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Monday, February 15, 2016

Another Garden. Another Life.

This is the sixth garden I've collaborated with Nature in creating. The first one was when I wanted to heal my mind ten years ago. This had to be abandoned later on. 

The next one happened on the terrace and all around our independent rented house in Mandaiveli, Chennai. I absolutely loved waking up to the excitement of the anticipation of a new flower, seedling, and all kinds of unexpected arrivals (including an unplanted banana sapling) on my terrace! When we had to vacate the house, friends came and took home a lorry load of plants, poles, pots and soil that had been created using biomass that I'd drag into our house from all across our neighbourhood: abandoned banana trunks, sackfuls of watermelon shells and sugarcane bagasse from neighbourhood vendors, to name just a few. 

I took ten potted plants to our new apartment, where I was asked to remove them from the terrace following their Association Policy. We moved. 

Our next house owner, a single woman, welcomed plants and gardening, but would secretively pull out and chop off lush plants and trees, pretending like she didn't know about it at all! Unable to tolerate her sadistic behaviour, we moved into another house with the promise of a garden.

The new owner was unhappy with the whole amrit-mitti process (I should have known better!) and got the municipal corporation truck to clear the whole compost one day when I wasn't around. We soon moved out of that house as well. 

Looking for a peaceful home where we could be rooted for sometime, we moved into an apartment with no possibility of gardening and lived there for three years. That it was walking distance from a lovely beach was the saving grace! That was when we started three community gardens through reStore. One in the Adyar Cancer Institute, one at the Urur Kuppam Children's centre and another on a private land in Kottivakkam. The first one still continues, the second and the third went on for a while but had to be eventually discontinued for various reasons.

Whenever I was not waking up to a real garden, I'd get dreams about either open spaces where I would be planning and raising a garden, or a lush garden with all sorts of unusual plants. The intense yearning would consume me from the inside for about half a day after waking up from sleep. I had to live with this pain intermittently. A poem I wrote about my yearning-filled dreams.

After our move to Tiruvannamalai, I started all over again. 

Restarting each time hasn't been easy at all, for images of abandoned or disrupted gardens would stare at me all the time. We live in a rented house in Tiruvannamalai, and one day this garden would need to go or be partly relocated too. Every time before starting work, I attempted practising mindfulness, staying with the pain as it came up and releasing its energy to imagine and welcome new possibilities. 

Infusing biomass (soaked in cowdung or EM) into what was just gravel, nature and I together managed to create pockets of soil and slowly planted seeds and saplings collected from all over the place. In six months, we have a cute little wild garden with quite some colour and character. For the first time, I decided to introduce a lot of flowering plants into our garden. And wow, the colours and beauty they add bring so much joy. Sharing some pictures here. :)

Originally (8 months ago, June 2015), all gravel and a few blades of grass.

Garden (2 months ago, December 2015). Will replace with the latest picture soon!

First successful attempt at tomato-growing.
Harvesting kilos of tomatoes from this one plant, which came up on its own!

Marigold and Lemongrass complex.
With a blue sangupoo creeper, tomato sapling, tulsi all growing underneath.
Lemongrass regularly goes into tea and Thai curry...

Nochi. Great for body pain when added to hot bath water. 

Henna / Marudani.
Going into home-made hairwash powder today.
Will go into home-ground mehendi paste for cooling the upcoming summer effect..

Balsams are great. Colourful and self-propagating.. Just the way I like it! :)

This layered Sangu poo for poojai. And also makes very good juice. Will soon post tutorial! 

Indian Basil (Viboodhi Pachilai)
Used regularly in our indigenised pesto recipe.

Ponnanganni keerai
Basella (Pasalai Kodi), Papaya (appeared by itself), Sangu-poo, Betel-leaf creeper, Balsam, Jasmine,
all happily hugging each other and growing together.

Continuous supply of mint (traditional variety).
Mom, Isha and our neighbour and helper Lakshmi, cleaning up some wild-edible greens harvested from our neighbourhood. Lakshmi is going to help us learn a new recipe using this keerai. Mom willing to try it out.

Love portulacas. Have three colours and am collecting more..

Always thought 'Roses' were overrated, until I had my own! It's an absolute delight to see them bloom. Bunches or orangish red, yellow and white roses, that Isha sometimes wears on her little braid.

My inspirations
Bernard-Deepika's Pebble Garden in Auroville
Subbaraju's garden in Anantapur
Malathi's and Kavitha's gardens in Chennai
Dr.Thirunarayanan's sidewalk herb garden in Chennai
Sapney Farm (and Martin Bastide) in Auroville
Hema-Dev-Aparna-Abhi's sidewalk garden in Porur, Chennai
Bill Mollison

1 comment:

Kavitha Ramakrishnan said...

Great show, sangeetha. Way to go. Love the tomatoes.