In the beginning when this colony was handed over to Estate, there were few takers. Such is the lure of Mumbai city where people come with dreams in their eyes that anyone who was transferred to Mumbai wanted to live in the metropolis. Stars dance in the eyes of the people coming here. Panvel being the remote village, poorly connected and far off place distracted the people at that time.
But during 1990 and 1991, when transfers happened on large scale, the colony began to swell with people. A stage came when there was not a single vacant flat. It so happened that transfers were few and far between, a sense of stability and belonging was ingrained in the minds of residents.
I preferred to live in this colony far away from the madding crowds of Mumbai. It has a very big green cover and lot of open space for walking and leisure. There is every conceivable kind of tree that is growing in the colony. There are mango trees which seem to date back from the time before the land was acquired. There are coconut palms, pepul, Jamun, banana and very old and majestic tamarind trees. Plantation of the trees has been somewhat indiscriminate and lopsided. On the one hand, there are beautiful Gulmohar, Amaltas, Barringtonia (Barringtonia acutangula), Jacaranda, Bottle Brush and other flowering trees. One very massive Simal (Bombax) tree is situated at the boundary near the small grass lawn opposite the gate of Kendriya Vidyalaya. It has big thorns on its branches and in February the tree is shorn of any petals and bears red colored flowers. All day mynahs, crows and other birds visit the tree sucking the nectar from the flowers. On the other hand, there are trees which don’t have any aesthetic value at all. These trees grow by leaps and bounds and are firewood trees. Many of them exude gum like substances which damage the vehicle paint very badly. Similarly, there are trees which in particular season flower and release such an intense sweet scent which can choke a person to death if he or she continue to stand overnight beneath them. Somehow these trees seem to belong to Rajnigandha or chameli family with only difference in size and copious quantities of flowers they bear. In the most elegant trees come the royal palms which have strange stately bearing with their bottoms thinner than their trunks. Sometimes they cause damage to parked vehicles when their dry fronds fall down with great force.
There is a season in the months of March to mid-May when almost all the flowering trees, most prominent being Amaltash, Gulmohar, Queen Crape Myrtle, Copperpod and Barringtonias, are in full bloom and there is riot of colors all around. Barringtonia flowers have a very short life span. The pods burst into flowers at night and early in the morning the flowers begin to rain down on the ground. Different trees begin to shed their flowers at slightly different times and the ground beneath the trees becomes carpeted with flowers of red and orange color. After giving the joy to the beholders, the flowers wither away under the scorching heat of sun.
There are many kinds of birds which inhabit the colony and its periphery. In the morning, we are lucky to hear their incessant chirping in different tones and frequencies. The sparrows chirp in the boughs of the trees in front of shopping center in the evening. There are reports that due to noise pollution and cellphone towers, the population of sparrows is diminishing in the cities. So it is matter of satisfaction that our colony still has good number of sparrows. One can hear the interminable babbling of these birds fighting and settling scores for their best branches to make their beds. Crows, the meanest and most efficient scavenger birds, begin to make noises earliest of all the other birds. Oriental magpie robins with their sonorous songs frolic on the telephone wires and trees continuously communicating with their companions through peculiar musical sounds. This incidentally is the bird which is the national bird of Bangladesh where it is called Doel. Koel sings in the branches beginning with low notes which become higher and higher pitched and reach a crescendo and then all of a sudden there is lull. Of course there are ubiquitous mynas and pigeons in plenty. Big Bats visit the colony trees for food in the night. They can be seen coming from the direction of Panvel town and perching in the trees in the avenue in front of School gate. Squirrels make bell like metallic sounds which can be easily mistaken for some bird’s calls.
Outside the boundary skirting the one side is the Kirki River which merges into Kalundare River just outside the boundary of colony. These two rivers have etched dreaded memories into the minds of residents of colony during 2005 monsoons when the flash flood was caused by big landslide into the Panvel Lake near Gadeshwar sitting in the lap of Matheran Hills spilling the already overflowing lake with great force and coinciding with the high tide. In the non-rainy season, these rivers are ribbons of water looking so innocuous. In the month of March and April, cormorants, water birds fly over the colony in beautiful formations, landing in the waters of these rivers and diving to forage for fish and other sea food and sit for drying their coats on the big exposed stones which look like mini islands.
I don’t think that such natural ambiance is available anywhere in burgeoning city where you have to travel a distance to take a stroll in some cramped park. All around there are vehicles honking indiscriminately stealing away your peace of mind. Beaches are badly polluted.
Some Trees in Our Colony