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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Encroachers

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While moving along roads and streets, I often see varieties of plants – sprouting, developing and struggling under life- threatening conditions. Besides plants of wild varieties; tomatoes, chilies, amaranths and sometimes watermelons are also seen growing in extremely dry conditions- along roadsides, near pavements, on broken cement plasters, and in weathering plasters between rows of bricks of some old walls.Peepal (Ficus religiosa) and Banyan(Ficus benghalensis)have their unique stands on walls and floors. On walls, these grow upwards parallel to the wall with leaves properly stretched to receive maximum sunshine.If uncared by humans and cattle, the small plants in adverse conditions, mostly grow and develop to reach to their flowering and fruiting stages and to complete their cycle of life. On the other hand Peepal and Banyan trees with longer life spawn grow and grow to attain peculiarly huge shape if left undisturbed by humans and cattle. The periodic flowering and fruiting stages come and go but the tough survivors remain firm once where they take birth. Their roots move in untiring search of moisture and nutrients through their whole lives. But, for me their survival, growth and development is always a mystery. How do these plants grow at a place where there is no trace of water and nutrients? … But, if there is life there must be conditions supportive to survival, though I may not be able to understand properly. If the availabilities of life supporting conditions in such habitats are beyond my imagination, there may surely be the skills and capabilities, or the energy behind adaptation, or the instinct for preservation of these plants to derive life out of non-living conditions and to live there for long.

The lives of plants referred above, put great challenges before powerful and rich human beings who demand luxuries and comforts for their survival. These plants explain the life processes of the poor who are spotted living here and there – along rail tracks, railway platforms, under bridges, near historical monuments, in abandoned railway constructions etc. as encroachers.The encroachers are never liked by so called civilized human beings and by the governments also. The small plants that grow wildly in the hard conditions teach the lessons of existence through their short life spans where as plants like Peepal and Banyan show how one can survive facing extreme challenges and life threatening conditions. The poor perhaps understand the language of these plants and live accordingly. This is probably because all of them develop from the same stock. What the lesson they teach through their lives has nothing to matter as all of these are encroachers, deserving lots of hatred, negligence and anger.

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