Hyderabad: It was an evening of multilingual poetry under one of the banyan trees on the Chevella Road. A group of poets, poetry lovers, and nature lovers shared poetry in Urdu, Telugu, Hindi, and English with the audience enjoying every word of the recitation.
This was their way of showing solidarity with the trees, and protesting their felling for a highway expansion project. Over a thousand Banyans line the National Highway (NH- 163) stretching from Hyderabad to Manneguda. The trees are under threat of felling because of an unnecessary four-laning project by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
These Banyans were planted by the Nizam nearly 100 years ago.
In total, nearly 9,000 trees along with these majestic Banyans are at risk. This also includes the last-remaining scrub forests of Mudimyal and Kandlapally–home to many grassland specialists, including the migrating Harriers and the rare Tawny Eagles (listed as ‘vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List).
The event began with nature lover Kobita Dass Kolli talking about the Save the Banyans Campaign and the importance of old ecosystems. After this, the moderator Dr. Amir Ullah Khan (Economist and Professor) took over and read poems by poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz.
This was followed by sessions of poetry readings by poets who travelled to Chevella from far off places. Girender sang a meaningful Telugu song likening a tree to a mother and Natasha Ramarathnam read out her poem from the perspective of a teenage girl from an Adivasi community.
A young poet Ananya Sanghameshwar, read her poem which was an ode to a tree, followed by one spoken by mother Earth. Sadhana Ramchander spoke about the compassionate Telugu poem “Pushpa Vilapam” by Jandhyala Papaiah Shastry and sung soulfully by legendary singer Ghantasala.
Sudha Nair read out an old favourite – “Pushp ki Abhilasha” by Makhanlal Chaturvedi. Mohit ‘Ojhal’, poet and ghazal writer read out his poems including “Kat gaya hai hamara jungle” to much applause. Asiya Khan read out Anand Vishwanadha’s poem on the Banyans of Chevella; and “Trees of Cubbon Park” sent by Priyanka Sacheti and another on the banyans by Ira Vangipurapu.
Well-known movie producer Elahe Hiptoola read out from Faiz, and also “Yeh hosla kaise jhuke” – a very apt song for the Chevella banyans campaign.
“An absolutely wonderful Sunday afternoon to save the Banyans of Chevelle. It proved yet again that these 100-year-old trees are not just necessary to preserve the eco-system of the flora and the fauna but also our culture. And be honest, would you not rather listen to the magic of poetry than to the noise of vehicles? I rest my case”, said film producer Elahe Hiptoola.
“It was a great evening under the banyans, listening to poetry from passionate individuals and understanding the need to save the banyans forever”, said Kalpana Ramesh, Founder of the Rainwater Project in Hyderabad.
The initiative of Nature Lovers of Hyderabad is about protecting Hyderabad’s legacy. These trees are all 100+ years old, and were planted when Osmansagar and Himayatnagar were being built. The group would like to explore with the government, ways of handling the issues that concern the people of Telangana at better balancing our development needs and saving our natural heritage.