Sunday, July 7

Punjab’s tree man leaves behind a green legacy

Gurdev Singh had earned the sobriquet “Trivenian Wala Baba” for planting Trivenis, a cluster of three trees — peepal, banyan and neem, writes Jatinder Preet in The Sunday Guardian
Gurdev Singh at his village few days before he died
Nonagenarian Gurdev Singh died this week, leaving behind a rich legacy of green cover around his village Ganduan in Punjab's Sangrur district. The old man had singlehandedly planted hundreds of trees in the village and its surroundings in one of the most backward areas of the state. He earned the sobriquet "Trivenian Wala Baba" in the area for planting a cluster of three trees — peepal, banyan and neem — that are together called Trivenis. Revered for their medicinal value and other benefits in the traditional Punjabi culture, Trivenis find mention in the Holy scriptures of Sri Guru Granth Sahib too. Once found in abundance in Punjab, not many have survived the onslaught of development mainly taken over by agricultural land. The Baba changed that singlehandedly at least around his village.
In the region which has brackish groundwater, unfertile soil and is marked by high incidence of cancer and farmer suicides, this has been a herculean feat for the frail old man who worked tirelessly for over twenty five years to turn the parched land green.
Born in a poor Dalit family, Gurdev Singh had never been to school. He did labour in his youth but as his sons grew up and he stopped working, he dedicated the rest of his life to planting Trivenis. He would go around villages on foot collecting saplings and transplanting them around the village along the school, dharamshala, bus stand and abandoned pathways.
Jagsir Singh, a school teacher and neighbour of the Baba said that some village youth gifted him a bicycle to travel around when they saw his dedication. "People called him mad in the beginning when he had started planting trees but he went on undeterred and the same people now enjoy the shade provided by those trees which have grown big and remember him," said Jagsir.
With his failing eyesight and a bent back Baba went on for years until old age finally caught up with him. He died last week in his sleep peacefully. Karamjit Anmol, a Punjabi film actor hailing from the village, has announced that he and a group of friends from the village have decided they would raise a suitable memorial for the Baba. "We want to honour the memory of the man who transformed the face of our village all by himself, besides raising a memorial that would inspire the generations to come," he said.

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