Carrying on with father’s passion: Planting trees

[ Dani Sulu ]

My father loved planting trees, especially fruit trees. Long before I was born, sometime in the 1960s, he had developed a beautiful orchard which had a variety of plums, apples and pears in Nenchalyang, Ziro. When I was a little boy, I enjoyed climbing the branches of the apples and plums during the flowering time and also when it was ripe. At times, I would compete with little birds chirping in the branch ends by climbing to the tip of the branch, giving everyone a moment of heartache. On one occasion, I fell down from an apple tree. It must have not been from very high, as I don’t remember getting hurt. Or maybe, as the garden soil was very soft and my boyish body was still soft, tender and agile, my fall was cushioned and I was not hurt. But what I remember of the incident is the dressing down of my father by my overprotective mother, blaming him for encouraging her son to play with danger.

Our orchard was rich and all the plants fruited abundantly. We had more than we could consume. During the fruiting season of June-July, I used to sell plums and pears, sometimes sitting by the roadside with ripe fruits displayed attractively, piled in portions, depending upon the size, which was charged from 5 paise to 15 paise, depending upon the size. Some of the fruits were so big and juicy that I could sell them for 25 paise per piece.

At times, I would carry these fruits in bags and walk to Ziro and Hapoli towns and hawk around the shops and shopkeepers. After the sale was done, we treated ourselves to milk tea and samosas or buns at the local tea shop. For we village boys, it was a kingly feast to indulge ourselves with milk tea, samosas, or at times parathas and some sweets.

The Dree football tournament was the biggest event of Ziro valley, conducted during the month of June. Since our orchard was at the trijunction of the highway connecting Ziro, Hapoli and Hija village, where the Dree ground was located, I had the advantage of being in proximity of the Apatani community’s longest and biggest event – Dree festival.

My dream run with my father’s orchard ended in 1978 when I was packed off to Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalaya, Sher, near Kimin. Our summer vacations were short and we had to report back to school by the first week of June every year. So, with boarding school, much of my joyful childhood of village life ended.

My father’s orchard remained, in fact thrived into the 1990s. I am told that my mother and sisters continued to hawk and sell the fruits after I had left for school, and they would send me gifts and buy my school clothes from the little money they earned by selling the fruits of my father’s passion.

By the turn of the century, the trees had grown old and the fruits’ sizes had become smaller and smaller, and some of the trees withered away because of old age. Finally, the orchard gave way to my present residence in 2005. Once healthy and green fruit trees, now grown old and withering, were cut down to make place for my residence.

But my father, who had a deeper understanding of nature and human beings, kept planting trees randomly by the side of our residential wall. He passed away in 2008, much before any of his newly planted trees could give fruits.

If any of you visits my home today, you will find a few trees of baching fruit, a local delicacy, and pears. It started fruiting since 2014-15 and every summer we relish the fruits of my father’s passion. And as we bite into these delicious fruits, our father and his passionate affairs with trees and fruits is the talk of the family with much love and affection.

Unlike my wife, I have never been naturally passionate about trees and orchards. But as an obligation of a son, I try to be sincere in caring for what my father has bestowed.

But with age catching up, I have taken a cue from my father and his passion and have decided to plant trees which are fruiting and also not fruiting, so that my children and grandchildren can enjoy the fruits of what I sow today. I will be starting with a small orchard in Ziro this year. I have bought the following trees from Shergaon and will start planting this week. I am looking forward to develop it as an experimental orchard, so that whatever fruit is succesfully can be replicated in larger and wider areas in and around Ziro.

  1. Walnut: 10 nos
  2. Persimmon: 25 nos
  3. Peach: 5 nos
  4. Plum: 10 nos
  5. Chestnut: 10 nos
  6. Blackberry: 15 nos
  7. Apple: 25 nos

Total: 100 plants

In this new endeavour, I need your good wishes, my friends. And beyond everything, I will need the blessings of my father and mother from the heaven above.

Thus Sulu muses.