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Off Topic.

I drove past the Conversation Tree a few days ago and noticed someone putting a fence around a newly planted tree.

The Conversation Tree (for all the [one] people who visit my blog who aren’t Guyanese) is a historic landmark on the east coast of Demerara. The tree is to be found at the intersection of the Rupert Craig Highway and the road to which it has given its name (Conversation Tree Road). It was reputedly first planted by Napleton William King in 1876 to celebrate the birth of his son Napleton Walter.

My father named his blog after it.

I took a photo of it years ago, just before the photographed tree finally gave up the ghost. It is a nice picture, counted as one of my best for a long time and it is one of the images that made me think I could be a good photographer (ironically, I did a fair bit of editing on it to produce the final image, but at least I had the raw materials).

I owe that picture (or at least the subject) to Boyo Ramsaroop, who passed away recently. The tree in this picture was probably planted many years ago by Mr. Ramsaroop, and is the tree I’ve known my entire life as “the” Conversation Tree. My recollection is that Mr. Ramsaroop told me he had planted this tree to replace the previous tree (possibly the first) that my father knew during his youth. My recollection may be mistaken, but in any event I do know that he planted the tree that replaced the one in this picture, which was destroyed in an accident shortly before his death.

Boyo Ramsaroop was a well known political and social activist. He was a noted horticulturalist. Among his many other accomplishments he bore the betterment of his country firmly in his heart. Of all the things I could have chosen, I chose his planting of a flambouyant tree on which to comment.

It may well have been the least of his accomplishments, but it is significant to me because he did it from the purest of motives. Not for profit, not for fame (I doubt very many people even knew he had anything to do with it) but perhaps simply because it brought a bit of beauty to an otherwise dreary corner.

I believe that there are still people who do these things in Guyana, though in the past there were probably more. People who uplift their surroundings simply out of a desire to live in a nicer environment, or out of a bit of civic pride. It is not something that is seen much anymore.

A new tree has been planted and fenced. Done, no doubt in his father’s honour and memory, but very likely also in the same spirit as his father, by Gerhard Ramsaroop. These days in Guyana, if you do anything ostensibly in service of your country or community it may well necessitate press conferences, billboards and newspaper reports.

Either I missed the press conference, or Boyo taught his son better. I am inclined to the latter view.

When all the people like Boyo Ramsaroop leave or die, this country won’t be worth living in anymore. By then there will probably be too many self-congratulatory billboards “beautifying” the country for any of us to fit anyway.

 

The Conversation Tree Today

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. themichaellamcollection says: June 11, 2010

    Hats off to Gerhard! I was most surprised that day when I passed and saw the newly planted tree and it’s protective fence. I was left wondering, who in the government would think of replacing it, since it seems most of them are hell-bent on removing things.
    I wish that there were more people like Gerhard and his father around, life would be a little bit nicer.

  2. Sita says: June 11, 2010

    Like Micheal, I myself thought “eh eh, finally the Government fix it up, I guess I should have known better. Bravo Mr. Ramsaroop…

    Thanks Nikhil, I was always under the impression, this tree was up-kept by the Government.

    • Ram P says: June 11, 2010

      Gerhard, excellent work. I am curious as to why Mr. Ralph Ramkarran or his family has not taken this poor tree under their wings and care for it. They should have planted a new one way ahead of Gerhard. After all he named his web site after this tree. He also lives in Bel Air. But then there are talkers and doers.

  3. Whoisang says: June 11, 2010

    Love the Blog….I hope this Tree and fence last longer than its’ predecessors. I’m sure however that good people with pure intentions whether Guyanese or not will change this landscape for the better in the future.

  4. Ralph Ramkarran says: June 12, 2010

    Nikhil, I must commend you on the brief but wonderful introductory essay on the Conversation Tree and your remarks on Gerhard’s effort. There is also an introductory essay on my blog, http://www.conversationtree.gy, on the Conversation Tree and just so that readers would not be misled, let me say that it was written by Kamal, who you would remember, is your younger brother.

