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कृण्वन्तो विश्वमार्यम्


By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
I love my garden. It is known as UPVAN to both friends and foes alike. My garden has helped me fall in love with Nature and recite the Ved mantra known as the Shanti Path. I chant it every now and then while sowing seeds or harvesting what I had sown many months ago. The very look of my garden motivates me to chant the mantra and the mantra brings me close to the Nature. The net result is – happiness. It is happiness that many men and women miss in their daily life doing chores. Gardening, as a hobby, takes me and my family away from our mundane activities to something that is so dear to our hearts.
I retired from active Army service more than a quarter of a century ago. It was the year of our Lord 1990. I continued to stay in a spacious house on the Shanti Path, New Delhi courtesy our friends in the Raksha Mantralaya for one calendar year and then moved into the present single unit house in Noida. I must pay compliments to the Army Welfare Housing Scheme for building well located spacious houses with a little piece of land left to plant a handkerchief lawn. Indeed our ingenuity helped us to extend the area under green cover by clearing rubbish from waste land and converting it into a real Upvan or garden. The support of my wife, children and neighbours with a green finger were some of the plus points not figured in advance.
Love grows in a garden. So does envy. When the area was just a wasteland where casual visitors and sundry labourers eased themselves, foul smell emanated with a passing whiff of air, snakes and other reptiles slithered to and fro at will, not many men and women living around the waste land bothered to better the environment. When the waste land was changed into an attractive garden by hard work of a few residents who loosened strings of their purses to buy seeds, manure and hire gardeners for hard manual work, lazy fellows and mischief mongers loomed large to block the greening process on flimsy and untenable grounds.
Discard the Evil; Imbibe the Noble – so says the Ved mantra. We did just that. Help came from the well intentioned officers of the Noida administration and it gave a boost to our greening projects. Luckily the Garden Brigade of ours had asked for no financial support from the Authority and, therefore, the wily opponents dared not raise an accusing finger at us for financial mismanagement. In a nutshell the green Garden Brigade marched on triumphantly ignoring the evil forces around. Ishwar is Omniscient said we at the end of the day.
God helps those who help themselves. True indeed! We planned ourselves and executed the plan too. Neighbourly cooperation has indeed been a great asset. Since there was no pooling of money, there was never ever a charge of embezzlement leveled against anyone. GOOGLE GURU was indeed always available to guide us whenever guidance was needed. While reading experiences of other enthusiasts placed in similar circumstances, care was taken to avoid anecdotes of Europe, North America and other countries located in cold climate zones. Of course, we needed to follow into footsteps of gardening stalwarts of tropical countries. Of course, predecessors of our own Bharat were the best people to fall back upon. Cow dung sun dried and compost manures were best suited to our needs and these were easily available without much hassle. Prices differed from area to area and we avoided entering into transactions with hi-fi shops that believed in much ado about nothing. Good quality seeds at moderate prices were always available at the Krishi Bhawan outlet. If one did not mind the distance involved from Noida, the Agricultural Institute, Pusa, New Delhi was the best bet.
Flowers bloomed in season and gave us Joy unadulterated. Roses walked away with the cake. The Udyan Vibhag of the Authority was more than helpful in planting quality roses and also advising on other winter flowers like Paperflower, Nasturtium, Lily, Aster and what have you. Bougainvillea is planted by one and all. It is easy to grow and its multi-coloured flowers attract attention. Basil has always been popular with people looking for medicinal herbs and leaves to boil and drink as a substitute for roasted brown tea. The Chinese example of drinking green tea was emulated by figure conscious boys, girls, men and women.
Vegetables found favour with vegetarians. Even meat eaters love to have a green vegetable on the platter to eat a balanced diet. Organic vegetables and fruits are the rage of the age. We are indeed proud to say with a sense of honesty that our products are indeed Organic. Since no item is for sale and all items are for home consumption, great care is taken to ensure that chemicals are not used by our paid Malis to add chemical manure in the sun dried cow dung to enhance the produce. Urea is a taboo for the edibles. We do not mind using it to make the lawn look lush green.
Fruits are available in summer season. We grow only mangoes, jamun, kachnar for flower-vegetable, guavas, aanwala, and that is it. This year, 2016, our Upvan has ben bereft of mangoes. The trees did not flower at all; the question of fruiting did not arise at all. Never mind, it flowers and fruits alternate years, so opined an old hand from a neighbouring village. Thus gardening teaches us not to fume and fret for what is not seen on the tree branches. Nature takes its own course and a real gardener has to be patient with the Nature. I may recall that last year it was a good harvest of mangoes. We hope to reap a bumper harvest of mangoes next year. Man lives on hope.
Our garden produce is health promoting. Seasonal vegetables are health promoting. One may pickle cucumber and eat it much after the season is over. Moreover pickled cucumber improves the gut health too. Kakari comes out of the vegetable bed in plenty. It is enough for a small family for the day. Moreover, neighbours keep on exchanging their garden produce and promote comradeship. Never mind the small quantity or number; it is the spirit behind the gesture that matters. It is fraternizing that matters most.
Going by the aforesaid description of plants, flowers, trees, one may surmise that ours is a good orchard bearing native fruits, vegetables and flowers. Well, it is a good orchard but not a big one. It is a mini garden grown on waste land and the area presents a good and clean look. Obnoxious smell has been eliminated and those who come by for a morning stroll or a leisurely walk in both summer and winter are not disappointed. Of course, dogs are not allowed for obvious reasons inside the Upvan. There is a dog’s corner provided but the stray dogs prefer to use Upvan and cause quite a headache. Life goes on like that.
Good gracious garden has indeed many lessons for us. When a crop fails, our money and labour go waste. We are not saddened. We remember Maharana Pratap who lost the biggest battle, Haldighati but did not lose heart. Eventually he won back most of his forts but Chittorgarh. In gardening one may be down but one is never out. Gardening attracts and motivates us to be at it, never say die.
I am overjoyed when I sit under a mango tree in my garden. I am elated when I see Roses of different colours – white, yellow, pink and red. Mango fruits are not there this year but the Nightingale has put in an appearance with its extended family. Its family chat may not be intelligible but the sound certainly gives us joy unbound.
We miss some, we gain some. As said earlier, never lose Hope. If winter comes, can spring be far behind?
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