The Mango Orchard

After nearly a decade of traveling across distant lands, it was time to get grounded and invest in good old real estate. But the whole idea of buying a flat in a city sky rise never quite appealed to me. Basically I was looking for a place to kick back and escape the dullness of concrete buildings and machines.

So the decision to acquire some farmland near my birth-town came through spontaneously. Situated beneath a hill that overlooks nearby villages, it was a sight hard to walk away from. A tiny Shivä temple located on the hilltop made the property almost picture perfect. And although I was a little nervous, not knowing what to do with the land, I bought it instinctively.

It soon hit me that I was completely uneducated in soil and crop management, something so fundamental to human existence.An academic background and experience in the technology industry teaches you many things but none of that prepared me to work with bare earth.

With help from my uncle and some village folks, we started work on an orchard. We rented bullocks to till the land and then applied piles of gobar collected from my grandmother’s pet cows. After consulting with the local horticulture department, we planted several dozen Mango saplings before the onset of summer. The farm perimeter was lined with bamboo shoots and barbed wire to prevent random cattle from eating away the plants. We also finished work on a well which is full now, but will probably run dry during summer. The sight of sunflower on another farm had struck me once, so I insisted that we try them out for a season.

Over the course of the next several months, it was amazing to witness barren earth burst into life. We as a society are so obsessed with our computers and gadgets. But to watch Nature elegantly manage weather cycles, soil fertility, germination, plant cell division and pollination pales our “technology” in comparison. These little plants don’t have silicon wafers or electric motors on them, and yet they know exactly how to power themselves through the sun and draw water and nutrients from the earth. There is just no competing with billions of years of evolution of an infinite quantum supercomputer. All it took was a little human intent to plant the seeds and Nature did the rest – well almost !

This year we plan on building a cowshed with a few desi cows. Desi, because indigenous cows adapt well to local weather conditions and need little care. Their dung would feed a small Deenabandhu gobar gas digester which in addition to producing cooking fuel, should also spit out enough manure to spread around the farm. A vermicompost (earthworm) treatment area would be a great next step. Basically it is meant to increase manure efficiency; think of it as organic fertilizer on steroids. 🙂 If things go as planned, I would like to experiment with a medium sized greenhouse for some climate-sensitive crops and solar power.

I was excited to speak before a gathering of local farmers. While they were curious about life in foreign countries, I stood there wondering how much there was to learn from these rural scientists who feed us through good and bad times.

It was a after a long time that I celebrated my birthday with a huge family feast in the orchard. The plates and cups (Khalee-dona) were made of leaves and the tumblers were made with clay – sustainable, renewable tribal technology. The joy of sharing a special occasion with near ones and then watch the sun go down from top of the hill, priceless.