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Monday, December 06, 2021

Fly on the wall: Sprawling Pilkhan tree at Deer Park

For its size and location, the pilkhan stands out among the hundreds of trees at Deer Park. It stands in a clearing of sorts near a small office of the Delhi Development Authority within the park, not far from the entry gate near Hauz Khas Village.

Written by Ashna Butani , Abhinaya Harigovind | New Delhi |
Updated: October 20, 2021 7:08:12 pm
For its size and location, the pilkhan stands out among the hundreds of trees at the Deer Park. (Express Photo)

A sprawling pilkhan tree at the Deer Park in Hauz Khas remains a fly on the wall as action unfurls around it.

For its size and location, the pilkhan stands out among the hundreds of trees at Deer Park. It stands in a clearing of sorts near a small office of the Delhi Development Authority within the park, not far from the entry gate near Hauz Khas Village. The aerial roots of the tree have wrapped themselves around the trunk, and the branches spread wide, casting the tree’s shade over the clearing.

The space around the tree is buzzing with activity on a Tuesday morning. A nearby gulmohar tree, the old pilkhan’s neighbour, has a snake on it. Screeching parrots and mynahs on the gulmohar draw the attention of workers at the Deer Park who are seated facing the pilkhan. A little searching and some pointing later, a worker spots the snake, writhing on one of the branches of the gulmohar tree, against which it is nearly camouflaged.

The snake draws an excited group of children – kids of the workers who are extending the tiled walkways and laying new benches at the Deer Park. They stand a little distance from the tree watching the snake move in and out of sight for a while, wondering if it might fall to the ground, before they lose interest and walk away.

Below the Pilkhan tree, two children of workers take turns to throw cosco balls up into the sky and then catch them. A smaller child, whose mother sweeps the fallen leaves every morning, tries to sit on and move a thela rickshaw but is unable to get on it. Meanwhile, a dog seeks shelter under the tree and sits on its brick tree ring.

It is almost as if all the activity takes place around the pilkhan while it continues playing the role of a silent spectator. A worker estimates that the tree is a hundred years old, while another chimes in saying, “It is actually 150 years old, but people say that it is a hundred years old.” They count the number of pilkhans of that size in the city on their fingers, saying that there must be not more than six such trees in the city.

Almost all the prominent trees have name tags on them. The pilkhan, too, has a small board reading its name in Hindi and English (Pilkhan/Ficus Infectoria) but the board seems to have fallen and is now inverted. The tree is featured on a list of 16 ‘heritage’ trees that was made by the Delhi government in 2016.

 

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