Cannibaled t r e e s & the other s t o r i e s

"Please do not think that we are happy because we are singing songs……We are not."
An old woman said while leaving the meeting.
"But you will be…soon…may be…"
A weak voice of mine had no relevance. It was not heard. I did not want it to be heard. Because it sounded so stupid. A group of villagers surrounded us with stories, demands & songs. A group of forest villagers.

The land where I live today could have been a forestland. A land where there could have been trees, which could have made our map greener. And our lives healthier. Nevertheless, that was not to happen. Instead, the trees got cannibaled. They started eating humans. Some survived and some are dead. Some are trying to die.

Manshi and I went down the narrow slope off a road. The slope took us to a narrow river where some women sat bathing in the sun. The water made sound and children ran away with fear because they thought we came from the forest department to evict them. However, a heard of goats came climbing up the same slope and we stopped. The goats stopped. We stood in front of each other for good four minutes. Only the bells in their necks made sound and nothing else. It felt hot and confronted, standing there. After a while, we were standing in front of the people on the hill, who were evicted. With the same goat-bell sound and a hot, confronted feeling.

People were evicted because they encroached on the land. The land was a forestland and the people were forest dwellers. The decision makers decided that dwelling upon people’s own land is ecologically and legally wrong. So, empty the land with all forces to plant more trees.
Now the dead ancestors are left alone and people are flying away in search of a new land to live on. They could have been dead by the bullets fired and the fires put inhumanly for the sake of planting more trees. Today their fault is that they are alive…things would have been much simpler if they were dead. We would get more oxygen, more space, more timber, more buildings and more highways… The trees are made cannibaled.

We entered a settled group of make shift tents. The hens ran with their chickens and children cried often, constantly. The hot wind blew and fluttered the plastic sheets of the tents. The abandoned land lay in peace down the hill with few burnt poles of the houses. An old man got up and stood in front of the camera. Behind him was a big thin tree and an empty blue sky. He said his grandfather lived here many years ago. The family grew here. There is no way back, to where the grandfather came from. He pointed at the burnt poles down the hill from where he had to run away when the eviction took place. He was accused of encroachment. He had old court papers proving that he has been living there from before 1980. In 1980, tribes who lived on forestland for years were given their share of the land. Officially, on papers, by the forest department. The old headman’s wrinkled hand clutched the paper and showed his and his villager’s names on the papers. A precious proof of their existence. But they were beaten up, as the trees got cannibaled.

Rayalibai was raped, as the trees got cannibaled.

Rameshbhai was almost burnt alive, as the trees got cannibaled.

Guddi’s saree was taken away, her food was poisoned and her family is leaving for the city in search of labor, as the trees got cannibaled.

As trees are eating up some humans, the others who make the trees cannibaled watch the show with a great pride. The show of saving the great tropical forest. The rows and rows of plantations will soon grow into trees of tropical forest. ‘The dooms day is arriving!’ the officials say and visit forests in big herds, to hunt for people to be eaten for the better tomorrow. Under the shadow of a newly tied roof, a forest villager says, "why would we cut down trees? The cut timber goes to the city."


Now onwards it is a story of timber.
Now we have a new war to fight. One more addition in the list of already existing many. It is an ecological frontier. The ‘green war’ will be noted in the history.
One truck, 100 guards, 3 jeeps leave in the morning for the day’s conquer.

Rayalibai cannot eat. She says they all should be sentenced to death. The forest ranger raped her in her own land, in front of her own husband. The story became news and came in the newspapers. The world knew about her, not the war. The kids gather outside her house, as we talk to her and we switch the camera off.

Deforestation, they say is caused by poverty, overpopulation’ and underdevelopment. The solutions therefore are simple. Lesser the people, more is the development. So, kill them like cockroaches.


Velachi hates old stinking dustbins. Especially in the monsoons when things rot quickly as the way feelings rot once, you stop paying attention to them. It is the same irritation. Her dustbin always overflows because she hates to empty it regularly in a larger one across the street. Why add more stink to the road? Actually, it is just that she avoids the important dirty job like she avoids many others. For example, crying for herself while watching a film or otherwise. But today she had to empty it after three weeks in 6 plastic bags. She had to stuff the bags with her hands. Crouching down in front of the dustbin, in a fresh white light of the tube light, she saw all the three weeks again. Just a few hours back, in the afternoon, Velachi had thrown a cup noodle cup with a biscuit rapper and a banana peel. Her lunch. It had rolled down from the heap and now the ants were eating it. When she picked it up, all the ants ran around the dustbin, some climbed up her feet. She angrily pressed and rolled her fingers over them. That ended their lives.
There were actually other options around the dustbin. Cigarette stubs, cooked chilies from the curry, curry leaves, milk packets and few hair strands...