“Palmyra belongs to Bombay – this is the ideology I wanted to give. I wanted to make Maharashtra proud,” said Revd. Samuel Godson in conversation with The Ticket Fairy.
A priest at St. Paul Methodist Tamil Church in Aarey Milk Colony (Mumbai, Maharashtra), Revd. Godson has dedicated the past twenty-five years of his life to educate and spread awareness about the once-bustling Palm trees in India. In his attempt to revive the fast vanishing Palm trees, he traveled across the country, wrote a book, documented his journey, and distributed its seeds to the inhabitants of Mumbai.
This year, Revd. Godson and his team resumed Phase II of “PalmAlive” under their Palmyra Mission movement. The movement aims to promulgate the benefits of Palmyra palm trees, safeguard the conservationists and environmentalists associated to save the trees, offer skill training to make handicrafts from Palm leaves, plant palm seeds as well as PalmAlive – the distribution of seeds across Mumbai.
“One of our activities is to bring back the native Palmyra palms of Mumbai, as it is habitat to a variety of mammals, reptiles, birds, insects as well as to humans by providing food, shelter, and livelihood,” wrote Revd. Godson in a message penned to disseminate amongst Mumbaikars. As part of the initiative, a seedbox containing two-three seeds are being distributed free of cost from Aarey Milk Colony.
As of September 5th, 2020, they have distributed 1100 boxes of seeds containing a total of 3500 seeds. They have targeted to circulate at least 5000 seeds, which is four times more than their total distribution from last year where they sent out around a thousand seeds.
Besides sending out the seedboxes, they already surpassed their goal to plant 2000 seeds themselves with the help of an environment group Ped Lagao from Mumbai who planted 1000 palmyra seeds.
Hailing from palm-rich Kanyakumari district in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Revd. Godson was mesmerized by Palm trees from a young age. He grew up experiencing the all-round usefulness and dense population of Palm trees in his village. In 1999, when he first came to Mumbai, he was surprised to see his beloved palmyra in a region outside of Tamil Nadu.
He traveled in and around Maharashtra – Dorai (Mira Road), Panvel, Ratnagiri and Ahmedabad – in search of Palm trees. Seeing them grow bountifully outside of his native land, he did an 18-day road trip from Mumbai to Kanyakumari in 2016 while stopping at places in between to meet tree climbers and toddy tappers, and to propagate the usage of Palm trees. He documented his process and eventually wrote a book ‘Panaimara Saalai’ in 2019.
“Before 2016, nobody was interested in Palm. Nobody talked about it or made any effort to know about it. But after 2016 (when his road trip expedition gained popularity), everyone started talking about it. It is almost like nobody thought about Palmyra in the last thirty years. It was then that I got the opportunity to propagate the idealogy to the people, between 2016 to 2019,” he told The Ticket Fairy.
After a two year break, he came back to Mumbai from Tamil Nadu, only to witness the Palm trees diminish in numbers owing to modernization in the metropolitan cities. Although he found a cluster of Palm cultivation in one of the hamlets (pada) of Aarey colony, the possible extinction of Palmyra was feared.
Simple research on Google about the connection of Palm Trees and Mumbai revealed the integrated history between the two. Aarey Forest in Mumbai is the green lung of the city, Palm growing in Aarey accentuates the region and its surroundings. It helps prevent soil prevent, withstands cyclones and other natural calamities, and it can even grow in saline water. It is closely associated with Warli tribes, Koli and Bhandara ethnic groups for a long time.
During his expedition, he met Bihari, Andra and Maharashtrian tree climbers, not just the usual Tamilian climbers. The tree is grown in great numbers in the Parsee tower of silence and is important for their culture. “All of it made me realize that Palm is important,” he said.
PalmAlive is a continuation in Revd. Godson’s quest to bring Palmyra back to the soil of Mumbai. He is ecstatic to see Mumbaikers actively seeking the seedboxes and is hopeful that they will soon exceed their target of distributing 5000 seeds.
Contact Revd. Samuel Godson via call, text or WhatsApp on – 9080250653 / 8169291963 / 9702168971 / 7506211541
Email – [email protected]
Feature Image Via Unsplash.