    Before I say a few words about Boyo Ramsaroop, Gerhard’s father, I must note the ad hominem attack on me and our family by Ram P. His failure to state his name is a clear indication of his character and those behind him. Every time my name appears in print s/he,or they, surface in different truncated identities in fulfillment of their paid duties as media mercenaries. They are the “Kaymack Factor.”

    But back to Boyo. His father and your grandfather were known to each other since the 1940s and Boyo was known to your grandfather since about 1950. He bacame a friend and comrade of mine since the early 1970s and remained so until his passing earlier this year despite going his different political way.

    The Conversation Tree project was adopted by Boyo some time after the original disappeared many years ago and efforts to replant one had been unsuccessful. Boyo’s efforts had also been unsuccessful. There are two reasons – accidents and salt air mingled with poisonous fumes from motor vehicles.

    Up to a few months before Boyo passed, he telephoned and undertook to plant another tree. Boyo was so determined about this project that he may well have spoken to Gerhard about it. If not I am sure that Gerhard heard his father talking about it.

    It is a wonderful gesture to his father and Gerhard must be commended.

    Boyo’s last conversation with this family was with your mother. He said he would plant another tree and would name it the Ramkarran Tree in honour of your grandfather.

    Surely, a more appropriate name would be The Ramsaroop Tree.

    Ralph Ramkarran

  5. Ram P says: June 12, 2010

    Mr. Ramkarran you are giving me far too much credit. Sir, I am just a simple man. I am not affiliated with any politics or parties. Welcome to the world of the blog where people are free to use any name they feel like. In this world we address ISSUES not people’s character.

    Your dad, Mr. Boysie Ramkarran was a great man who walked around the neighborhood and actually talked to people. I hope you can instill in your sons to do something similar as Gerhard has done, for their grandfather. Something in Bel Air. This blog may be a great place to feel out some suggestions. I hope you can go to the GNI blog and see the compliments Gerhard is getting. Thank you for allowing my posts on your site.

  6. Kamal says: June 12, 2010

    Last year Stabroek News wrote a short article on the origin of Conversation Tree(http://www.stabroeknews.com/2009/stories/05/17/conversation-tree/).

    I responded by thanking them for the article and writing about our family’s link to Bel Air and to the tree ever since the first one was planted (http://www.stabroeknews.com/2009/letters/06/20/conversation-tree-and-family-history/).

    A year before, a blogger named Guyana Gyal also wrote a lovely piece on the tree in which she made reference to Gerhard’s father as he was planting the previous one (http://sapodilla.blogspot.com/2008/05/for-kamal.html).

    We might all only be talking about it and photographing it, since we’re talkers and not doers, but it would not mean anything to anyone if it just stood there like any other tree without memories, photographs and words to keep it symbolically alive, as it has been since 1876.

  7. Naseem Nasir says: June 14, 2010

    I hope that this tree survives longer that the previous ones.

    My take on the low survival rate of these trees is that the nutrients in the soil have been depleted for some time and this is the reason why the trees have been dying out.

    Life does not exist in a “vacuum”. This is why current thinking about the preservation of rare and endangered species is based on the preservation of the complete ecosystem that is required to sustain the life of the species. The ecosystem is supposed to be self replenishing and sustaining and is cyclical in nature. It usually comprises of plants and animals living in harmony with each contributing in some way to the survival of the ecosystem.

    I believe that the ecosystem defined by the small triangle of land that the Conversation Tree is planted on is dead, probably as a result of the area being too small to have significant populations of plants and animals to sustain a fully functioning ecosystem. The area is also isolated from other areas by the roads that go around it.

    For this tree to survive, it will need a frequent, regular supply of nutrients delivered to it by Man. And Man has to stop driving like mindless, brainless, stupid, irresponsible idiots and not hit the tree down.

    Enough.

    Nas.

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