Book Review: Cities and Canopies

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Cities and Canopies: Trees in Indian Cities by Harini Nagendra

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fun and informative book with details of not just the trees of Indian cities but with lots of childhood memories, historic events, poems and recipes interleaved! Reading this book feels like talking with fellow nature loving friends. Although it is an easy read, it is well researched and has been written by authors who are expert ecologists and researchers in this area. I throughly enjoyed reading this book and came to know of many interesting facts which I wasn’t aware of.

Some of the most common trees like banyan, peepul, tamarind, palm among others are covered. Apart from the usual facts, there are references to different events which happened in context of trees, references of some of these trees which can be found in our scriptures, how they have evolved over time to become part of the system, poems written by some famous poets around trees and also fun dishes which can be made using parts of these trees.

Along with trees, overall ecosystem around the trees is also discussed. From birds and insects which reside on trees, the effect of trees on environment, how tree plantations and grooves were protected by the commons in the past, movements to save trees, positive effects of having trees around to medicinal properties of parts of trees, everything is are covered.

This book also took me down the memory lane. While reading the authors’ stories of games played around trees I was reminded of the great times I had with friends around trees. From climbing trees and riding it as ships, playing hide and seek among trees, collecting raw mangos and guavas, collecting caps of eucalyptus flowers and many more memories.

This broad perspective with respect to trees makes us aware and ponder on trees around us. It highlights how important and urgent it is to have trees specially in the concrete jungles of cities. I’ll definitely be more cognizant of trees in my future walks. Almost everyone likes trees, but this book can rekindle our love for trees and a green surrounding in general! Hoping for a second part of this book covering more trees (specially mango tree) and more stories and events around trees!

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If a tree falls in a forest…

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Initially it may seem a trivial question, however on second thought its a philosophical question. It all depends on the definition of sound. The meaning of sound is “vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person’s or animal’s ear.” Thus as per the scientific definition, vibration is sound only if its perceived by the auditory glands of an animal or human. Without the receptor its just vibration and not sound. However philosophically it questions whether the state of an object depends on how it is perceived by a subject. Does something which cannot be perceived by anyone actually exist? And as one can say its not a yes / no answer.

“Two monks were arguing about the temple flag waving in the wind. One said, “The flag moves.” The other said, “The wind moves.” They argued back and forth but could not agree.
The Sixth Ancestor said, “Gentlemen! It is not the wind that moves; it is not the flag that moves; it is your mind that moves.” The two monks were struck with awe.”
– The Mumonkan Case 29, translation by Robert Aitken

I just briefly explained this because of the title and the introductory question. However this post mainly asks questions on similar lines based on how people behave on social networks these days…

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If you met your friends and didn’t check in online, did you actually meet them?

If you visited a new city or country and didn’t update your FB, WhatsApp, Twitter etc DPs did you actually visit?

If you had dinner at a restaurant and didn’t check in on Zomato, did you actually have dinner?

If you got married or had a baby and you didn’t update your ‘status’ on social networks, did it actually happen?

If you changed your job and didn’t immediately update on LinkedIn, did you actually change the job?

If you went on your honeymoon to an exotic location and didn’t post the pics, did you actually go?

If you bought a new house or car and didn’t post a pic on the same day, did you actually buy it?

If you didn’t write a R.I.P. when someone passed away, didn’t they actually rest in peace?

If you saw a sunrise or sunset and didn’t take a selfie (with your back facing the sun), did you actually see a sunrise or sunset?

If you didn’t change the display picture for a cause, do you actually support it?

I can go on and on. My point is simple, lets enjoy the moments of life. Nothing is wrong or bad about posting updates on social networks. Only that it should not be the first thing we think or do. At the end of day, once in a while its ok to post updates about our life. However doing that EVERYDAY for every single thing that happens in the life surely sounds like a bad idea. Believe me, no one actually cares about the constant updates about our life on social networks. Its more like an information source for others. So why not spread some useful, thought provoking, inspiring, interesting or funny information? It might actually be useful for someone. And if the intent of regular online updates is to maintain a log of the happening of our life then the best idea is to maintain a journal (either in a book or online form). And it can be shared (if you wish) with a few people who actually care about you.

Even i am not perfect. Sometimes even i feel to click a pic or post an update. However, mostly i stop myself until the event has completed and i have thoroughly lived it. Then i rethink whether it should be posted online. Will it be useful for anyone? If the answer is yes, then it its updated, otherwise not. So stop taking a selfie or posting an update instantly. Lets learn to live in the moment. I know it can be hard, as the whole world (or the majority) is doing things the usual way. However its not mandatory that everyone should follow the crowd. Lets enjoy the moments of our life as they come. Lets try to live in the present. Lets push back the thought of immediately posting updates of the happening of our life to sometime later after the event has happened and we have fully experienced it.

Cheers! 🙂