The vaga tree in S Ayappan’s house in Eroor is exactly 15 years and eight months old. He knows the precise date because he planted it on his son’s first birthday, along with a few plantain trees and some crotons. The day also marked, although he didn’t realise it then, the beginning of his greening mission. Today, Ayappan pegs the number of trees he has planted at around 8000 — at schools, public spaces and places of worship.
“Planting a tree is the biggest service one can do. We may not reap the benefits but our children will.” He always has a few saplings and a spade in his car because “you never know when an opportunity will crop up.” Initially he approached schools seeking permission to plant trees and continues to do so but there is the odd invitation too now. The first school in which he planted saplings was the Kunjunni Memorial Lower Primary School (KMLP), Thondoor (Eroor), and has done so in around 200 schools.
The 48-year-old Yoga teacher does not plant very young saplings and trees that bear fruit and give shade. He also plantsb trees based on the Malayalam zodiac. Ayappan involves children by conducting orientation classes before the actual planting, his wife Shobhana accompanies him. His work is not done with the planting; he checks regularly to ensure that the trees are thriving.
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