It all started when musician and DJ Nelson OJ was showing a Swiss friend the weirdly shaped Baobab tree in his Santacruz neighborhood. During their walk, the duo stumbled across another one, this time in Juhu, setting Nelson off on a protracted tree treasure hunt.
Baobab the Builder
Baobab trees have a typically big and shiny bark, small canopy, and signature upside-down look, as if their roots are dangling in the air. Capable of living for over 3,000 years, these are also known as the trees of life and were brought to India by the Portuguese. Mumbai's Baobab trees - some online research Nelson found cited forty such trees in the city in 2004 - are relatively young, only three hundred years old.
So far, Nelson has identified about ten Baobab trees and plans to find the rest shortly. He has already begun mapping them -outside Bhabha Hospital in Bandra, near R.N Poddar School in Santacruz and a couple more scattered around the city. Apparently, there’s a massive Baobab at SEEPZ, Andheri (E), in the vicinity of the now defunct Portuguese St. John the Baptist Church. The area is currently cordoned off because it's an export regulatory zone, but in the second week of May every year the local East Indian community gets together for a mass during which the area is opened to the public and you can get a peek at the ancient tree.
Treat Your Greens
Once he’s found an adequate number of Baobabs, Nelson, who is an avid cyclist and has been organising biking events for years, plans to start free cycling tours around the trees. You can also contribute to his mission by adding a picture and location of any Baobab trees you happen to spot on his Facebook group, which he will add to his map. You might even get romoted to admin of the page - talk about climbing to the tree top!
While we're on the topic of blooming Bombay, also check out Flowering Trees of Bombay, a pretty 2012 calendar by Bombayography, a collective of researchers, designers, historians and sociologists. Each month of the calendar depicts a flower found in Mumbai around that season - apart from the graphics, the coolest thing about these calendars is the typography, which has been letter-pressed in to the paper, a forgotten printing technique that uses the last few Original Heidelberg Presses still functional in the city.
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