A sad day at Velim, when it is decided to cut down three coconut trees that are leaning precariously over the house. After years of replacing cracked tiles and after carrying out expensive repairs to the roof and false ceiling, the hammer finally falls on these tall and robust soldiers.
The paddkar surveys the trees carefully. He has to calculate how many sections the trunk has to be chopped into, and where the cuts have to be made. If the tree is not too inclined, he can salvage some good lengths to make vanshe (coconut rafters). But if the risk of damaging the house is great, he will chop the tree into four or five smaller parts which he will slide down the trunk as the pictures show.
Easy does it. No engineering degree, but these men have a sound working knowledge of weight, pulleys, fulcrum, strength of materials and tons of courage. One of the trees was dead long back, its crown of leaves was gone and it was just a vertical column of rotted wood, without the vitality and flexibility of a live tree. The paddkar was at Maximum Risk at the highest cut, but he just did it, coolly and professionally.
A condemned tree stands at half mast. Its only crime...being planted too close to the house.
Even in death, the coconut tree continues to give. These three 'canoes' will be equipped with sails and painted by the kids for a craft project. The treecutter distributes the honey he has found at the top. He has also been instructed to extract the murund, the tasty core of the efflorescence, from whence all coconuts come. Rafters, firewood, leaves...no part of the tree goes to waste. Truly a Kalpa-Vruksha!
Paddkar and Gaunkar are professional coconut pluckers and cutters. They treat trees like their own children and consider themselves their guardians. They were not pleased with our decision to cut these trees. I overheard them:
"Why are they cutting these trees?"
"They are too close to the house."
"Why did the fool plant them so close to the house?"
"It wasn't his fault, his father must have done that."
The saddest part of the treecutting was when they brought down a couple of woodpecker babies from the crownless dead tree. The children were delighted and wanted to take care of them. But I said they were too small. The paddkar said they wouldn't survive. I left them near the compound wall to die peacefully.
But the kids wouldn't have it and they made me bring the babies back into the house. They fed them with water from a dropper. I dug up some worms for food. They took care of the nestlings for two days. The third morning, Mia came to me with the box without saying a word, tears in her eyes. I buried them next to Joey, our mongrel who had passed on last year.