Meet ‘Saalumarada’ Thimmakka, an uneducated environmentalist who, along with her late husband, planted and cared for 384 banyan trees in her hometown of Hulikal village, in Karnataka, India. Now 103 years old, she lives on to tell the tale.
When Thimmakka was a young girl, she married a farmer named Chikkaiah and together they made a living out of tilling land and cutting stones. The couple remained childless for many years, enduring crude remarks from their fellow villagers. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, they decided to make the best of their situation. “One day, we thought why not plant trees and tend to them like we would our children,” Thimmakka said.
They started by grafting 10 saplings from the banyan trees that grew abundantly in their village. Using their meager resources, they planted those saplings on an empty stretch of land about four kilometers from the village. There wasn’t any water available in the area, so they filled four pails at their home and carried them all the way to the trees every single day. They protected the saplings from the elements, from animals and disease, until they took root. The next year, they planted 15 more saplings, 20 the year after that, and kept going until they planted a total of 384 trees, worth about 1.5 million rupees.