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01.02.2017

As old Bangalore sentinels make way for the steel flyover and authorities remain unmoved by protests to protect the city’s trees (over a thousand will be felled in a new phase of Metro construction, we learned this week), an annual festival arrives to throws shade over both stubbornness and despair. Neralu (Kannada for ‘shade’), will be held on February 18 and 19 and “celebrate trees” through games, drama, art, tree walks and more. This year’s festival will try to reach out to children as well as its usual adult audience; the organisers have tied up with several schools to sow the right seeds. 

In times of widespread immigration panic, we enlisted a naturalist to help us examine the antecedents of some of Bangalore’s best-known citizens. Ganeshram, Neralu volunteer and co-founder of green social enterprise Terrataala, tells us that while not all the paperwork is in order, many of these are now representative of the city’s landscape, and deserve to have you throw your arms around them like Justin Trudeau. A brief guide to some naturalisation papers:  

In times of widespread immigration panic, we enlisted a naturalist to help us examine the antecedents of some of Bangalore’s best-known citizens.

The Gulmohar: Many locals believe the gulmohar is as native to the city as boiled beans, but in truth, the flame tree was imported in the nineteenth century from Madagascar by the British, who wanted to line the cantonments with colour. Quiet and hard-working through Neralu time, the gulmohar will burst into colour between April and June. 

At best effect: Near the lake at Lal Bagh botanical gardens, Mavalli. 

The Rain Tree: This wide canopied tree came all the way from South America to extend its roots in India in in the late 1700s. Locally called male maraa, it remains popular with the city’s municipal authorities because of its ample coverage, and because it can grow to great heights without causing damage to electric wiring. Any danger it poses to residents stems from the fact that the branches tend to break easily, especially during thunderstorms. (That also means un-cleared streets, but hey, adjust a little.)

At best effect: Around the NGMA, Palace Road. 

The Tabebuia: Another tree that will be keeping its head down during Neralu, the ubiquitous tabebuia is responsible for a big part of Bangalore’s summer magic, when it carpets the city with pink, yellow, purple and white flowers. Most of the tabebuia’s 99 varieties have thrived since the British first introduced it to the city from their travels to the South American tropics.  It’s also more than a pretty face: the durable wood is a key ingredient in lots of Bangalore construction.

At best effect: All along Chinnaswamy Stadium Road. 

The Tamarind: Yes, really. It was only first ever catalogued in India, which is why its scientific name is Tamarindus indica, but it came here in the 14th century with Arab sailors transporting it from Africa. Bangalore’s tamarinds still cleave to their historical entrenchments in nearly every old colonial compound, from the Bangalore Club to Bowring Hospital. 

At best effect: Down the long stretch of Kanakapura Road. 

The African Tulip: Commonly called Pichkari, the African tulip is the single largest annoyance of any Bangalore school playground, and still stands ready to be weaponised at St Francis Xavier’s, Bethany High School and Bishop Cotton Boys. Purely ornamental, the orange flower bud of this tree holds a liquid that has often been used to initiate water fights across all age groups. Its trouble-making habits have nothing to do with globalised alienation: it’s belonged to the city since the 1800s. However, it has has also been listed as one of the world’s most invasive species and is now banned in some countries, including Australia and Hawaii. In the state, several forest nurseries still retail this species because it is quick to grow and attractive. 

At best effect: In Cubbon Park / anywhere there are no schoolboys.

Getting there: Neralu, February 18-19, see neralu.in for updates.

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