This lady is a mother to 8,000 unusual children6 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
Saalumarada Thimmakka is no ordinary mother. She is 108 years old and a mother to over 8,000 ‘children’ and Umesh! Born in a small village in Karnataka in the 1910s, Saalumarada has seen the world go through world wars, watched India gain independence, and lived through two Pandemics! But despite all this, until a few years ago, Saalumarada’s life seemed run-of-the-mill. She lived a typical Indian rural life.
Saalumarada married her husband at a young age. However, when they were unable to have children, her family was very disappointed. In her village, and at the time, this problem was so significant that her people ridiculed and ill-treated her. She and her husband had tried everything: they performed rituals and visited temples, but much to her family’s disappointment, they had no children. That was until the 1940s, when in an attempt to convince the gods to provide them with children, Saalumarada and her husband began to plant little Banyan saplings. As the banyan trees grew, the couple found that they had in fact been blessed. Saalumarada started to care for her Banyan trees as her own children. All 385 of them! Now, the road between her village and temple is sheltered by a beautiful green canopy of banyan trees.
Owliver’s Obscure Observation: The awe-inspiring sight of the banyan trees made locals give Mrs. Thimmakka the name “Saalumarada” (meaning row of trees in the local Kannada language).
A young 108
Unfortunately, when Saalumarada’s husband passed away, his family took all her possessions. They even took her house! They claimed that since she had no children who needed it, it belonged to them.
But Saalumarada isn’t easily defeated. With the little money they gave her, she continued to plant and care for thousands of trees. Later on, she adopted a son Sri Umesh who she adores and who helps her plant trees and gives her great company in her old age.
Owliver’s Obscure Observation: Saalumarada may be 108, but that definitely doesn’t slow her down. She wakes up at 5am and only sleeps after 10pm! Saalumarada spends her day inspiring people. She gives several interviews and educational speeches and only sleeps at 10 pm after watching her favourite soap operas. She even manages to slip some tree-nurturing into her busy day!
Saalumarada: The name on everyone’s lips
It was only in the late 1990s when Saalumarada was over 80 years old that she was finally celebrated. It all happened because a man from her home state of Karnataka, H.D. Deve Gowda, became the country’s Prime Minister.
When PM Gowda read a short article that a local journalist had written about Saalumarada, he invited her to New Delhi. Soon after, Saalumadra became a local and global celebrity. In 2016, BBC named her one of the 100 most influential women in the world. In 2019 she even won one of India’s highest honors, a Padma Shri!
Owliver’s Obscure Observation: In 2019, Saalumarada worked hard to prevent the trees that she planted with her husband from being cut down. Her mission became a success after she promised that she and her son would lie in front of her beloved trees to prevent them from being cut.
Despite all these honors, Saalumarada still lives a life of poverty. She was given a house by the local government but still gets expensive bills that she is unable to pay. Let’s help Saalumarada by spreading the word about her and planting some trees.
Owliver’s guide to planting a tree
What you’ll need:
A sturdy stick
- Find out which trees grow locally and won’t mess with your local ecosystem.
- Once you’ve picked your tree, buy a sapling from your local nursery. Ask someone at the nursery to guide you on the ideal conditions in which to plant the sapling that you have chosen.
- Pick a suitable spot in your yard to plant your tree. Be sure that the tree has the amount of sunlight that it needs to grow.
- Dig a hole with your shovel and dump the soil and rocks you extract next to the dug-out area.
- Don’t forget to keep drinking water, to stay hydrated and prevent get heat stroke!
- Gently place the tree in the hole that you’ve dug. Then, fill 2/3rds of it with the dirt that you’ve kept aside. Fill the rest of the hole with water.
- Once the water gets absorbed by the soil, use the remaining dirt to fill the hole completely.
- Make a circle around the tree using the leftover rocks and create a small enclosure for your sapling.
- Tie the young sapling to a sturdy stick so that it doesn’t get knocked over, and can grow enough to stand on its own.
- Remember: Water your sapling thoroughly and constantly feed it healthy with compost or khaad.
You can buy Khaad at a nursery or make your own. Learn how to make your own compost here.
Watch a quick recap on Saalumarada Thimakka’s life: