We had realized that communication and engagement with Arun’s family was going to be the only way we could farm successfully on the KHOJ terrace. (Arun, a support staff at KHOJ, lives with his son, wife & mother on the KHOJ terrace)
It took us nearly 3 months of regular sharing & listening to their needs and finally earning their trust. It started with Ita & Srishti working with Arun’s wife, Nirmala, to segregate her kitchen waste in a small plastic bucket for composting. Shraddha and I, meanwhile began interactions with Arun, his mom & wife about what they’d be interested in growing and eating. Their first suggestion was to work on the tub. The tub had been lying on the terrace with only 2 inch of soil/compost. There were a couple of tomato, chilly and a karela / bitter gourd growing in it. We had to find new caretakers for these saplings, so we donated them to people around Gandhi Park.
Later one fine day, while everyone was grooving to South African DJ Ntone Edjabe‘s performance in the courtyard, Ita, Srishti and I, started to dig and prepare the tub into a fine food nursery with plenty of mulch and compost. Arun’s mother, who would be atleast 75, came and started digging with us. This day was a milestone in our project. We felt like we had finally won over Arun family’s trust. What followed was a subtle transfer of ownership to them. The next day we handed them some seeds of coriander, methi and cholai/amaranthus.
It’s been 3 weeks today and Arun’s family has been sowing and reaping their own greens. They have harvested and eaten bitter gourds and cholai saag/ amaranthus from the terrace. Its not much but they are enjoying the process.
Coming to the Gandhi Park, we planted a papaya, kadi patta and chilly sapling. We discovered a corner of the park that gets water from an overflow pipe from the fourth floor of the neighbouring house. So there wasn’t much trouble about their growth and monitoring. Beside our spot is a small bike garage run by Thakur Ji (as people call him). His curiosity into our farming pulled him into a conversation with us. He began with critical arguments about how our plans aren’t sustainable. That the kids, goats, government and other factors would be a hindrance.
Soon after he mellowed down and the arguments turned into suggestions of what could be planted and how. He said he’d be delighted is we could bring him a Jamun sapling to grow. This was to help with his Diabetes (Jamun fruit and leaves are often used in the treatment of Diabetes in Ayurveda and home remedies).