So I said, “Don’t be worried, come and stay with me.” I was staying with one of my uncles. So in this strange way we became known to each other. And in the morning I took him for a walk – Jabalpur is very green, so full of trees that you don’t see the houses, you see only the greenery. And he said to me, “I hate these trees, because these trees are the enemies of man. If just for five years you stop cutting them, they will run over the whole city and destroy all the houses.”
There is truth in what he was saying, that man has created all these cities by cutting the trees. And if you allow the trees to grow again, they are going to destroy your so-called civilization. He said, “Whenever you come to Benares, you are welcome to be my guest.” After two years I had to go, so I stayed with him. And in the morning I was going for a walk, so he said, “I followed you in Jabalpur for a walk, so I will here also.”
Benares is barren, no trees at all. The whole university is just buildings and buildings, beautiful buildings because all the Maharajahs of India contributed to make a great Hindu university. The idea was a Hindu university should be parallel to Cambridge, Oxford, or Harvard. So much has been done, and beautifully done; there are marble buildings, great buildings, beautiful hostels, but no trees at all.
I said to him, “Now I understand why you were so much offended by the trees that I love. I cannot survive here. It is true that trees had to be cut to make houses and cities, but that does not mean that trees have to be completely destroyed. Then you will die too. There needs to be a balance because the trees are continuously giving you oxygen. When you breathe in, you take oxygen; the oxygen is absorbed by your blood system and the carbon dioxide is thrown out.
Trees take the carbon dioxide; that is their food. That’s why when you burn a tree you get coal. Coal is nothing but carbon dioxide in solid form, it is carbon. They live on carbon dioxide, you live on oxygen; it is a good friendship. Neither do they have to destroy the civilization, nor do you have to destroy them. You should live in coexistence; that’s the only way to live – and here I don’t see a single tree.
“And just twenty-four hours here and I am feeling dry. Without seeing greenery your eyes will lose luster. No, I cannot be in this university. It may have great professors, it may have great libraries, it may have great facilities, but I would prefer some huge, big, ancient trees.”
And I wandered all over India to find a university where there was something better than Jabalpur. And when I found Sagar I remained there, because Sagar is just unimaginably beautiful. It is a small city, but the city is away beyond a very big lake. The city is on one side of the lake, and on the other side there is a range of hills, and on the hills is the university. And all around, huge trees, and so silent… Benares was so crowded and so buzzing with ten thousand students in the university. Sagar is a small place, and the university was new. I remained there.
Rajbali Pandey once came to Sagar while I was still there to deliver a series of lectures on history, and he saw me and he said, “What happened? I thought you had gone back to Jabalpur.”