BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
“Nothing grows under a banyan tree”, is an old Indian saying that may have struck many people passing through Cobrawaddo in Calangute.
These are people who stopped, looked with disbelief as they watched an uprooted two-hundred-year-old banyan tree next to a new construction coming up where the foot of the tree once was, and moved away, quite possibly saddened.
“The destruction of this tree proves our greed for money. We have reached a stage where we can do anything to earn more money. We are left with no past,” says Nukul, who remembers coming to play volleyball and leaving for home after worshipping at the tree.
About the uprooted banyan tree – one version says the builders did it to suit them, and the other attributes the uprooting to the imbalance during excavation work. It has been circulating on social media, not just because it was uprooted, but the number of snakes seen and videographed.
Witnesses claim they were snakes with moustaches, colloquially known as zaggeche soropor, cobra of the place.
For locals and members of the majority community, harming such snakes is disastrous and is the reason why most people gathered there believed the builders are now trying to put the tree back in place.
“The snakes living in the trees will harm the person responsible for this destruction. Two big snakes were seen moving all over the tree after it was uprooted and someone must have transmitted the ‘evil’ story to the person behind uprooting the tree,” believes Ramesh, a resident of Cobrawaddo, who still cannot believe the audacity of the person who asked for such an ancient tree to be uprooted.
“This is the greed of our sarpanch and the panch member of this ward. It does not matter to them which tree is being cut as long as they are kept happy. This is in style in Calangute,” claims Parvin as a matter of fact.
“The permission to build the basement was given by the Town and Country Planning (TCP) department before I took over as sarpanch, and therefore, there is nothing I can say. If people have any doubts, they are free to meet me at my office,” says Joseph Sequeira, the sarpanch of Calangute.
“It is obvious that the tree has been uprooted. As the tree is devoid of any branches, it cannot be assumed that the old tree was a victim of bad weather. The human role is clear,” states a senior forest official, on the condition of anonymity, when confronted with pictures.
“The villagers prevailed over the owner of the construction to lift the tree back in place, and we are on the job. We are on the job for the last two days. First, we cut the excess branches, and as there are overhead wires, work is a bit tricky,” states one of the individuals operating one of the two cranes on site.
“It will take us a few days to get the tree up and standing,” he adds.
“They first uproot the tree and now want to get it back. Isn’t it a strange way of thinking? It would have been better had they not touched the tree at all in the first place,” says bystander Xavier.
He halfheartedly adds that the owner must have become frantic on hearing about the snakes.
For the old timers of Calangute, cutting trees is not new but touching the banyan tree – which has a spiritual significance for many – is going too far, because like many, they too believe that nothing grows under a banyan tree.
And as they watch, the focus is on trying to get a glimpse of the snakes that moved along the tree when it came down.