Life and Earth

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:: On Killing a Tree ::
Poet: Gieve Patel.
A well-known Indian poet and is a doctor by profession. He expresses his concern with living beings through images of violence. On killing a tree is not about the killing of a tree, but about the endless life in a tree. Paraphrase of the Poem:

[1-9 lines]
It takes a lot of time and strength to kill a tree because it grows slowly and rises out of the earth by absorbing years of sunlight air and water. So, it is not easy to kill a tree with a single stroke of a knife. [10-19 lines]

The tree has deep roots which draws its sap from the earth. It gives rise to tiny twigs and miniature boughs. We hack and chop to kill a tree. But hacking and chopping cannot destroy it completely as green twigs are sure to emerge from the bleeding bark. The miniature boughs (branches) will grow from close to the ground and grow back to its normal size. Here the poet uses imagery of violence like cutting, jabbing, bleeding contrasted with the spreading of leaves and boughs. [20-29 lines]

The source of the tree is its roots which is white and wet. The secret of its strength is that it is hidden inside the earth for years together. It is fixed firmly in the earth. Thus to kill a tree it has to be uprooted, scorched and choked in the sun. It takes much time to kill a tree. [30-35 lines]

After uprooting, the roots are to be exposed to the sunlight till they dry and become brown. Then it stops breathing. It becomes hardened, twisted and browned. 1. "It takes much time to kill a tree" Why does it takes so much time to kill a tree? It takes much time to kill because it has grown slowly consuming the earth, rising out of it, feeding upon its crust and absorbing years of sunlight, air and water. 2. "It takes much time to kill a tree. Not a simple job of the knife. Will do it...." Why does it takes so much time to kill a tree? It is not easy to kill a tree simply with a stroke of a knife. The tree has deep roots which give rise to tiny twigs and miniature boughs. The root has to be uprooted, and it has to be scorched and choked in sun and air. This process takes much time and it requires a lot of effort. Then only the tree is killed. 3. "Not a simple Job of the knife will do it", there are several images of death and violence in the poem. Can you list them? The images of death are "hack, chop, scorching, choking, browning, hardening, twisting and withering". The words that show violence are roped tied, pulled out and snapped out entirely from earth crust. 4. Why does the poet use the word 'kill' rather than 'destroy? Does it suggest his attitude to trees? What do you think is his attitude to them? The poet treats trees as living organisms which feel pain and pleasure alike the human beings. He, therefore, feels that trees should not be deprived of their right to live. So his attitude to trees is quite humane. 5. Why does the poet talk about 'killing' a tree?

The poet considers every tree as a living organism. It too feels pain and pleasure alike the human beings. So he uses the expression 'killing the tree' rather than 'destroying' or 'cutting' it. According to him a tree cannot be denied the right to live. So his attitude towards trees is fairly humane is sympathetic. 6. It has grown slowly... 'The word 'grow' is suggestive of life. There were several words of the same kind. Can you spot them? Why do you think the poet uses such words? Besides the word 'grow' there were several words of the same kind such as consume, rise feed, absorb, sprout etc., are suggestive of life. The poet uses these words to emphasize that the tree is also a living being. 7. The bark of the tree is described the 'leprous hide'. What grows from it? How is it "Ironic" that the leprous hide sproute leaves? Leaves grow from the leprous hide is the bark of the tree. Leprosy usually eats away the body. It never promotes growth. But, here, the leprous hide that has a cruel tendency of killing has been depicted as a source of growth....
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