kids up a tree
Photo: Sheetal deSa

The Air Up There: How to Climb a Tree

Brothers Aum Kieta and Naru Kieta are experts in climbing trees and building treehouses—having gently integrated houses into trees across Kodai, and India. Aum is also a garden wizard, speaks six languages, and is a dedicated practitioner of yoga and meditation. Naru is a creative architect, with a passion for building natural structures using natural materials. They live in a food forest on the outskirts of Kodaikanal. The Kodai Chronicle made the climb and reports back.

Ten years ago, and even 20 years ago, and even before that, the world was not as scary a place as it is now. Kids like you and me used to climb up trees without adult supervision. Occasionally, a kid would get stuck in a tree, just like a cat. Imagine their parents poking them with the other end of a broom to come down. Some kids could never come down and started living in the trees forever. Since trees are like a free supermarket for fruits, there was an endless supply of fresh, juicy pears, apples and mangoes. Life is good up on a tree.

Kid up a tree
Adventure Ahoy! Get out of reach of adults (Photo Sheetal deSa)

Twenty years ago two Kodaikanal kids—Naru and Aum—loved to climb up trees to escape from adults. It is a known fact that no adult in his or her right mind would ever attempt to climb a tree. That doesn’t mean that the adult physically cannot climb a tree—after all, all you need to climb a tree is two hands and two feet. But the idea of climbing a tree is too scary for an adult. You see, climbing a tree is not very adult-like. Adults prefer sitting behind a desk, looking serious, worrying about a bunch of made-up numbers, calculating stuff, and counting bits of funny-looking paper. So if you need to escape adults, just climb a tree, like Naru and Aum.

Don’t wanna go to school? Climb a tree. Don’t wanna do maths today? Climb a tree. Don’t wanna eat porridge? Climb a tree. Don’t wanna sleep before 8? Climb a tree. Actually, if you stay in a tree long enough, you can escape adulthood altogether. Just climb a tree and don’t come down, despite all the begging, coaxing, and threats from your parents. It’s not like they’re gonna come after you up there.

Aum setting up home on a tree (Photo: Shejin Sn)

I asked Aum to give us kids some tips on how to climb a tree. Aum said, ‘I can’t really teach you how to climb a tree. It’s like walking.’ But here are the tips he shared.

The Non-Guide to Climbing a Tree

You first find a tree with low branches. It’s best to climb barefoot. You have to listen to the tree with your hands and feet.

Stretch a hand as high above your head as possible, feel if the branch is strong, then grip it tight and pull yourself up.

Now bring up one of your legs to find a place on a branch. But before you put all your weight on the branch, check with your legs if the branch is strong—kick it to hear the sound. If it breaks and you were thankfully holding on tight, you are smart. If you were not holding on tight, you will fall, and you will now definitely be smarter.

Don’t go up too high until you are more confident. 

Don’t run up a tree. There is no competition. Don’t try to impress your friends. It always ends badly when you try these stunts.

I have told you before that you can escape the most dangerous things in life by climbing a tree. You can also escape wild animals like a bison. According to National Geographic, bisons don’t care about capturing moments to share on instagram. So if you spot a bison in the wild, never, ever try to click a selfie with them. They hate it. Instead, you can totally escape them by going up a tree. The law of the jungle is clear—those who go up a tree, go above life’s ordinary woes. So whenever you are in doubt, you can climb a tree without thinking.

kid up a tree
Photo: Sheetal deSa

Now I will tell you all a secret that you are going to love. You get all the bars of your network reception up on a tree. That means 4G internet at super speed. Another reason to climb up a tree.

A quick and easy way to climb a tree is to find one with a tree house. When Naru and Aum grew up, they decided to stay up in the trees permanently. So they built tree houses. Adults can easily go up to a tree house (because they don’t look ridiculous going up steps as opposed to climbing branches). If you are in or around Kodaikanal, bug your parents to take you to the tree houses Aum and Naru have built. They are in the process of building another one now. This tree house will be the biggest in Kodaikanal when it is completed.

kids up a treehouse
Up a treehouse built by Aum/Naru at Agastya Academy, Erode, Tamilnadu (Photo: Sheetal deSa)

So next time you see a big tree, try to climb it. There is a possibility that you will fall and hurt yourself. And your friends may laugh at you. Nothing that a couple of Band-Aids cannot fix. And you may just find some interesting kids like Naru and Aum already sitting up that tree, waiting for you.

Aum and Naru, building a treehouse on the outskirts of Kodaikanal (Photo: Shejin Sn)

Editorial note: don’t try this without parental supervision.

Ronak Singh Bhasin

Ronak Singh Bhasin is a poet and filmmaker. He has been on the road for the last 11 months, spending most of it in Kodaikanal, letting himself be guided on his wanderings by his inner child and his analog film camera.

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