I was in Karnataka, travelling to the village of Kudur in Ramanagara district, about 35 kms from Bengeluru (formerly Bangalore). The dusty road leading to Hulikal and Kudur village seemed monotonous, but for a four kilometer stretch, it came alive with massive trees, spreading shade and providing home to innumerable birds and animals. This unique pattern of the line of trees attracted everyone's attention and appreciation. That's when accompanying officials told us about environmentalist Saalu Marada Thimmakka.
Thimmaka was married young to a landless laborer Chinnappa and they made their living tilling land and cutting stones. Despite a long wait and countless prayers and poojas, the couple did not have any children. The personal suffering coupled with snide remarks of the society that looked down at childless couples as a curse from gods that lead them to a unique engagement that is now widely recognized.
Thimmakka and Chinnappa decided to adopt trees and plant saplings around their community. Soon enough, the trees came to occupy a prominent part in their lives. They spent all their time planting saplings in open spaces, on government lands, on the outskirts of the city and on either side of the roads. The saplings were watered by Thimmakka, fetching water from distant wells and ponds, at times, she carried 30 to 40 pots of water a day. The nearly four kilometer stretch between Hulikal and Kudur is a testimony to Thimmakka's efforts.
Thimmakka continues her mission of promoting environment conservation in the only way that she knows - planting saplings. At the last count, she has planted and raised more than 8,000 trees. Environmentalists estimate the value of Timmakka’s contribution, as anything not less than Rs. 150 crores (~$30 million). Due to her efforts, she has been. The Government of Karnataka constructed a home for Thimmakka in the village and the central government awarded Thimmakka with an Indira Priyadarshini Vriksh Mitra Award.
We were fortunate enough to have met her in her new house. Even at an elderly age, Thimmakka’s daily tasks and her focus are around trees and saplings. Always smiling and willing to meet people, Thimmakka continues her mission and was kind enough to offer a few saplings to us! We were greatly appreciative and happy to meet such a selfless person who truly loves nature and is making a big difference in her community.