My workplace has recently resorted to using a marigold plant competition as a means of keeping team spirit high and staying aware at work. We spent a day collecting our pots, loading them with compost and planting a few seeds of marigold in them.

Twelve weeks later our office window sill is lined up with plants labelled with employees’ names on them. The heat is on and the marigold plant judgment day is arriving soon.

Criteria for judging the winner is based on the health, structure and number of blooms a plant has. My plant has reached a height of nearly half a meter, which I am delighted to see.

My initial response to this activity was that it is a lame exercise. But over the last 12 weeks it has been satisfying to see the seeds growing into a tiny plant, then into a blooming structure of leaves, branches and eventually yellow marigold flowers.

I had not given this growing plant much thought but now I seem to care for it and water it twice a week. I appear to be concerned about it that it is a living entity.

The idea of holding such an activity at workplace was to raise environmental awareness. And I feel this has been achieved. Everyone in the office, who was least interested, now seems to be in charge of taking care of their plants to ensure that they prosper.

Back in my kindergarten days I remember engaging in this activity also. I first dug and placed into the ground a plant at the age of five at my kindergarten school.

Last year my mother recommended the kindergarten school to a colleague who was looking to get her child enrolled at a decent school. Mother had not visited that school since I left it 24 years ago.

Upon arriving there she bumped into Ms Rubina, my nursery school teacher, who even after all these years managed to remember Mother’s face and my name.

Ms Rubina asked my mother to accompany her to the school garden for a few minutes. As they stepped outside, she pointed out to a tree that stood 10 feet tall with all its strength and blossoms. She told my mother that the tree standing was the plant I had placed 24 years ago during my time at the school.

My mother felt very astonished as the tree gave her a sense, feel and appreciation of how more than two decades had passed and what life had given and taken in all these years. The tree stood tall representing the time that had gone by.

These trees and plants have long been here before me and will need to be around after I leave. I owe respect to them by being concerned about environment. I will try to plant more often.

As it stands, 16 million acres of natural forests disappear every year due to deforestation. The human desire for urban development lacks concern for environment.

The World Resource Institute states that currently only 22 per cent of the world's original forest cover remains intact and deforestation continues to deplete the world’s forests by 0.18 per cent every year. Deforestation in Pakistan, estimated at a rate of 0.5 per cent annually is the highest in the world.

ALLY R. MEMON Karachi

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