Bhopal – the grandfather trees

In 2006, when I first visited the site of the present novitiate in Bhopal, it was an empty soggy field, with one huge mango tree and a line of magnificent mohu’a trees across it, like shaggy green elephants. Whatever plans I heard, preserving those trees were part of them. It was as if they were already seen as nurturing future Brothers, already entrusted with new life.

In 2008, one low building lay in their shade, housing nearly twenty Brothers. The grandfather mango tree provided a shady vestibule. The mohu’a trees provided birds and fruit bats, nests and roosts, and watched as the young Brothers planted new trees around the boundaries.

In 2009, a two-storey building, in pink and deep red, stands in the shade of the old trees. Other religious groups send their novices to stay there, for periods of study, and a new Brothers’ community is forming in the ‘old’ novitiate building, south of the trees. The blue jays have nested there; the fruit bats still rest there during the heat of the day; and a new generation of novices is learning what the trees have to offer them.

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