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'Twila's spirit resides in the tree': What the family behind India's tallest Christmas tree has to say

“One of my sister’s last wishes was to decorate the Christmas tree so much that she could see it from heaven,” says Douglas Saldanha, the proud owner of India’s tallest, fully-decorated, naturally growing Christmas tree. Planted in a small private garden in Mumbai’s Worli neighbourhood, the tree is taller than a six-storey building.

Douglas and his sister, Twila Bellow, bought the tree 43 years ago—at that time only five feet tall—from their neighbours, who were finding it difficult to keep it in their balcony. Douglas and Twila bought the tree for a mere Rs 250; little did they know, that it would grow to an astonishing height of 65 feet, and more than anything, become a symbol of their strong bond.

As children, Douglas and Twila became fixated on the tree. They used to water it, take care of it, and decorate it—till the height they could reach—for Christmas every year. Their mother, Grace Saldanha, feels that her children grew with the tree.

Twila later moved to the US, and Douglas was left as the sole guardian of their majestic tree. She got busy with her career, and soon got married, but she did not forget her tree. “She always used to enquire about the tree, even when she got sick, she would ask about it,” says Grace.

In 2005, after struggling with cancer for three years, Twila Bellow passed away. One of her last wishes was to be able to see her Christmas tree from heaven, and Douglas promised her that he would decorate the tree completely every Christmas. He has kept his promise to this day.

The Saldanha family believes that Twila’s spirit resides in the tree, and through it, she’s still close to them. So when Douglas’ father, Henry Saldanha, passed away in March this year, he asked them to not mourn his death, and continue decorating the Christmas tree like always.

This year, Douglas has decorated the tree with 10,000 lights. Douglas feels that Henry’s spirit is now there with Twila’s in the tree, and decorating the tree is just a way to hold onto his sister and father.

Address: MIG Colony, Adarsh Nagar, Worli, Mumbai - 400030

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Updated Date: Dec 26, 2017 20:08:10 IST