Thanks Aditya Chaganti for sharing your experience 🙂
First ever participation with TWA .
It was my first ever participation in TWA and was so excited and was looking forward to meet all the TWA members and volunteers. After all I was just few days old in the group. As per the what’s app group discussion, we were supposed to meet at chengalpattu by 7:30 pm. After much deliberation, decided to drive instead of train and so started by car at 6:00 pm. Google maps said its one and half hour drive to chengalpattu and as usual started at the nth minute( glad that my wife is out of town,else would have to hear the song again :p) By the time I reached sholinganallur it was almost dark and the drive was nice except the senseless vehicle drivers on the opposite lane driving with high beams ON. The roads were good with no potholes but no street lights after tiruporur.
Reached chengalpattu at. 7:30 pm and when I was about to ping in the group asking where to meet , saw a buzz from fellow volunteer members that they were waiting at akshay hotel. I parked my car at the hotel and introduced myself to the group of around 15 youngsters aging around 25-30 years and a couple waiting along with them. After exchanging pleasantries, they informed me that all of them already had their breakfast and waiting for next group to arrive to go to the farm and asked me to finish my dinner as well. This came as a surprise as I was thinking of a dinner at the farm with the camp fire and buffet style food around the tents and blah blah .. Probably I should stop seeing lot of movies 😋.
Sensing that I have no option,went inside and ordered my safe bet dishes which is idli and a dosa and I must say both of them tasted good with no major complaints. I paid the bill and came out to find out that we were still waiting out for others to come. After some more desperate waiting, rest of the group arrived which includes sunny, who is the farm owner and hosting the event and Satish who has been coordinating and founding member. We greeted each other and then decided to start to the farm which is about 10 km from our current location. There were 2 bikes and one car and so three of them joined me in my car and rest of others boarded the bus. Sunny accompanied by his wife was leading us on his two wheeler and a bike following our car. If I said the road to chengalpattu was dark, this was pitch dark and the only light was that coming from our headlights. We passed along the remote road with mountains on the sides and no humans in sight. The atmosphere resembled that of a Ramgopal varma horror movie and I am sure I would be lost if no one is leading us. The roads were decent with no major potholes and probably better then some of the city roads. We turned off A/c and brought our car windows down to enjoy the non polluted breeze. After all this is something rare for city residents. After around 30 minutes of travel, we reached sunny’s house. I parked my car and all of us got in along with our backpacks. We were welcomed by a young man probably in mid 20s with a warm smile which is so genuine and served us with water. He mentioned that his name is Deva and he was a graduate by education and was looking for farming loan to start his dairy farm. He made us feel comfortable and helped us to relax ourselves down the floor. I then stepped out and climbed upstairs to reach terrace joined by few others. Sunny’s house(farm) was a two bedroom independent house which is surrounded by lot of greenery and Indian traditional homes with each home having at least a cow to meet their dairy needs. The whole neighborhood reminded me of my mother’s native which i probably visited a decade ago and whose memories are slowly going out of my sub conscious mind. I thoroughly enjoyed the typical village neighborhood with no fancy buildings and high rises.
Since we came by car, our group of 4 were the first to reach sunny’s house and we waited for couple more minutes for others to arrive. After all the volunteers arrived and settled themselves, we started the introduction session beginning with sunny. He started narrating his story and I was amazed to know that he was a game developer and quit his job to become a full time farmer and he was with TWA for around 2.5 years. He continued that he leased his present farm of 6.5 acres along with few friends and his landlord was quite specific to lease it only to a organic farmer. Wow !! What a noble idea. For amateurs, organic farming is farming without artificial chemical pesticides. The introduction continued with others each one of them explaining what they do and the reason behind getting into TWA and what they want to do. Each one of them had their own interesting story and presented their own ideas on their future and we all us listened with utmost attention unlike our college classes. By the time the last volunteer finished his introduction, it was pretty clear to me that I am at the right place and all us have a common concern which is pesticides,reduced farming and conversion of the fertile land to housing.
We then called it s day and decided to retire. There were two ladies in our whole group, the ladies were given a separate room and rest of the male clad were given a choice to sleep either on the terrace or in the hall. I preferred the terrace option as I always enjoyed it and it’s not easily possible in our cities for multiple reasons. I pulled the plastic carpet and bedsheets from my car and spread them on the terrace and in a minute my bed was ready. I laid down looking at the stars and listening to the sounds that insects and others are making from nearby trees. The whole natural environment was so nice that you would probably not get even after paying thousands of bugs in resorts. I must say that it’s been long time that I have seen so many stars. I slowly feel asleep without realizing myself and I remember that I pulled a blanket sometime in the night due to mist.
