Dec 5, 2012

Interviewing the tree people

Hello readers!

This is my first interview for the blog... and I think an awesome first.

You may have heard of Project 35 trees. No? Shame shame! Here, read this (I insist!) -

Hari and Anthony - two guys who are travelling the country and not just planting saplings in every state, but talking to students, locals and more, to spread the green culture. Now, naturally, I had a lot of questions for them... and so I wrote to Hari, who was kind enough to reply to ALL of them without scowling at me. *phew*.

PAITEES PED, DO MAALI! (don't you love me for the title?)
An interview with one of the men behind Project 35 trees – Hari Chakyar.

ME: Hari… Hara… you were born to do this! Do you have some weird story where you were found under a tree by your parents and always dreamt of going back?
HARI: Ae! I am not Mowgli!

ME: If you were a tree, which one would you be and why?
HARI: I would love to be a coconut tree. That way every part of me would be used. Not that I want to feel used but imagine doing something extraordinary with every part of your body and that’ll feel like an unbeatable record.
ME (snidely): Hmm... so you want more coconuts?

ME: Are you Tarzan’s long lost sibling, with more clothes of course?
HARI: Statutory Warning: Swinging on trees is not good for health. Of the trees. Kindly refrain from doing so. Having said that, I would love to live in a forest and gather my own food just like Tarzan. Then I wouldn’t have to shave either. How awesome is that?!

ME: You have a partner in this. You have already claimed green. So what colour is he?
HARI: Anthony Karbhari. Mostly, he’s the blues. He’s the mulling type. He thinks his shots over. You should see the face he makes while at work!
Oh and he also has a few blue t-shirts.

ME: Did you eat a certain type of grass to come up with this idea? I mean, nature inspiring nature of course. What did you think?
HARI: If eating grass and stuff gave you ideas, I should’ve won the Nobel Prize for being a vegetarian by now! But nature did inspire me – all the nature in Sanjay Gandhi National Park and around Karnala Fort. Oh and the Wilson College Nature Club!

ME: How are you funding this? Don’t tell me money plants actually work!
HARI: Oh they do, you should try the Mahua tree. But my funds don’t come from that or any other trees. This India tour is sponsored by many well-meaning people who have contributed small amounts of money in cash or by directly sending money to my account. A lot of them have also funded it through this crowd-funding page -
ME (to all the readers): Click the link already. The only virus it will spread is green and makes oxygen.

ME: You started in Mumbai and have already travelled a bit. Where all have you sown your seeds?
HARI: No seeds, only saplings...planted in *takes a deep breath* Daman, Silvassa, Baroda, Indore, Jaipur, Delhi, Gurgaon, Amritsar, Jammu, Chandigarh, Manali, Dehradun, Agra, Patna, Gangtok, Guwahati, Shillong, Nagaland and Imphal. Phew!
ME (to myself): Dammit! Sowing seeds joke totally lost on him :(

ME: So, we will find little Haris in those places soon? (I mean, saplings you know) :D
HARI: Of course! You’ll find my baby trees in all of these places already but give them a few years and they’ll be taller than you!
ME: Aye! No short jokes. I am the one interviewing you!

ME: How are you travelling from point to point? And where are you staying?
HARI: Public transport – bus, train, autorickshaws, cycle rickshaws, tumtums (called Vikram in Dehradun) and so on. On the list but yet to be ticked off are trucks, boats and hitchhiking.
In every state, we try and live with a host family to give us free lodging and free food. In most places they have also been kind enough to take us around themselves. This part of the project is very interesting because we reach there as strangers but by the time we have to leave, we’re family.
In some places, we’ve had to live in hotels but even in those places, we now have friends for life!

ME: You mean, people actually let you enter their homes with soil on your shoes? So kind!
HARI: Surprise no? In some places, we get there looking like monsters – hairy, dishevelled and untidy but we make sure we tidy up soon.

ME: Have you encountered any tree people yet? Did anyone mistake you for a vegetable and eat you?
HARI: No tree people but I did spot this guy at a railway station on the way from Indore to Jaipur. I would love to dress colour-coded like an evergreen tree! He looks uncannily like a guy from my office! Here is a picture -

ME: Are you going to dance around trees? Is there going to be a video? Can people who contribute get exclusive access to it?
HARI: I am developing a pole-dance version of the Chipko movement where you hug a tree and dance around it to the tune of Gangnam Style. But for that we’ll have to wait till the saplings I’ve planted have grown. You okay with that? Access kya, people who contribute can dance with me. Chipko is a group activity anyway.
ME (to readers): Interested dancers may apply

ME: Your moustache seems to grow with every city. Are you hiding the saplings in there?
HARI: Haha, how did you notice that? My handlebar looks awesome now. I haven’t touched them since I left. I’ve however been trimming my muttonchops beard only because I don’t want school students to be scared of me.
(I run out scared and screaming)

ME: You are just doing this so that you can have a tree-house in every state no? Sach sach bolo!
HARI: You caught me there! With real estate prices going the way they are, it’ll help no? Plus, imagine having a toilet in every state in India!

ME: After swinging all ways (I mean, literally) when are you going to be back to the city?
HARI: *Narrows eyes and stares* We should be back in Mumbai in the third week of January that’ll give us one week to chill before we start our normal work days. I’ve been craving for some vada pao but!

ME: Vada pao on me when you return!

I ALSO made a poster (pardon my art skills).
(P.S.: A shout out to those with good art skills - if you can and wish to make a better poster, you shall be rewarded with pappis from our very own Hari Chakyar)

Disclaimer: Creative representation of Project '35 trees'. Hari interjects passionately pointing out that they are not planting 'only 35' trees. On last count, they were close to 100 in 19 states, and they still have a long way to go.

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