Thayammal is a 75-year-old rockstar. You will agree with me as you read this article.
Having retired from her teaching profession a few years ago, the only thing that she wanted was to spend time amidst vast expanses of greenery.
She earned herself the title Marangalin Thayar, which means ‘Mother of Trees’, and there couldn’t be a better way to describe her.
In an exclusive interview with The Better India, she speaks about the mini-forest she has managed to grow and her motivation behind doing it.
For Thayammal, nurturing came rather easily. “Even when I was a teacher at the government school, my husband and I owned a piece of land where we had many coconut trees. Post-retirement from my job, I had more time on my hand, and also had the money that comes in every month from my pension. I thought it would be best to use the money to grow things.”
She goes on to say, “I am hale and hearty, and decided that I could spend time and energy on growing things.”
She spent 37 years of her life teaching geography, history and mathematics to students up to class 8.
“After retirement, I not only wanted something hands-on to do but was also looking for something that would give me atma-trupti (satisfy my soul),” she says.
Against all odds
One imagines that to have achieved this, Thayammal had the backing and support of many from her village. However, the truth was that everyone around her demotivated from taking this step. Fellow teachers from the school to the villagers, everyone discouraged her from sinking in all her money into land and cultivation.
She did not pay any heed to these suggestions and did exactly what she wanted to.
Her husband, Naranasamy, now deceased, stood by her and supported the dreams that she nurtured.
While everyone is talking about what she has achieved today, it has been an uphill task for her. She would spend hours poring over books on agriculture, soil types, and other such topics, just so that she would be equipped to handle the land on her own.
She also spoke about the time when the entire region went through a terrible drought, and all the wells had dried up.
These days, she visits the land once every three to four days, and during the season of harvest, she is there every day.
“I have employed a caretaker who waters the coconut trees every day, while the other medicinal plants and trees need watering once every ten days. During the season when the work increases, I hire more helping hands,” she says.
NGO Vanathukul Tirupur
Over the last three decades, Tirupur has developed industrially, but that has come at a cost to the environment. Vanathukal Tirupur is an NGO that works to increase the green cover in the city by planting saplings in all vacant plots, after seeking permission from the plot owners.
Thayammal is a member of this NGO and has benefitted hugely by the expertise that they provide.
She says that she has spent close to Rs 4 lakh on the trees that she has planted.
“My daughter, son-in-law and my brothers pitch in whenever the need arises. They have been of great support to me,” she concludes.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)