Growing green fingers

The resolute earth gives way, turning inside out to germi-nate my tomato-ey drea

My usually quiet household has been gripped by an ‘economics’ frenzy. Price indices and inflation rates have abandoned the confines of textbooks, landing with a thud on our dining table discussions. With pulses quickening our pulse and tomatoes painting our budgets in the red, I decide to cushion us with a bit of experimentation in the kitchen garden.

While I may not be able to control the perpetually spiralling prices and get everyone to dissociate masoor dal seeds from red rubies anytime soon, I can, at least, manage to lug back some essentials like tomatoes from this tiny patch of soil. Armed with what looks like a doable task, I enter this space, hoping to unravel the genius of green fingers.

The sequence opens with a soil bed preparation. Half an hour and a few clumsy strikes later, I see my strength flow away with gallons of sweat. The soil is hard and clumpy, giving little support to my naïve muscles. Luckily for them, our milkman arrives and offers a hand, visibly amused at my attempt to combine a sunscreen accustomed skin with a sun that merciless and an earth so stubborn.

By mid-afternoon, the piece of resolute earth gives way, turning inside out to germinate my red tomato-ey dreams. Not so soon, the milkman warns. Delicious organic food is all about some hard work. And a sack full of earthworms!

No matter how creepy these curling beauties appear to some, the feat they manage once inside the earth is undeniable. Twisting and turning, they aerate the soil, making it fecund.

This botany trivia seems simple as long as I picture the milkman opening the sack, sprinkling generous doses of these magic worms. That is before he decides to clean up and walk off, again amused at my ignorance of a milkman’s job profile. In the end, it is these curls of fear and me, nourishing our garden with a watery smile.

As I drift off into dreams of ripe tomatoes after much grumbling from stiff arms and knees, I forget to remind myself of the classic botanical principle – plants shalt wither without water, especially if these are pitiable new seedlings whose caretaker sleeps well past mid-day, condemning them to death under the scorching sun.

I run around with buckets of water, trying to make up for my folly, but end up converting our garden into a slushy nightmare. Perhaps now I can grow rice, the milkman suggests!
Despite the debacle, I keep my hopes intact, shooing away any suspicious crow threatening to ruin them by pecking on the empty square garden. I am ecstatic when a few green buds sprout a month later. As the days advance, so do my hopes and the vigils. Unknown to the rational self, I surrender to prayers whenever the weatherman predicts heavy showers over the evening news. I realise that my heart feels an inexplicable connect with a farmer’s struggles.

While slicing the ten odd tomatoes that finally fruit, I send a million thanks to the real green fingers toiling away in faraway fields.

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