai for looking after Abhay with so much love. “Abuji, there’s a one and only special tree called Abhay which grows in the heart of your beloved city.”

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