The Takshashila Institution, organised a book conversation, at its office, with author Harini Nagendra on her latest offering, ‘Cities and Canopies: Trees in Indian Cities’, co-authored with Seema Mundoli on Friday, September 20. While an evening learning about the ecology of cities was expected, it turned out to be much more, as the author answered wide-ranging questions posed by conservationist and Takshashila alumnus, Sandeep Menon, highlighting how trees are at the intersection of history, culture and ecology of cities.
Nagendra shared a story from the book, of how a 19th century elderly couple, who couldn’t afford to marry mango trees in their orchard, did not taste its fruit for a long time. The book talks about multiple recipes which have been part of our cuisines and cultures. It describes many heart touching stories of people in different parts of the country, going out of their way to protect trees and planting many more.
Apart from the cultural, emotional and ecological facets, there are many utilitarian aspects to growing trees in the cities also. They can absorb up to 75% of the particulate matter floating around in an area – that would otherwise go straight to our lungs. Answering a question asked by an audience member, Nagendra warned against simple narratives like, ‘All alien species are bad.’ Cities evolve and their ecologies change. “Alien” species often suit modern environments better than “native” ones and we need to understand this complexity better and not fall prey to simplistic ideas.
The book provides a fascinating look into how trees and humans have been interacting for centuries and how you can make a contribute towards maintaining this equilibrium.