The Mother of Trees
‘Each tree is a child to me’. These are the words of Saalumarada Thimmakka, a 106 year old
environmentalist of our country. Living in India, we see the progression in our country
through its urbanization and economic growth, but giving back to the environment is equally
important in order to ensure a sustainable future for the generations to come. We, as
individuals, say that we should plant at least one tree in our lifetime. Thimmakka, on the
other hand, blew these proportions to an unimaginable extent.
Thimmakka won the Padma Shri award for her work last year, and accepted it with her hands folded as a form of respect. According to her son, ‘She doesn’t harbour negative thoughts. She’s always kind to others. She only wishes good for others’. But it isn’t just her compassionate nature or actions that won her the award; it’s the incomparable dedication she gave to the act of parenting.
Born in a poor family in a village in Karnataka, Thimmakka never had the opportunity to receive a formal education. She had to take on household chores and activities, such as cooking, cleaning, and grazing sheep, and needed to work hard to earn even a fistful of food. While working as a quarry labourer at the age of ten, she met Bikkala Chikkayya, and they soon got married. However, even after several years, the couple weren’t successful at having any children. In order to fill this void in their lives, they decided to plant trees and care for the plants like their children. This commenced the couple’s journey of dedication and compassion as they grew and nurtured trees, planting them from their village to the neighbouring village,
Kudoor. They would walk long distances with several pots of water from nearby waterbodies to help their plants grow, and went through this hardship for their simple and pure love for nature.
In 1991, Thimmakka’s husband passed away, but she pushed herself to continue the project
they started with her utmost determination, courage and passion. Despite facing countless
problems like her house crumbling down due to heavy rains, Thimmakka continued to pursue
her passion towards the environment, thus earning the name ‘Saalumarada’, which means ‘a
row of trees’ in Kannada, to respect her work. Till today, she’s planted 8000 trees in her area,
a large number of them being banyan trees or bearing fruits, without looking back from her
project even once. Thimmakka’s contributions don’t just stop at planting trees; she is actively involved in the state and national environmental protection campaign. In addition, she is involved in building a rainwater storage tank for the annual function of her village and has also set up a trust for building up a hospital in her village.
Thimmakka is an excellent example who showed the world how uneducated women can make a big difference to the betterment of society, and shouldn’t be looked down upon. As mentioned before, Thimmakka won the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, hence being thanked by our nation for the undoubted love and pure heart with which she has given her life to bettering our country. Thimmakka also won more than fifty other awards over the years such as the National Citizen Award, the Indira Ratna Award, and the Mother of Tree award, but still remains to be completely humble and selfless.
Saalumarada Thimmakka, at the age of 106, lives with her foster son Umesh. She is an inspiration to every woman the society once looked down upon. Now known as the ‘mother of trees’, Thimmakka bestowed society and mankind with hard work, patience, and undying
love for the environment.