Adeela Hameed

Musings Under a Chinar: Royal Highness of the Floral Dominion

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With a strong deep foundation, the gift of Persia stands bold against ferocious winds, sheltering pilgrims and lonely travellers. Chinar holds a remarkable prestige in Kashmir. This tree is the king of its kingdom, amazingly steadfast and regally great. Gazing at the Chinar makes one blissfully sigh at its majestic form.

Warm contours giving rise to plentiful buds and a motley of leaves, Chinar is splendid throughout seasons. In spring, ambitious growth of its widening branches causes an ecstatic frivolity in the atmosphere and surreal aroma of crispness surrounds its rust pentagonal leaves in fall. In summer, the cool shade it provides is an envy while winters bare it to the bone, for everyone to savour its jagged beauty. People depend on its assets. It’s not boastful but proud of that, for nature does not favour the crude. It exudes warmth nourished for a hundred years, listening to stories of visitors and keeping their secrets safe. And its faithful legacy continues to flourish in our Valley. This species, Platanusorientalis, flourishes in its new habitat, completing requirements of citizenship ahead of many, finding its rightful place in the diverse flora of Kashmir.

It houses a variety of avians and burrowing animals. Being an enormous tree, it supplies oxygen to as far as 4 km, helping keep the air rich and clean. Chinar leaves and bark are used in herbal medicine while its roots and branches act as firewood in the harsh winters of our Valley. Furniture carved out of its trunk adds a subtle diligence and imperishable beauty to decors. Chinar, this monument of a tree, increases majesty of residences, garden pavilions, or resorts. It is recorded in the annals of legislation as a priority species. Hence before pruning or cutting it down, justifiably for catering to safety requirements, permission has to be granted by the Apex Court of India.

Chinar is a tree from the Mughal dynasty. The rulers favoured its rise in Kashmir. Thus, grooming a garden, the Chinar Bagh in Hazratbal, with milk instead of water. Srinagar city hosts this resplendent garden with more than 100 chinars bathing in the glory of royalty, on the shores of the Dal Lake. For just these reasons alone, Chinar deserves worthy mention in the history of our region.

But humans have always been ignorant about benefits of the ecosystem. The pity we are in, because of our self-serving attitude, is depressing. Though the usefulness of Chinars in our Valley is renowned, yet we continue to dine upon their glory without consideration. The fact that a single Chinar takes about 100 years to fully mature should have been enough for us to consciously recognize the enormous hardships this species has to face growing up. But we are enamoured by the vile, deforesting Chinars, smuggling their sturdy tissues, razing these heavenly blessings to the ground.

Whole habitats have perished due to drastic climate change occurring around the world, affecting migration patterns, pollination frequency, and breaking up food chains. Cutting down one Chinar will affect the whole area under it benefits. The atmosphere, avian species, and surrounding botanical families will suffer as well. On top of it all, we wouldn’t want Chinar to suffer the fate of extinction as many species have already been exposed to.

Being the leaders amongst all kingdoms, humans need to put an effort and patiently deal with issues at hand. For us Kashmiris, it should be protection and preservation of Chinars, and every other tree for that matter. Why not protect the whole forest ecosystem while we are at it! This protection comes from understanding our needs and excesses. Recycling wood, reusing old furniture, and making sure no new trees are felled in our vicinity, just for the sake of it, should be our top priority. Protection of Chinars is an issue of public interest and deserves decent screen time. A small bit done today has consequences on generations to come. Let that bit be good. Let it be beneficial. Let Chinar not be remembered as an exquisite history but be cherished as a living legend.

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