A techie who traded in the comforts and chaos of the city to turn farmer, on what the transformation involved.
It was April 2004. I stood in the middle of the lush green field of moong (green gram) and looked around me. It was just before sunrise and the sky was a glorious shade of amber. The ground was damp and the leaves glistened with dew. The soles of my feet were caked with mud as I walked around gingerly, inspecting the plants. Around me were rows of chikoo trees, and below, a dense foliage of moong. It was all so perfect that I could not have asked for anything more.
Yet, just a few years before this, at the turn of the millennium, had I been asked to picture where I would be in 20 years, this idyllic image would have been the furthest thing from my mind. Back then I was employed as a project manager with IBM, a position I gave up in 2003, after 15 years in the Information Technology (IT) industry.
I was frustrated by the mechanical and insensitive city life and the blinkered, complete focus on chasing the dollar.
I changed my life to become a farmer which, for me, was once unthinkable. I was a complete novice as far as farming was concerned, and had not lived even for a single day in a village. Yet, I moved from Mumbai to Peth, a village in Maharashtra’s Palghar district. Unlike software, farming is something which does not come with a well written manual and a convenient “F1” or “Help” button. It has to be practiced for years and learnt directly from Nature itself.
Besides, moving from a city to a village requires a host of adjustments. This is no revelation, of course, but lost in the many comforts of city life, one starts to take many things for granted. Like, electricity and mobile connectivity for instance, the services of the newspaper vendor, the milkman and the garbage collector, and the fact that you’ll find pretty much anything you need at the corner shop when you need it. In a village, there’s only one person you can rely on to your daily chores or run your errands — you. So, before I knew it, I had my own set of equipment: a drill, spanners, hammers, and various other carpentry tools for repairs at the farm. I also started using public transport for my travels, reserving the car for rare outings.
I also learnt to set the clock aside. One of the first lessons I learnt in my new life as a farmer was that in the village, things moved at a different pace. Two days could mean anything from a week to a month. At first, I’d be ready and waiting for a 2 pm appointment, only to have the person I was supposed to meet come in two hours later and tell me, casually, that he missed the bus. You miss one bus and the next one will only roll by after two hours. That too, I learned firsthand. Sitting at a tea shop near the bus stop one day, I asked a lady who appeared to be waiting too, when the next bus for Boisar was due. She smiled and said simply, “It will come.”
It doesn’t always though, as I learned that day, when, on the way back, I had to ride in a lorry loaded with construction material. But now, I can proudly say, I can wait patiently at bus stops for hours, just watching the cattle go by and the dragon flies buzz around.
And, as I discovered that day in 2004, I can spend hours taking in the sight of moong plants. They weren’t more than two feet tall, had little green pods which were not yet ripe, and there was a light fuzz growing on them. There was still some time before the harvest. I felt exhilarated. As I watched the sun rise above the trees and made my way back to my house (a white structure in the middle of this greenery), I could hardly believe that I was the owner of this land and that I was looking at my first moong crop as a farmer.
It had been barely two months since I quit my corporate job and I was hooked. I made a trip to Surat to procure some seeds — I had started reading about organic farming on the internet — and decided that even if we didn’t get a good harvest that year, we would at least have some green cover, which we could use to mulch back into the soil. Incredibly, at harvest time, we managed a respectable 300 kg.
As the years went by, I experimented with new crops each season, starting on a small scale and increasing the areas as my understanding of the crop cycle and its finer details grew. We now grow sesame and groundnuts for oil, two varieties of rice, an array of pulses like tur, moong, urad, and val. Besides, each season we plant various vegetables that grow well in our area: bhindi, pumpkin, brinjal, gavar, chawli, carrots, raddish, galka, suran and papadi, to name a few. Now, I also have pepper, mustard, turmeric, basil, lemon grass, all-spice trees and ginger.
Looking back at that time, I remember thinking of this phase as a ‘transition’; now, I’d define it as a ‘transformation.’
First published by Mumbai Mirror