Centuries ago Aristotle said-
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all“
This is so true, especially in this generation. Most of us rate an educated person by the kind of IQ he/she has, by his/her cognitive skills, by the kind of degrees that person posses. Centuries before wise people like Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca told us about what we call education and whom we can call an educated person.
Unfortunately, we as a generation have forgotten all those and education to us means only the feeding of information to our mind.
The basic qualities of a human being such as empathy, compassion, self esteem, social awareness are no longer necessary to call someone a truly educated person. No doubt that’s why we are becoming less human day by day.
Still, in the chaos of modern-day life and the race to become more educated by having more number of degrees, there are some people who time after time teaches us the true meaning of education.
Saalumarada Thimmakka is one such name among them. I am sure most of you probably have never heard this name before. If you are a very socially active person you might have seen the picture below-
It’s one of the rare pictures where in an award ceremony, a 108 year old lady blessing the Indian President. In 2019, this remarkable lady got the Padmashree award from Indian President ( fourth highest civilian award in India).
You must be wondering who is this old lady and what she has done?
Saalumarada thimmakka (Aalada Marada Timakka) born in Gubbi in Tumakuru district, Karnataka in 1910. Being from a poor background and due to lack of opportunity, she could never attend school or have any kind of formal education. At the age of just 10, she began working as a coolie.
Some years later she got married to Bekal Chikkayya, a farmer from nearby Ramanagar district, who too hailed from a modest background. Most of their life, the couple spent in poverty. They remained childless even after 25 years of their marriage and for the same reason they had to face criticism from their relatives and neighbors.
The couple was ostracised by her relatives and neighbors for not being able to bear children. To cope up with the emptiness in their life, they decided to plant trees and raise them as their own kid. In the first year, they collected 10 banyan tree saplings and planted them along a four-kilometer stretch of highway between Hulikal and Kudur in Karnataka. Next year they planted more number of trees. Numbers increased years after year. In one of her interview with Aljazeera, she said-
“One day we thought why not plant trees and tend to them like we would our children”
Soon they find solace in planting and nurturing trees. They treated those trees as their own children, they used to water them, protect them from cattle by fencing around them with thorny bushes. At times, she carried 30 to 40 pots of water a day from nearby ponds and wells to water the saplings.
She and her husband plant saplings in the monsoon session so that there could be adequate water for their growth. Thus, a four kilometer highway, which was devoid of any trees, become green and beautiful due to sheer effort of the couple.
Her husband died in 1991 but that didn’t stop Thimmakka’s love of planting and nurturing trees. She continued her passion with the same grit and courage.
In all these years she has planted more than 8000 trees out of which 385 are banyan trees. Just unbelievable! isn’t it?
Saalumarada means ‘rows of trees’ in Kannada language. Saalumarada name was given by people to respect her remarkable work towards planting the trees and saving the environment, and the obstacles the couple faced during the process. Her planted trees are taken care by the Karnataka government now-a-days.
She has done much more work than just planting trees. She is still actively involved in the state and national environmental protection campaign. \
Saalumarada Thimakka has been an active campaigner in circulating the message of afforestation. She believes every human being on this planet should plant trees and it is evident when she said-
“How we planted and took care of the trees, everyone from children to the elderly should plant and grow trees. It will be beneficial for all of us”
Saalumarada Thimmaka has been a role model for environmentalist all over the world. In 2016, BBC included her in their list of top 100 influential and inspiring women. She has won numerous awards in her life for her work including 2019 Padmashree, National Citizens award (1995), Godfrey Philips Bravery award (2006) and many more.
A U.S. environmental organization based in Los Angeles and Oakland, California called Thimmakka’s Resources for Environmental Education is named after her. She has set up a trust for building up a hospital in her village.
Does her life has changed now?
No, all these recognitions and rewards from all over the world haven’t changed her. She is struggling financially and living with mere pension of only Rs. 500 (7 USD). Only thing is now some people knew her and appreciate her work.
Saalumarada Thimmaka had to go through a lot of hardship to achieve whatever she has done for the environment and humanity. According to a study, the total worth of all the trees she has planted and grown in terms of currency is approximate Rs. 17500000 (more than 1.5 million). Despite this, she has dedicated all the trees to the state and has never expected anything in return.
Her work never changed her financial condition. Never did she flaunted about her work. Still, she is unknown to a majority of people. However, all these never deterred her spirit from helping mankind.
Today Saalumarada Thimmakka at the age of 107 lives with her foster son Umesh. Undoubtedly, she is an inspiration for every human being on this planet.
What mesmerized me most about this incredible woman is her determination towards her work. Instead of the fact that people do not appreciate her work always or she is not going to earn money and live a luxurious life, she is relentlessly doing her job. She is still struggling financially, her work deserves much more attention than what she has got. But all these matter nothing to her. It reminds me of one of the famous quotes-
“Destruction has noise but creation is silent“
Saalumarada Thimmakka’s work is a perfect example of this. The true way to honor such a tree mother is to continue her fight. If only we plant as many trees as possible and help to save the environment and humanity, that would the best tribute to her.
Saalumarada Thimmakka also teaches us the true way to become an educated person as I said at the beginning of this article. What’s the point of feeding information in our mind, if it’s not able to contribute for the betterment of the world.
If a woman without any formal education can do so much for the world, imagine what we, with years of education can do for the world.
It’s high time we understand the true meaning of education
Have a meaningful week. Until next time.