Keeping the spirit of Gandhi alive

Keeping the spirit of Gandhi alive

 Aroor Manjunath Rao in his herbal garden. DH photos/Author

Yes he is his son Aroor Manjunath Rao. It is said that there is always something magical in the ordinary. An ordinary place marked by its striking simplicity and quietness, ordinary people helping in nation building or an ordinary man touching peoples’ lives with his words and actions. All these have combined to become an extraordinary force transforming a small place called Cherkady near Brahmavar. Tucked away in Udupi district, it is a corner hardly seen on the country’s map. However, the place has received a recognition in the country’s map, courtesy Cherkady Ramachandra Rao who started Sarvodaya system of paddy cultivation. 

True to his father, Aroor Manjunath Rao has been following the tradition set by his father. Rao who has served in Syndicate Bank as Assistant Manager and Manager took a voluntary retirement when he was 49 years old and started searching for his passion and came out with a herbal garden in the 50 cents land given to him by his father Cherkady Ramachandra Rao. He has grown around 300 medicinal plants in the land, to create awareness on the medicinal plants among the future generation.

He believes in his father’s principle that one has to live with the nature. ''We have to accept whatever it gives us and not to overburden the nature.''

As you enter the house of Rao, one can find ‘Noni’ plant which gives resistance power to human beings. In fact, if one drinks ‘kashaya’ made of noni bark, one will get away with all the tiredness, he adds.

Few of the plants in his garden are long pepper (gaja hippali), insulin plant, ‘Balli basale,’ ‘Kempu cheku,’ ‘Agni balli,’ ‘Madhu nashini,’ ‘Adu soge,’ ‘Parijatha,’ ‘Champe hannu,’ ‘seege,’ ‘dalchini,’ ‘Gandhagarige,’ ‘Ashoka,’ ‘Rakhthamukta,’ ‘Bilvapatra,’ ‘Kasaraka,’ ‘huvarasi,’ ‘Moorgina huli,’ ‘Anjura,’ ‘honge,’ ‘kumkuma gida,’ ‘Ramapathre,’ ‘Gandhamenasu,’ jam fruit, ‘ramaphala,’ ‘honge,’ ‘guli mavu,’ ‘kakke mara,’ ‘beggers bowl’ and so on. Even rudraksha tree is grown in his land. Rudraksha may fruit next year, he says looking at the plant.

‘Thambuli park’

Rao has also developed a ‘Thambuli park’ in front of his house.

Thambuli is a special dish of Dakshina kannada-Udupi region. Thambuli-rice combo is usually the first course in a multi-course meal. One of the specialties of cooking involves the use of home grown herbs and spices. Many houses still have a small patch in the backyard, where women would grow some mint, curry leaves, Doddapathre, coriander leaves, chillies, ginger, turmeric, etc. These plants were not only very easy to grow, but also has medicinal value, he says.

The ‘Thambuli park’ has ‘Doddapatre,’ ‘pudina,’ ‘Thumbay,’ ‘Ondelaga,’ ‘Brahmi,’ ‘Garike,’ ‘Jala brahmi,’ ‘Kallu harive’ and so on. There is also ‘Nelanelli,’ ‘Amrithaballi,’ ‘Halumaddi,’ ‘Marakanagile,’ ‘Kirathakaddi’ and so on. He believes in ‘Sasyagalinda ahara, arogya and adaya’ (Plants provide us food, health, and income.’)
Rao says he does not want to commercially exploit the medicinal plants which he has grown. “The plants are for the future generation,” he says.

“My father was also of the opinion that natural farming doesn’t mean turning our back on the scientific and modern world. He understood that natural farming can find its true purpose only when it is backed scientifically,” he adds.

Gandhi’s follower

Rao has been following the principles of Gandhi by living simple life, eating simple food and preaching Gandhian thoughts among the school children.

“Gandhi is more relevant today than ever before. We see the dire need to evoke his message of peace and non-violence in the day-to-day life of the common man,” he says.

He visits hundreds of schools every year giving lectures on Gandhian thought. “Of the hundred children, if atleast few believe in what I teach, then it will be a great achievement,” he says.

He has already given over 120 lectures this year to the children. Along with Gandhian thoughts, he also introduces medicinal plants to the school kids along with its uses. He gives lectures on how health can be maintained by protecting plants. Along with these lectures, he provides students an insight into what after SSLC? The students are at the crossroads after SSLC. Many students in rural villages are not aware of the avenues available to them, he added.Rao has also written books like ‘Parisara sasyagalalli arogya rakshane,’ ‘SSLC mundenu’ and ‘Krishi Pandita Cherkady Ramachandra Rao’ among others.