My Father’s Trees in Dehra – Summary

My Father’s Trees in Dehra is in two sections. The two sections deal with a different period in the life of the writer, Ruskin Bond.

Summary

In section I, the writer is a young boy, who is assisting his father in planting trees. Ruskin Bond writes that his father was a man with a mission and this mission was planting trees. His father was not content with merely planting fruit trees, around the house and in the garden. On rainy days, he would with his son walk beyond the river bed, and into the jungle, to plant flowering shrubs between sal and shisham trees. His son the writer being a young boy questioned the logic behind planting these shrubs saying that they would not be seen by anyone, as no one ventured into these parts. The writer’s fathers explained to him that constant felling of trees, would result in the world turning into a vast desert, and hence the need to prevent this by afforestation. This reply, left such a deep impression on the writer’s mind, that as a child, the worst nightmare for him was a world without trees. He therefore assissted his father whole-heartedly in tree plantation. Perhaps to make the whole venture more appealing to the boy, the father added that the trees would one day move again and walk about just like they once did, thousands of years ago. Towards this end the trees make a constant effort by stretching their arms (branches).

In the foot-hills most river-beds are dry in summer but are flooded during monsoon. In one such river bed in Dehra just when the rains had begun, and the river bed was only a stream which could be crossed by foot, the writer and his father planted tamarind, Laburnum and Coral-tree saplings on a rocky island in the middle of the river bed. A few months after this plantation the writer’s father died in Calcutta. With the death of his father, the tree planting ventures come to an end. The writer was sent to a boarding school, and later after school went to England. His grandparents sold the house and left Dehra. They too died after some years. So when the writer returned to India, he was the only member of the family in the country.

The second section deals with the return of the writer to Dehra as an adult. The writer is on the road, towards the river-bed, but this time he is all alone and he is no longer a young boy. Looking at the dry river-bed and depleted sal trees, he is full of misgivings about the condition of the trees he had planted many years ago with his father, on the rocky island. Leave alone the trees, he fears that the entire Island probably has been washed away by the flash floods. Looking across the river bed, he is pleasantly surprised by the red plumes of Coral blossom. The little Island is right there, where he had left it, but now it is no longer rocky, but is a green oasis. The trees are home to a number of parrots and koels.

Although the writer had mentioned at the end of section I that he had no other member of his family in India, it seems that this isn’t true. At Dehra, in the island, on the river bed, he discovers that he has a whole big family. The trees there “knew him” and beckoned to him with warmth and love. The trees and even the koel singing “who-are-you” seem to consider him as one of them. This probably is because he had planted them and given them a new life and this becomes the basis for bonding into a family. That the writer can commu- nicate with the trees and feel them calling him shows that there is a communion that is formed between him and the trees there.

The trees planted by the writer and his father had not only taken root but had multiplied. Wild grasses and plants had come up under the protection of the trees. Mother Nature had worked its magic and multiplied the few trees that the writer and his father had planted. Looking at the wide expanse of trees, it occurs to the writer that the trees had indeed moved and would keep moving. His father’s dream of “moving” trees had become real on the Island in Dehra.

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