V Vidyadharan began his green journey at a young age and soon it became an obsession.
An inspector with Kerala police, Vidyadharan has been planting trees along the roads and walkways in the state’s southern Alappuzha and neighbouring Ernakulam districts for more than 40 years now.
When he started people laughed at him and questioned his indiscriminate planting of saplings on walkways and roadsides but now he is a well-known face and much loved. Legendary playback singer KJ Yesudas, while honouring the inspector, even said people like Vidyadharan give mankind enough hope that the next generation won’t have to live in deserts.
Vidyadharan loves trees so much that he always carries saplings and shovels in his vehicle and not the usual baton or pistol that police officials are seen with. And when his daughter got married 2 years ago, he gave a different gift to all invitees - 20,000 saplings.
He feels that even a small creeper carries enough life and people can experience God in it. “When I see people resting under the shade of my trees and children plucking fruits from my saplings, I get immense happiness. That is the only return I expect,” he explains his green obsession.
The Alappuzha resident isn’t involved in just planting trees - he nurtures them till they can stand on their own. He has lost the count of the saplings he has planted but says it must have crossed the one lakh mark. He can identify, what he calls, his “child” easily among thick foliage.
A proclaimed atheist Vidhydharan, who is on the verge retirement now, even travels miles in search of a suitable place to plant his beloved saplings.
“A sapling needs at least 20 days of care for healthy growth. Since the state is undergoing its worst ever drought, at times I have to fetch water from far away places now. But difficulties make me more determined,” he said adding at times cattle farmers have given him cow dung, which is an organic fertiliser, free of cost.
He spends at least Rs 6000 from his meagre salary for the cause dear to his heart and uses his free time to add the touch of green to his city ensuring that it never clashes with his duty hours.
“[Vidhyadharan is a] committed nature-lover, we have to learn a lot from him,” senior CBI officer CH Nagaraju, who was Alappuzha district police chief, said.
When Vidyadharan got an award on World Earth Day 6 years ago, the SP ordered all police stations in the district to plant at least 5 saplings and name them after him. Many schools and NGOs have also named saplings after him.
He rues that humans never learn any lessons from devastating natural disasters and trees are felled in the name of developing an area.
Counting the ways that trees help humans, the police inspector even claims they can even bring down the rate of crime to an extent.
“When you come under their shade, trees provide you with a soothing effect. Many experiments in the west have shown it helps lower blood pressure and crime tendencies. Look all our gurus such as Lord Buddha got enlightenment under trees,” he said.
Though he loves all his “children” equally, Vidyadharan prefers shady and fruit trees such as jackfruit, mango and berry. Besides planting trees he also instals boards at important junctions in the city that talk about how to preserve and conserve trees.
“My life is cut out for a cause. I love to do it. I feel without trees there is no existence of mankind. They give us something to look up to,” he said.