As I went from Bastar to Modinagar, a city of mills and factories with gray concrete structures, bazaars bulging with electronic articles, goods made of plastic, nylon and steel from the factories and the small scale industries gave me a claustrophobic feelings in almost all the trips I made in search of materials made in Modinagar for the work which had not really taken any shape in my mind. Modinagar seemed crowded all the times outside Sikribaug walls where artists were put up in an old Modi house spread over acres of open land. It is during one of the trips to the bazaar with Aas Mohamad an assistant, that I came across office of Forest Department right in the middle of the bazaar street, while walking through the nursery and saplings of all kinds of trees the idea of this project began evolving. The Forest department officials were extremely helpful but were curious to know why I wanted Mahua saplings.
Why Mahua trees and that too in Modinagar?
Like a Banyan tree in many cultures, Mahua is regarded as a ‘tree of life’ in Bastar by the adivasis, It is used on all occasions, from ‘birth to death’. Many parts of this tree, including the bark, are used for their medicinal properties. Extracting alcohol is one thing which adivasis regard essential during rituals and celebrations but its other medicinal properties are as significant and because of its usefulness it is considered holy by them. Whereas a forest officer in Kondagaon Bastar, while talking to me had mocked adivasis, drinking Mahua and offering it to their gods and goddesses as well. He also stated that to discourage drinking, no more Mahuas should be planted.
The intention of this project was also to include students in the tree planting activity for them to know about the significance of a Mahua tree, which is not very common in the State of Uttar Pradesh. The proposal was discussed with 5 school authorities and one rest house.
Installing them for a day at Sikribaugh on the open day was a symbolic gesture. The saplings packed in a ‘chosen manner’ assisted by a nursery worker signifies the plastic free packaging.
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