On a sunny afternoon on a spring Sunday, a friend and I decided to visit an older woman who moved to another area in the community. We lovingly called her Dadiji (Grandma); she lived with two bachelor sons in her sixties. Her elder son tutored the neighborhood kids after work every night and never charged for tuition. They lived just above our apartment; I found it interesting to sit around while my friends learned from him.
Her younger son got promoted, and they moved away from our building to another apartment building. The new building had different exterior colors, comparing with ours, which was plain white. Her new apartment was on the fourth floor now; we got tired of climbing up the stairs. Our breath was going faster, and I suddenly felt a cramp in my legs. "Preeti, how much more do we have to climb?: I asked with a heavy breath. She knew their house number. "Oh, just one more floor now, come on fast," cried Preeti. We reached the fourth floor and knocked at the door of apartment 404. Even though we were exhausted, we were so excited to visit dadiji's new home for the first time, and she was equally delighted to have us. She invited us to sit on their new comfy sofa. "You must be tired that you walked all the way here; I hope it was easier to find our new apartment," asked Dadiji. Would you like to have some tea? She walked to the kitchen and in no time brought us some tea and snacks. After chatting for an hour or two, she walked with us down the building and showed us her new building and the area around it. The high-rise building looked much better than ours, with neatly curated entryways.
Something immediately grabbed my attention, and I couldn't resist asking her. There was a piece of land flourishing with vegetables and tiny fruits; I hadn't seen it anywhere in my neighborhood. We lived in a Government society where we had parks, temples, and entertainment halls but nothing like that. "Dadiji, what is that area?" I curiously asked. "Oh, it was a wasteland, a dumping ground. Some nearby residents took charge and utilized it to convert it as a kitchen garden", she smiled. I suddenly had an idea, my heart almost pumping with adrenaline and excitement running through my veins. My eyes sparkled with thoughts in my mind, and I couldn't wait to be home. While walking home, I discussed the idea with my friend, and she agreed. We decided to speak to our parents about it once we reached home. Now, the next challenge was to convince our parents.
As we all sat down in the living room, I hesitated my way but then suddenly uttered, "Papa, Preeti, and I visited Dadiji today in their new apartment. She was thrilled to see us after a month and a half; we had chai and biscuits. You know there is some land that people in that area are using as kitchen garden?" My father silently listened to me, waiting to hear what's next? "I have an idea, and Preeti is also going to discuss it with her parents. We have a similar land behind our building; everyone from surrounding buildings is throwing their garbage there. Maybe we could also convert it into the kitchen garden. I promise to work hard on that, bring supplies and start working on it right away if you both agree" I just delivered it all in almost one breath. My mother gazed at me with sharp eyes, "I've never planted a seed. What about irrigation? How are we going to water the garden from the second floor?" Have you ever thought about it? I don't know how this girl gets these new weird ideas every day!". "Don't worry, mummy, we've got it all figured out. We will buy a hose and will run it through our house window. Imagine Preeti is also going to do it, and she lives on the third floor" I tried to make my point and was very confident. Not to forget, I was an adamant child who convinced my father to buy a TV at the age of 3, :) We all knew it would take a lot of hard work and resilience to start a garden from scratch in a filthy land; we had our arguments and counter-arguments. We discussed all pros and cons, and voila, my parents are the best in the world. They both Agreed.
It felt like I was walking on air as I reached Preeti's house on the third floor to announce the good news. Preeti's parents were farmers back home; they were the best people loaded with knowledge and information. They agreed, too. Life at its best.
So, our duo began cleaning up the grounds; we spent the whole evening collecting the garbage. The entire neighborhood was looking at us, criticizing us. The aunty on the third floor screamed at us, "What are you girls doing? Have you lost your minds?" Another one joined; I don't know what they are up to; these kids certainly look insane. I looked up, holding a dirty plastic in my hand, "Aunty, we are making a kitchen garden here. We are going to grow so many vegetables. Isn't it exciting?" The other children looked at us with anxiety, thinking, why did we choose to clean the grounds instead of joining them to play in the evening? We asked for help, and no one entered. We were motivated enough and continued with our jobs.
The next day after school, we rechecked the area, marked a significant portion of land for us just beneath our apartments, and made a list of supplies required for gardening. The next day, we took our fathers to the farmer's market to buy seeds, shovels, and hoses for irrigation. There was no looking back for us. Our parents decided to join us. In the evening, we all went together to cultivate the land. The next day, we dispersed seeds. We learned a lot about plants, the time and season required for them to grow. We planted Cilantro, Mint, Okra, Onions, Green chilies, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, yams, and cucumbers. In the twinkling of an eye, seedlings started to break the Earth's crust, and we saw small plants all over our portion. Shortly, it became a routine for us to go down and nurture the garden. We all took turns as a family. Preeti and I would go at the same time and chat from a distance. It was a lot of fun!
People criticize you when you bring new ideas to them, but they all connect and consolidate soon after success. Our efforts finally paid off, and we were ecstatic. The fun part was the people from our building, and the opposite one rushed to mark their areas and start their kitchen gardens. It became a kind of competition to grab a portion and mark their territories. Unfortunately, there was not enough space left for everyone. People were now fighting for their share in the land. Preeti and I smiled at each other, we had discussed the idea with many of them, but no one had agreed before. People who got their shares started working fast, and in no time, green vegetation acquired the entire land. Everyone had their own choice of vegetables planted in their area. Evenings became a social phenomenon when all ladies came to water the plants, sometimes kids joined, and men took their turns. It was a time of the day that we all looked forward to.
We were so excited to visit their new home for the first time, and she was equally delighted to have us. It takes one person to start the change, and the rest join. Success can be in many areas, business success, emotional success, family success, success in relationships, academic success, community success, and much more. In my almost 40 years of life, I had success in all areas of my life, but this story significantly impacted me. People meditate in various ways; for me meditating has always been being with nature. Nature has a miraculous effect on the mind. The meadows, landscapes, green and lush green forests, flowers cast some spell that relaxes the mind. Planting itself is therapeutic. I've always felt some connection with nature.
This year, I'm planting again in my backyard and the front. I've grown lots of flowers and a few trees. It's become a routine to look after the plants throughout the day. Planting requires a large sum of patience for sure; we anxiously wait for the seeds to germinate and to sprout and see those tiny seedlings grow into larger plants. Some bear fruits and some flowers. I planted a tomato and chili plant in small pots this year; I also soaked some coriander seeds overnight for cilantro. Days are getting warmer; it feels so refreshing to sit in the backyard glancing at the greenery all around. I can't wait for all the flowers to bloom.
Back home in India, my parents moved from that apartment building two decades ago. New people took over the kitchen garden and still harvest tons of fresh organic vegetables. In life, people will ignore you, criticize you and underestimate you. Never hesitate to work on your goals; you will definitely need your clan by your side but keep going. Success is for those who try and work towards it!
Great job yar purani memories lot kr wapas aa gayee. Really Story Ko read karte time mere face per smile thi. Amazing yar. Sach me bachapan ke din kabhi wapas nhi aayenge. Or bhi bahoot kuch hai tere mere bachpan me. Yad aaye to jaroor likhna. Thanku so much es Story ke liye. 😘😘😘😘🙋🙋🙋
I never knew this was your idea. All I knew an evening all other people get in to that land and started marking their portion.
Great to know this now.