Friday, 8 January 2016

Inside a Green World in Sullia


Walking through the plantation. 
A friend of ours had mentioned and described his home-town a few years ago. He said that their house sits on many acres of land bearing coconut, cocoa, arecanut plantations and paddy fields and there’s a river running across their land. This was enough for me to pester him to ‘invite’ us to his home soon!
Towering arecanut trees.
That day finally came in November last year. There was a wedding in the family and he said it would be an opportunity to meet everyone and sample traditional wedding food too! It seemed perfect.
We took an overnight bus to Mangalore and then another bus to Sullia, which is where his house is. Even as we entered the gate he pointed in different directions telling us where the rubber, arecanut and coconut plantations were. We were entering a green world where the only respite would be multiple hues of jade and emerald greens and the bright colours of beautiful flowers, fruits, birds and butterflies! I roamed amongst towering trees, ate food cooked with vegetables plucked from the farm, breathed the freshest air possible, feasted my eyes on verdant greens, adorned my hair with all kinds of flowers till my head looked like a bouquet, ate turmeric roots and stained my teeth with people giggling around, and came back refreshed, with a sense of warmth by being around people who have such a close relationship with the earth.  
Turmeric roots. I bit off a piece and realized that my teeth were stained yellow, when people giggled at me. 

Ginger root. 
What impressed me most is the entire family’s deep reverence and connection with the environment.  What we urban people would label as ‘eco-friendly’ is their natural way of life. This was evident especially during the wedding. Instead of buying cheap plastic decorations, all the festoons and decorations were made of flowers, leaves and arecanuts. Even on the main stage where the newly married couple were to greet people , the screens were made of intertwined coconut leaves. I watched the woman who was making these, and was impressed by her skill. Sadly, with readymade plastic decorations flooding the market, her ilk is rapidly shrinking and so is art also dying.
Coconut leaves for decoration.


The artisan weaving the leaves. 

Notice how the decoration is natural
I, too, joined a group of people to pluck arecanuts which was later strung together and wrapped around the pillars. And they looked so bright and colourful. A short lean man, with a bamboo pole around 30 feet long, with a sharp knife tied to one end, climbs the arecanut nut tree in a blink of an eye and starts precisely cutting the stem of bunches of arecanuts of the neighboring trees. Again he is back on the ground in a second and climbs another tree and repeats the process. I was left amazed by his dexterity, precision and swiftness.
A worker climbs an arecanut tree. 

Arecanuts wrapped around the pillar for decoration. 

An arecanut on my henna stained orange palm. 

For the wedding, all meals were served on banana leaves which is put into the compost and becomes manure for the plants. Nothing goes waste!
Banana leaves stacked for meals. 

Food being served in the main hall. 
We went around the farm and I was delighted to see cocoa trees for the first time. The friend climbed a tree swiftly and plucked a yellow, ripe cocoa pod, broke it by striking it against a stone and asked me to taste it. The inside of the cocoa pod looks nothing like the chocolate we eat. There are multiple seeds coated with sweet white flesh, much like custard apples, but only less sweet. I ate half a pod and scattered the seeds around, hoping more cocoa trees would sprout.
Cocoa trees with some ripe, yellow cocoa pods. 

Inside the cocoa pod.
We went to the river too, during sunset and it was so peaceful to see the sun lending a golden glow to everything around, the birds returning home and the silhouette of the coconut and arecanut trees in the background.
Sunset by the river.
We visited the paddy fields, where just two days earlier the paddy had been harvested. I missed that! We went and saw where the paddy was being stored.
Paddy husk. 

The paddy field recently harvested. 

The family is large with different family members taking care of different parts of the farm and fields. It was heartening to hear that many young boys in the family have left lucrative career options to take up agriculture, and are using innovative techniques to improvise farming and output. The entire farm is purely organic. Our friend’s father has himself brought about numerous innovations to organic farming and has received many awards for the same. Each house on the farm has a separate cow shed with two to four cows. So all the dairy products are fresh and homemade and we had copious amounts of ghee, buttermilk and curd.  The cow dung is used as manure for the plants and also for bio-gas. It’s a remarkably self-sustaining ecology created by the family.
Large lady's finger. They should be renamed giant's finger! 

New coconut shoots sprouting from dried coconuts. 

Brinjals grown outside the house. 

Drawing water from the well in the farm. The water tasted so sweet and refreshing. 

Pineapple. I love the tiny purple flowers on the plant. 
There is something unique about people who work so closely with the earth. I've noticed that time and again, during my travel and interaction with those who work with the soil. They are so down-to-earth, simple, grounded, with an inner knowing about the working of Nature and of life itself and my friend’s Father was no different with a serenity on his face that only an association with Nature can bestow.

Puran polis or sweet stuffed flat bread being prepared for the wedding. 

The place abounds in this tree, the leaves of which are used in making leaf plates or patravali. 
This post would be incomplete without a mention of food. The food was simple, delicate on spices and prepared from ingredients from the farm itself, and served on banana leaves. Eating from a banana leaf enhances the flavour of food, which was lip-smacking to say the least. I could get only these two pictures of the food, as the rest of the time I was, well, too busy eating!! 
Traditional breakfast of idlis, vada, sambaar, chutney and kesari bhath. 

Dosa and chutney. 
Three days were over earlier than expected and it was time for us to leave. But we promised to back soon, to relax and spend more time learning about crop cycles, the soil and Nature, with whom we are so disconnected with, in the city.
Bright hibiscus flowers. 
We stopped for a day at Mangalore before returning to Pune. Do read my post on what to eat in Mangalore..:-) 
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