Grief-stricken after his daughter’s death, the chief of Piplantri village declared that every newborn girl would have a tree planted in her honour. In the process, he sowed the seeds of cultural, environmental and political revolution
Shyam Sunder Paliwal knows his way through the trees. Pushing through low branches, he reaches a shady copse where a profusion of different varieties grow. Every evening, he comes here on his motorbike to see one tree in particular, a burflower – kadam in Hindi – that symbolises sublime love. In the silence of the copse, he wraps both arms tightly around the slender trunk and rests his head against it, eyes closed. “This is my daughter’s,” he says.
Kiran, Paliwal’s 16-year-old daughter, died in 2006 – a tragedy he marked by planting the burflower tree. He went on to channel his grief into a mission. “She meant so much to me. How could parents kill a baby girl in the womb?”