Letter from New Delhi
Meet Peepal Baba, the indefatigable tree planter
Twenty million is a humungous number. When this number represents new trees planted all over India, it becomes very significant considering the abysmal reduction of green cover in India and our planet as a whole.
This feat has been made possible by an Osho disciple, Swami Prem Parivartan, more popularly known as Peepal Baba. He has been planting trees since the age of ten. He has planted over 20 million shade trees in the past 40 years. He is the founder trustee of ‘Give Me Trees Trust’, an environmental NGO devoted to planting trees. He considers planting trees as a celebration of life and an essential part of his spiritual journey, inspired by his master, Osho.
At promo event for new movie Pramanu with the hero John Abraham and heroine Diana Penti. John donated three bikes while Diana sponsored 500 saplings
Here are excerpts from his conversation:
Twenty million Trees: More than 7000 families are associated with this environmental charity. It is their sweat and tireless effort at keeping the young saplings alive and providing the young trees protection till they are independent and self-sustaining.
Early life: I was born as Azad Jain in 1966 in Chandigarh. My father was serving in the Indian Army as a Doctor which meant moving from one military station to the other every two years. At a very young age I got to travel and a lot and understand my country and the environment around me.
At school: When I was at school in Kirkee Military Station, near Pune, I had a wonderful geography teacher named Mrs Williams. She inspired me to plant trees. In 1977, at the age of ten, I started planting trees and planted my first tree on Range Hills Road at Kirkee Military Station. Today, I am 51 years old and have planted over 20 million trees across the country.
Journalist: I completed my post-graduation in English Literature in 1988 and a post-graduation in Journalism in 1989. For 13 years, I worked with newspapers, media agencies and corporate communications with multinational companies. I left the corporate sector on 31 July 2003 to take to planting trees as a full-time work.
Why Peepal? I had been planting Peepal trees (Ficus religiosa or Sacred Fig) in large numbers and gradually came to be popularly known as Peepal Baba. My focus is on planting shade trees instead of ornamental or landscaping trees. Our work is totally carried out by volunteers. Our network of friends and celebrities across the country helps us plant and maintain saplings even in remote corners of the country.
Environment Push: I made home in Delhi as my base. Here, I established a small plant nursery and started teaching children, college students, families who came visiting, about tree planting, environment, soil preservation, waste management, recycling, water harvesting, composting, organic farming through an organization named Osho Paryavaran Paathshala (Osho Environment School).
Social Media helped me to reach out to more people across the country. Today, I have more than 10,000 people connected with me in the digital world. I have volunteers from remote mountain villages to Mumbai. We connect with our volunteers through our website www.givemetrees.org
Much Neglected: Environment has been a much-neglected area of positive action. As an Osho disciple, I always felt that if I have to do justice to my Master, I have to plant trees and get other people to do likewise, for the rest of my life. Whenever I visit Oshodham in New Delhi or Pune Commune, the trees ask me if I am doing what I should be doing. They talk to me and after some rest at these meditation facilities, I return to enrol more and more nature lovers to plant along with me.
Plant Less Preserve More: In a water scarce nation like India, it is important to have an army of volunteers who take on the responsibility of watering the young tree saplings and helping them survive for at least two years. Ideally, we get the volunteers to take an oath of protecting their young trees for a minimum period of three years.
This is the reason that we have been able to achieve these numbers. Plant less and preserve more. Except Kerala, we have planted in every state and union territory of India.
Positive action: Creating micro forests for our cities, tree clusters, and green belts and engaging communities and school children, is the only way forward, if we wish to keep our air and water worth consuming.
Push by Celebrities who are our ambassadors, and lovingly contribute for our tree planting work include Bollywood actors John Abraham and model and actress Diana Penty, top cricketers like Gautam Gambhir and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, TV actors and anchors, Radio RJs and celebrities like news anchor and author Richa Anirudh and popular RJ Rahul Maken. The hero of new movie, Pramanu, John Abraham, is a committed well-wisher who donated his motorbike some years ago for me to travel all over India.
It is high time for the Osho disciples to take charge of positive social action. We have to bring Osho into the lives of people with positive action like a tree planting movement across the country with a message to reconnect with our roots by serving Nature.
Tree Meditation Camps: My romance with Osho started when I was 10 years old. I had the first glimpse of my Master in 1977, when I first visited the Pune commune along with some relatives. A Master crafts his disciple in miraculous ways. Osho destroyed a lot of things around me and re-engineered my life. Sannyas changed my gears from within and gave me the strength to take steps to pursue my hobby of planting trees across the country.
Secular Subject: People easily connect with trees. It is a secular subject. It does not bring any god or religion into discussion. I started talking of trees and gradually introducing Osho into the lives of thousands of my friends and followers. I started conducting Osho Meditation Camps in 2003 for the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir. My meditation camps came to be popularly known as ‘Tree Meditation Camps’.
Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi
* Published in print edition on 14 June 2018