I jumped out of my bed with my 4 Am regular meant for my exercise classes on weekdays which I forgot to turn off. I quickly turned it off and was pleased to know that I didn’t disturb others sleep. As I was still sleepy and no one woke up , I decided to catch up some more sleep and finally woke up around 5:30 am with fellow others too waking up. Morning routines were done at a far away farm as there were no sufficient toilets for all us. I would not write much of it because I might get A rating . After attending nature call, we visited sunny’s farm and by the time SUN started to come up slowly. The sunrise sight was beyond words, bright RED star rising to show its mighty power in the next few hours but so pleasant now with birds humming around and cows busy eating their grass and a gentle breeze. After spending couple more minutes at the farm, we then returned back to the house and was served by lemon tea from the lemons plucked from the farm. While we are drinking our tea, an old man (tatha) came with a mug of curd prepared from home grown cow and texture of the curd was totally different to what we were used to.. It has a light yellow texture, greasy and smells good. Sunny told that it would be really good and tasty then our curds prepared from milk packets…After this we are all set to out big day .. The sowing ..
All of us are pretty new to the Job and like freshers waiting to be assigned to the project, we were anxious to get our first assignment and there goes the orders.. “Go and level the ground”..the total area which needs to be sowed was nicely divided into 5 Squares with passway between them to walk ..the ground has to be leveled such that there no pockets or holes caused by the footsteps.. We were given plant barks to use as levelers and I must say that the task appeared much easier then it actually was. The moment I first stepped in my feet, it went an inch inside and i had to apply good pressure to move my feet further within the black soil. The black soil was full over my legs and reminded me of a mud therapy except that it was only legs. Each one of us fulfilled the task like a disciplined child and as a reward for our good performance, the announcement of ‘ Breakfast is ready’ came. Only then we realized that we spent around 2 hours by then and everyone of us was so happy to earn our reward of idli with cocunut chutney and sambhar. The breakfast never tasted so tasty..and I licked my fingers too not wasting single drop of sambhar .. After all finger licking is good ( far better then KFC ) ..
The next task was to sow the seeds and for this we were joined by several veterans to guide us and the one of them
was the ‘master’ , the landlord of the farm who leased the land to sunny. Along with him, a machine with two wheels joined by a stick and three rollers attached to it was brought which made us think what it was for and the name of it was revealed to be “Drum seeder” . This seeder has three rollers where seeds have to be filled with and upon rolling the machine,it sows the seeds in straight line which will be much easier to harvest at a later period and also eliminates of further rearranging which is labour intense. The drum seeder has to be pulled in straight line with margin of error very minimal and being closely monitored from each sides. Each one of us took turns to pull the drum seeder across the farms and it took almost 4 hours to sow 2 acres of land… It made us realize the amount of hardwork farmers are putting to cultivate and harvest rice for us and every grain has to be valued like a priceless diamond..
In between these 4 hours of intense workout under the scorching sun, we had a ragi Gangi break which was fulling and also a tea break and both of these were at the shed adjoining a 50 feet well …it was during this ragi break, an gentlemen of almost 55+ years with still black hair nicely combed and oiled and in perfect shape dressed in white dhoti and banyan gave us an insight into his healthy eating and secrets of healthy life style ..although many of the things he said were read by most of us in internet or some other sources, adding his life experiences , humor and wisdom made a huge difference and made us to think to change our life style habits for better. While some returned back to sowing, some retired to some fun activities by walking to the core of the well Via the steps along the wall just like those you must have seen in ‘ Indiana Jones ‘ movies. Some also (including me) played with month and half old calf and took some selfies (Gulfies, as I funnily call them) and pampered it. I also happened to enjoy the sight of playful calf drinking milk from its mother and playing without any worries. There were also pigeon cages at the cow shed and pigeons cage was always left open for them to have freedom of going and coming in at their discretion. Wow, what a sight, animals being left to their own, being treated with respect and given freedom, cows having milk to feed their own babies ..all of these are rare sights to see in the city ..I only see cows starving or eating garbage,struggling to live and cope with the traffic, human intolerance and suffering..
So..what did I gain by volunteering for TWA…money ..no?..fame ..no? ..but life experience and
learning …it made me reaffirm my belief that organic farming is an absolute necessity not only to improve our health but also for our existence..it also gave me a glimpse how happy and healthy one can be by just living with nature without spoiling it ..learnt some basics of farming… and more then above, met with some wonderful people each unique in their own ways but working towards a common cause.
Guys and girls, if you are interested in farming and don’t know where to begin with , please join this group and you would be surprised to know how much knowledge you are gaining by just listening to few conversations and reading them and helping farmers.
My special thanks to sunny and his wife, Satish, Deva for their hos
pitality and making this event memorable. A big Kudos to Harish for forming TWA and inspiring others towards farming, all the fellow TWA volunteers for sharing their views and coming forward to support farmers. It was a very well organized event and I strongly recommend it to my friends and family and would certainly come for future events. Good luck !!
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