The pursuit of paradise

In a new monthly column, we read about the adventures an urban family have with nature and farm living.
Last Updated 13 November 2021, 20:30 IST

When we dropped anchor on a small patch of parched earth over three-and-a-half years ago, we were unprepared for what was to unfold. It was the culmination of years of questing for paradise and the quenching of a visceral longing to return to the farming ways of my ancestors from the mountainous Western Ghats.

Our two boys were growing up in a heartbeat, and I couldn’t imagine raising them sans the adventures of a childhood soaked in nature.

At the start of our search, I had a clear picture of the proverbial paradise in my mind — a blissful wonderland enrobed in lofty trees with moss-clad limbs, by a gurgling perennial stream somewhere in a misty mountain.

Our wild goose chase over the years led us to many prospective wonderlands. That mystical mountain perch with fern and orchid-laced trees either lacked clear access or was mired in legal tangles. The stunning view was inevitably offset by inadequate papers; the fairyland hemmed-in by a bubbling brook would cost us not just an arm and a leg, but our kidneys and livers too!

Reality bites

The endless and exhausting weekend pursuit of our elusive paradise had sobered us to the bleak realities of purchasing agricultural land.

With all leads running dry, we had just about given up on paradise when an unlikely prospect turned up serendipitously with the said parched earth for sale, somewhere in the dusty and populous plains of Mysuru district. There was no bubbling brook, the only standing trees on the land were the 10 tamarind trees and a beautiful Shami tree (which succumbed to old age). The distant Chamundi Betta was the closest we’d ever get to any mountain.

If you will excuse the cliché, this arid land in the plains, though bereft of bewitching beauty, was everything we never knew we needed.

It had the best access and location, situated as it was between two villages, so labour was available, even if at astronomical wage rates. The papers were in order and the land was ‘Vaastu-compliant’ as our seller gloated, and government roads flanked its northern and eastern boundaries.

As for the gurgling stream, we settled for the two-inch water gushing out in a sparkling jet from the 500-feet deep borewell. And the water was sweet to boot!

Nanjangudu town was a 10-minute drive away and as we’d discover later, boasted of supermarkets and pharmacies better stocked than the average Bengaluru supermarket or pharmacy.

Restoring the land

There were more important considerations that sweetened our deal — the land was ready to move in. An unpretentious tiny white cottage stood in the centre of the rectangle with a little fruit orchard planted to one side. A solar fence secured the boundary. Saplings of coconut, mango and moringa were planted in neat columns, watered by a full-fledged drip irrigation system.

We were in the land of giant banyans with three large trees of the species standing guard just beyond the fence in three directions.

In time, we gave the rectangle a name, Navilu Kaadu — Peafowl Forest, after the numerous peafowl that roamed the land and peppered our days with their haunting peeooww, peeooww calls.

There was something else that came with the land, which we dispensed with in a jiffy — a can of glyphosate-based herbicide, a ‘probable human carcinogen’ used extensively by Indian farmers to quell weeds.

Lethal chemicals no longer had a place in Navilu Kaadu. We were determined to restore the land that had been till then poisoned with toxic chemical pesticides and weedicides, and transform it into a safehouse for any critter that sought refuge.

Slowly but surely, over annual harvests of sweet-sour tamarind, fragrant golden turmeric and plump yelakki baale, endless hassles with power supply and labour, many a gaffe and heartache, and eventful encounters with fellow-residents of the wild variety, Navilu Kaadu natural farm is now morphing into our own little paradise. Next month, we will meet a paper wasp!

Rooting For Nature is a monthly column on an off-kilter urban family’s trysts with nature on a natural farm.

The author chipped away at a software marketing career before shifting gears to communications consulting and natural farming. She blogs at www.bluejaydiaries.com and posts as @ramyacoushik on Instagram

(Published 13 November 2021, 20:24 IST)

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