A sapling grows along with your baby

For the past ten years, the Matria Hospital in Kozhikode presents a mango plant to the parents of newborn babies

Zeina Tanash stood next to the green mango, still hanging on a low branch, cupped it in her small right hand and gave a sweet smile, as her mother Jasmine Faizal clicked the photo.

For the Abdullah Mallambalam family, which includes businessman Faizal, the mango tree is close to their hearts.

Zeina was born at the Matria Hospital at Kozhikode on July 5, 2014. A day later, two doctors in their white coats, along with nurses, and the administrator entered Jasmine’s room. They presented her with a cake, and a laminated birth story It mentioned the name of the doctor, the nurses, the time of the birth and the name of the person who received the baby for the first time. In this case, it was Jasmine’s father, Ashraf Anchillath. And lastly, they gave a mango sapling.

They requested the Abdullas to plant the tree so it would grow in the same way Zeina would grow. Since they lived in a two-acre plot at Kanhangad, it was easy for them to do so. “We would water the sapling once a week, and use organic manure,” says Jasmine. As Zeina grew older, Jasmine told her about the tree. Thereafter, Zeina would tell her friends, “This is my tree.”

Matria Hospital

For the past ten years, Matria Hospital has been given a sapling following every birth. “Till now, we have given away 15,000 saplings,” says Dr Mohamed Kasim, Executive Director, and the son of the founder Dr V K Kutty, who died on December 3 last year. Several notables have received the saplings. They include the singers Sayonara and Mridula Varier, director Anjali Menon, and actors Asif Ali and Hareesh Kanaran.

On January 1, 2018, Hareesh’s wife Sandhya gave birth to a daughter, Dwani. Hareesh had been allowed into the labour room and watched the birth. He was much impressed by the staff and facilities. “It was a pleasant surprise when they presented us with a mango sapling,” he says. Within two days, after he reached his home, in an area of 27 cents, in Perumanna, Hareesh planted the sapling. “It will take another two years for it to reach its full maturity,” says Hareesh. “But last year, there was a single mango.”

Playback singer Mridula Varier was not surprised about the sapling. When she would attend the check-ups, on a card which is given to patients, it was mentioned. She gave birth to a baby girl, Maithreyi, on June 11, 2015. The sapling has been planted in their home at Koyilandy (25 km from Kozhikode). “Since it is a mango plant, it grows by itself,” she says. “Still, workers would check on it that it was not afflicted by any disease.” It has reached about five feet in height. But so far, no mangoes have sprouted. Mridula had told her daughter about the tree, so occasionally, she steps out of the house and looks at it. “Maithreyi has asked me when the mangoes will come,” says Mridula, with a smile.

Mridula Varier with Maithreyi

Asked why only mango saplings, Dr Kasim says, “Because it provides a fruit within three to four years.” The hospital buys the saplings from gardens nearby.

This idea as well as the hospital was the brainchild of Dr Kutty, a general physician. He ran a hospital in Tirur. One day, realisation dawned on him that there was no hospital in north Kerala which was dedicated to maternity care. “In a general hospital, when a woman goes for delivery, she might come across sick people or an accident victim lying on a stretcher,” says Dr Kasim. “That is a depressing experience. My father felt births should take place in a pleasant environment.”

Research also revealed that the maximum number of births every day in Kerala took place in the Kozhikode area. So, he decided to set up the Matria Hospital in 2010. One evening, when he was chatting with his mother Kadeeja Nediyil about this, she told him that if during the construction, trees are cut, Dr Kutty should plant the equivalent number after the hospital came up. But following the construction, Dr Kutty discovered there was very little space for trees to grow. So he compensated by growing a lot of green flowering plants on the campus. As for trees, he provided for its absence by gifting saplings.

“A good environment is a must for good health,” said Dr Kasim. “The idea is to encourage families to nurture trees in the same way they nurture their children. Planting saplings is not enough. People have to take care of it until it becomes a tree.”

Presenting the sapling to Abdullah Mallambalam

Sugesh Devu, consultant, gynaecology, says that when families return home they feel they have two babies. “Parents feel happy about a plant growing alongside their babies,” she says.

Jasmine says this is a delightful way to create awareness about planting trees. “This will also help create a little greenery for the future,” she says.

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