If you ever visit TSC at the Dhaka University area, you will see a tree reaching towards the sky with bright, shimmery green leaves and atop stands a burnt branch, poised as if it's going to shoot a jolt of thunder in the sky.
No one knows since when it has been spreading its roots beside the boundary wall, neither does anyone know when the rapturing thunder struck the branches.
Till this day, young students sit under its shadows with cups of tea in their hands and the tree stands there welcoming new students every year. In the late naturalist Professor Dwijen Sharma's book 'Shyamoli Nishorgo', he introduces us to the tree. It is called 'Buddha's Coconut' or 'Stave Wood'.
But this is not where Fahima Adnin learnt about the tree. In 2016, when she was a third year student at the university, she came to know about 'Gach Dekha, Gach Chena' - a programme about seeing and identifying trees organised by Tarupallab.
That year, the programme was held at the university campus and Professor Dr Jashim Uddin of the department of Soil, Water and Environment led the team around the campus. That is where Fahima learnt about 'Buddha's Coconut'.
'Taru' means tree and 'Pallab' means leaves. From its namesakes we can tell that it is a tree-enthusiast organisation and it celebrated it's 12th anniversary in 2020.
Starting in 2008, the organization has held almost 35 'Gach Dekha, Gach Chena' and tree plantation programmes around the country. For the last 12 years, the programme has brought hundreds of nature lovers under one platform.
Currently, Tarupallab has 250 general members and 20 lifetime members. Their motto is 'Living with the flora and fauna'.
Tarupallab held its first 'Gach Dekha, Gach Chena' programme on December 5, 2008, at Ramna Park. From then on, they organise the programme at different places in the country twice or thrice a year.
Debashish Bishwas, a faculty at Jagannath University, had his first 'Gach Dekha, Gach Chena' experience in 2010. "The programme is Prof Sharma's pride and the details in which he was describing each tree, flower or shrub was mesmerizing," he told the correspondent.
While talking about the founding story of Tarupallab with The Business Standard, the organisation's secretary Mokaram Hossain said that there are more than 5,000 species of trees and plants in Bangladesh.
In the capital, there are 250 species of trees and plants, including the trees in the National Botanical Garden and Baldha Garden. But most of the young generation do not know much about the greenery around us.
Mokaram added, "Many of my friends and acquaintances used to be sad because their children do not know the names of the trees they see."
This is what was bugging Debi Sharma, wife of Professor Dwijen Sharma, as well. Both of them requested Professor Sharma to start an initiative or to create a platform where common people could come with their families to learn about trees.
Finally in 2008, Professor Sharma agreed and that is how Tarupallab started its journey with the idea of teaching the young generation about trees.
Professor Sharma was the founding president. Selina Hossain, Enam Ul Huq, Biprodas Badua, Mokaram Hossain, Shahajan Mridha Benu, Urmy Lohani and others joined him. After Professor Sharma's death in 2017, Selina Hossain presided over Tarupallab as the President.
Selina said, "With more time passing by, we have now forgotten that trees are our real guardians, ancient story-tellers, providers of food and, most importantly, providers of clean air. We need to leave this place pure enough for the next generation to breathe."
Tarupallab wants to inspire us towards that journey. Apart from its 'Gach Dekha, Gach Chena' programme, this tree enthusiast group organises tree plantation programmes as well as workshops for gardeners and discussions on the impact of trees on the climate. They also help build colourful gardens, and so on.
They also have a magazine on nature and environment named 'Prokritipotro'. Naturalists, botanists and environment experts write on many important topics here. Prokritipotro hit its 25th issue milestone last July.
Every year, the organization awards individuals and organisations with 'Tarupallab Dwijen Sharma Nishorgo Award' for significant works in nature conservation.
Tarupallab has a website and Facebook group through which anyone can join the organization by filling out a form.
Tree plantation programme and 'Madhabi Boron'
Every year, Tarupallab organises a tree plantation programme right before monsoon and at this event, they want to sow a special plant all over the country. It is called the Helicopter Flower (Hiptage Benghalensis), more commonly known as 'Madhabi Lata'.
It is a woody and vine-like climber plant which blooms clusters of pink, white and yellow fragrant flowers, and three-winged helicopter-like fruits. But why is the organisation particularly sowing Madhabi Lata?
Answering this, Mokaram said, "Generally in Bangladesh, we confuse 'Madhumonjuri' or 'Rangoon Creeper' (Quisqualis Indicam) with Madahabi Lata. Both these plants are viney shrubs with fragrant flowers. But the differences can be seen in the leaves, flowers and fruits."
Mokaram added, "It is a symbolic initiative for what we intend to do. We have planted almost 50 Madhabi Lata plants in different places of the country including Ramna Park, Bangladesh National Museum, Bangla Academy, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka, National Botanical Garden, etc."
For the plantation programme, the plants are collected from different nurseries and private collections of the organisation's members. Although the organisation does not have a seed collection of their own, nor do they have any library. This is one of the most challenging aspects of an organisation such as Tarupallab.
Mokaram said that they have plans to open a flora and fauna school, where children and grown-ups could come and learn about plants by following a proper syllabus. And for that, Tarupallab students would need a library and at least a greenhouse or garden and a seed collection to explore.
Accommodating the additional establishments would need a larger space and most importantly the participation of the younger generation. As Mokarom said wittily, "We are a bunch of oldies here. We don't have much of your young energy within us. Creating a Facebook page, organising events on social media platforms, painting on walls and organising concerts need the youth's inspirations we lack."
The government and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is also working on forestation. But Mokaram does not agree with the notion of reforestation. He believes forests are created naturally it Is not something humans can create. "All we can do is preserve and spread it through plantations and love. For that, we need to know our trees, our roots," he said.
"Preserving a greenland doesn't mean cutting down local inhabiting trees and planting economic ones such as Shegun or Acacia. That's what most of our afforestation programmes are doing. This is rather harming the environment and the living beings in the certain area," Mokaram added.
According to Mokaram, trees have homes just like us. Knowing them doesn't mean measuring their length or what colour of fruits or flowers they grow. Knowing means knowing about their inhabiting space and accepting them as they are.