UPVAN CAME INTO BEING THUS
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
The Indian Army encourages arboriculture. Both officers and men live amidst green environment in most of the cantonments. Living in green environment becomes a part of the Army culture. If the officers and Jawans are deployed in an area devoid of green foliage and full grown trees, they make sure that plants, shrubs, creepers are planted around barracks and married accommodation of both officers and Jawans so that in days to come there is the same greenery around that they were used to in the previous well established cantonments.
Once a Vriksha Mitra always a Vriksha Mitra. The Army personnel carry this habit of being foliage friendly while they are in service and since old habits die hard, the post-retirement days see their green fingers at work. I am not aware of the award of Vriksha Mitra going to our Army personnel who are responsible for greening the area around wherever they go. It is just one of those things that happen in life but remain unexplained. Never mind, just be at it and keep planting whatever the soil accepts.
Having wore the Olive Green uniform of the Indian Army for more than three decades I too imbibed the arboriculture and it became an inseparable part of me even after I hung up my boots. May I just make a mention that I had started wearing the khaki uniform of a boy scout right from class V in 1942 right up to 10 plus 2 level in PEC and graduation level in 1950-52. Right through these years our officers, both British and Indian, lay an emphasis on planting trees and shrubs for an extra dose of oxygen for our healthy lungs. No wonder the deadly disease named TB was absolutely unknown in the rank and file of the uniformed personnel.
In 1990 I retired from the Indian Army as a Brigadier. I was permitted to retain the government accommodation on the Shanti Path, courtesy Shri N.N. Vohra, the then Defence Secretary. Of course, the lower rungs of the bureaucratic establishment ensured that I paid market rent for the lovely house of mine and I paid without pangs. I moved into my own house, a lovely class V house called a single unit. My wife and grown up progeny heaved a sigh of relief that there was none upstairs to throw the unwanted stuff at us living downstairs. We were the monarch of all we surveyed.
Best of all things, there was open space in front and rear of the house. Our green fingers started itching, not for long. The front space within our boundary was put to good use by planting fruit trees like pomegranate and flowering plants like chameli and bela, not mentioning their poor cousin the money plant. What threw the gauntlet was the waste land in the rear of the house that had been used as an open air toilet for decades. Our well intentioned neighbours and I picked up the gauntlet and made up our minds to convert the waste land into a green zone. It was and continues to be Noida land and we never claimed the right of a Pretender to the Throne. We just pooled our ideas but NOT money or resources. Each one of six of us and a self- invitee from across the road showed the determination to go ahead with Project Green, come what may. The whispering campaign against us launched by distant neighbours with negative thinking who had missed their promotion in Army because of negativity, now beat their drums calling us land grabbers. We gave them a royal ignore. Now, after six years or so, their distant drums have fallen silent.
Sudha, my wife of almost half a century has a green finger too. She loves to take a khurpi in hand before going into action in our rear garden and wield it with aplomb as if it were the M40 assault rifle of a commando. I have given her the honorific title of a head mali. Children of ours who have now sired their own children enjoy our action in the garden. We enjoy prepararion of a flower bed more than we do with preparation of our own bed in the Shayan Kaksh. Richa, Shikha and Gaurav take keen interest in our UPVAN whenever they find time from their professions that provide bread and butter.
UPVAN came into being playfully. We still enjoy our sittings and hold intellectual Goshthis with men and women of letters who are friends of our student days and happen to pass by. UPVAN is still a playgroung for our grandchildren and their friends who love to be there and enjoy the fresh breeze. Of course, lately a big snake put in its appearance right in the middle of our UPVAN but it passed by without even saying a casual Hello. Sudha and I were sitting in our garden CHAUPAL when the said Snake called on us in the UPVAN. I took visual notice of its appearance and its quiet slithering away into our neighbor, Shilpika’s garden. I rang her up to warn her of the uninvited guest but by then it had moved into oblivion.
Nevertheless the said snake remained a topic of conversation among the old and the young alike for quite a few days. Vidushi, our granddaughter of six and a half years told me in confidence that her mother, Aditi has forbidden her visit to Upvan. Bu she did listen patiently stories of various snakes not forgetting TAKSHAK Nag who did bite Samrat Parikshit. Indeed the great Yajna performed by King Janmejaya almost saw the end of the reptiles from Planet Earth but for a divine intervention. Children wished that the last SWAHA after that last mantra of the Tajna should have seen the end of Takshak Nag and its progeny. Alas! That was not to be.
Our UPVAN is as popular among our neighbours as it used to be before appearance of the serpent.We gather in the Chaupal to exchange views on topic of the day. Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi does make an appearance in our conversation and we all love him. He is not only the Hindu Hriday Samrat but also a beau ideal of a common man on the streets of Tokyo, Beijing, Thimpu, Kathmandu and so on. Now New York and Washington DC are going to be added in this lovely list.
UPVAN facilitates our mental travel to all important places and capitals of important countries of the world. We do not buy a ticket for the Bullet train but travel from Tokyo to Kyoto to visit the Buddhist shrine along with Narandra bhai Modi and Shinzo Abe, the two Prime Ministers of Bharat and Japan respectively. Xi Jinping, President of China will walk the talk with Narendra bhai along banks of the Sabarmati river besides Bapu’s Ashram. UPVAN will facilitate our sharing Modi’s talk with President Obama of the United States of America.
Indeed we all Octogenarians and Septuagenarians are indebted to the UPVAN Chaupal for helping us keep abreast of happenings on the international horizon.
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