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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

Gurugramwale: A solitary, ancient banyan tree

The dignity and grace of a park tree

gurugram Updated: Sep 03, 2019 13:56 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
The banyan tree stands in the centre of a neighbourhood park in Gurugram’s Jacobpura.
The banyan tree stands in the centre of a neighbourhood park in Gurugram’s Jacobpura. (HT Photo )

It is like spotting a long-haired hippie stranded amid a group of suited-booted hedge fund managers.

The banyan is looking that out of place.

The tree stands in the centre of a genteel neighbourhood park in Gurugram’s Jacobpura. Surrounded by cement benches, and spindly trees painted in the colours of the national flag, the feral banyan seems beyond the reach of domesticated middle-class restraint. Dozens of aerial roots are hanging flamboyantly about its branches—like snakes hissing about Medusa’s head.

A shopkeeper in the area discloses that the tree is ancient by several centuries. There is no easy way of confirming the claim but, at least, the gnarled trunk looks as wrinkled as the cheeks of a hundred year old man. In its entirety, the bargad has the labyrinthic scope of a metropolis full of dense local histories—each branch a locality, each leaf a house.

The tree’s numerous aerial roots are drooping close to the ground; the carefree squirrels are leaping onto them like an experienced trapeze artist, running up towards the leafy foliage and disappearing from view. It is cathartic to find such playful wilderness in a city whose remaining greenery could as well be tomorrow’s real estate for more malls and office towers. You must come here to experience an evening.

The tree is in Shivji Park and across the road from a charming Shiv Mandir, which, by the way, has a most luxurious peepal tree. But that’s another epic.