Ah Chinar!

Ah Chinar!
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The dwindling number of Chinar trees in Kashmir, on account of felling of these magnificent species, indifference on account of both the people and various administrations, and the general insouciance is cause for alarm. The magnificent Chinars are most likely an import to Kashmir and were popularized, as can be gleaned by the dotting of these in various gardens constructed and developed by the Mughals, were either brought here from Persia or perhaps even Central Asia. The genesis or even the etymology of Chinar trees need not detain us. What is significant is their dwindling numbers. On an average, a Chinar tree takes decades to grow and bloom. The climes and soil quality that it grows in are abundant in Kashmir but what is missing is the care and nourishing ambiance and environment that the Chinar tree needs to thrive in. In some senses, this reflects our broader relationship with nature and the environment. The vale of Kashmir has been abundantly blessed with pristine beauty and natural wonders, so much so that, it is famous throughout the world for these and has drawn mystics, travelers from around the world, and inspired poetry. The natural and pristine beauty of the vale has also led to, among other things, a craft based industry, which provide(d) livelihood to many. But, alas, we neither appreciate these facets of our natural environment nor do we do anything to preserve, conserve and even promote these. One victim of people’s indifference to our natural environment has been the Chinar. The tree is felled for all sorts of reasons (sometimes by ingenious and subtle ways). To wax lyrical about this trend, the majestic Chinar can only weep silently at its desecration and destruction. We must, as a society, introspect and review the nature and form of our relationship with the broader environment not only because the sustainability, survival and longevity of Kashmir’s natural environment is at stake but also because both our religion and the ethical orientation that flows from it warrants it. If things are allowed to drift, in terms of Kashmir’s natural environment, the day might not be far off, when Kashmir loses its pristine features, and, over time, morphs into a barren landscape. It is then about time that we become more involved with the environment, and attuned to it, both at individual and societal levels and salvage our Kashmir’s beauty. One good starting point would be conservation and planting of Chinar trees. As they say, “a stitch in time saves nine”.

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