Medha Tengshe, Aarohi Society, Pune
House with a beautiful garden, birds chirping, kids playing around; that was the picture in most of the cities and towns during 70’s.
Then cities started growing at unprecedented rate. Commerce, industries concentrated in urban areas. People moved to the cities for employment opportunities.
Eventually, cities ran out of space. It was no longer possible to spread on the ground. Vertical growth was the option.
Individual houses made way to group housing complex . Buildings became taller and taller.
And suddenly we had generation running away from nature unknowingly in the name of the progress. Plucking fruits from backyard tree, getting flowers for pooja from garden, spotting butterflies, watching insects in the soil, climbing on and jumping off the trees; all became a memory.
Soil became more of a “eekk” factor, something dirty, something repulsive, allergic. Area around buildings was paved/ tiled, to cover the soil. This generation, when attained parenthood, passed on the same concerns to their offspring.
Advertisements played on these fears. Graphical representation of bacteria, as something very dangerous, insects as something repulsive, made an impact. Microbes, insects became monsters, that one must get rid of.
Co-existing with all living creatures which used to be a norm, soon became a history.
This trend saw some positive changes at the turn of the century. Basic instincts of co-existing emerged. People started utilizing vertical spaces to grow plants. They began using terraces to grow their food. New societies reserved patches for garden. Pocket gardens, but gardens nevertheless. Awareness began about hazards of toxic chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Still there is a long way to go, but the change is certainly here to stay.
Medha and her family decided to setup their own organic vegetable garden. That is when she got connected with like-minded people in Pune through Brown Leaf group.
While she enjoys gardening with her family, composting kitchen waste gives her a great level of satisfaction of doing a bit for the betterment of the city. She decided to pass on this joy and energy to the neighbors, friends and kids as well. That is when an idea of “A Veggie Tale” started taking shape.
She communicated her idea to conduct an activity during summer vacation to the mothers of young children in her society. Idea was well received. They appreciated her intentions and promised to be part of it.
What could be more appropriate day to start a new initiative, than Gudhi Padawa? Yes, “A Veggie Tale” commenced on this auspicious day, on 19th March 2018.
A Veggie Tale’s logo
A patch was planned for “A Veggie Tale” garden in the society. Gardener uncle and housekeeping staff cleaned up the weeds and prepared soil beds. On the D-Day kids recited poems, presented speeches, short skits facilitated by Medha. “A Veggie Tale” kicked off with enthusiasm, loads and loads of it.
What exactly is “A Veggie Tale”?
Idea was that the kids would sow seeds, plant saplings, will look after them throughout the life cycle, harvest the same and cook yummy snacks themselves. To be young urban farmers and little chefs, you see! 😊
How many of us, urban-dwellers know how a cauliflower sapling looks like? What kind of flowers the tomato plant has? Not many, right?
Objective of “A Veggie Tale” was to provide this experience to the kids. A chance to get connected with and feel responsible towards nature, observe, learn and most of all, enjoy.
The awesome team was Aahan, Aditya, Advait, Aryan, Ishaant, Ishika, Kimaya, Ojasvi, Padmakshi, Rujuta, Rushan, Srivats, Tanay, Unnati. And some friends who helped them occasionally were Anshul, Dweej, Harshit, Miara, Mihaan, Raj.
Under Medha’s guidance, kids sowed Spinach seeds and planted Cauliflower and Tomato saplings. And guess what? Within an hour after starting this activity, there was heavy spell of rain. Saplings managed to survive, but seeds were washed away.
When we want vegetables, we go to the market and buy them. We have no idea of efforts needed to grow a cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes and likes of the vegetables. Unexpected rain shower, though wasted their efforts to some extent, kids got a valuable lesson. Now, for sure they will appreciate hard work of farmers, how they cope with weather vagaries.
Undeterred by this setback, team got on with the work. Soon, plants would also need protection from scorching summer heat. Team made shade for the young plants with the help of housekeeping staff.
This being a summer vacation activity, the availability, work timings of mothers of younger children and family travel plans were taken into consideration well in advance. Team was given a weekly schedule to water the plants twice a day. The pairs of kids were made; one pair each in the morning and the evening. Medha accompanied the kids for watering the plants for the first few days. It was truly wonderful to see the enthusiasm and energy in them. Some kids would go for trekking and watering plants on the hill in the morning some days and would still have energy to water the plants of a veggie tale garden on the return to keep their turns. Raj and Dweej did not even bother what it was all about. They would just come and join their friends whenever they saw them watering the plants.
Medha was amazed by the team spirit and selflessness exhibited by the kids as well as moms. They happily filled-in for the missing members.
The plan was to involve kids in watching out the plants for the bugs, using Jeewamrut, using organic pest control methods. Some of the kids were big enough to experience the fun in observing the growth of the plants and would come running to share when they saw some exciting development. They were given the instructions to watch out for bugs and some did so. We used Gomutra to keep the pests away. Aryan, Dweej, Kimaya, Padmakshi even served the plants with the “favorite nutrition”, Jeewamrut, facilitated by Bhagwat Uncle. (without any “eek” factor 😀). (Bhagwat is member of ZBNF group, has his own farm and follows the principles of Shri. Subhash Palekar Guruji.) The kids used dry leaves for mulching. And while they did all this, their precious play time was not at all affected.
Come June and schools re-opened. Kids got busy. Monsoon came to the rescue, Pune received regular rain showers. Team decided to let nature take its own course. Now the kids would come running to Medha happily, when during play time they noticed plants making progress. The team noticed cauliflower heads forming and that gave some hope for all. Aryan and Srivats also witnessed the blanching process to keep cauliflower safe from moisture and pests.
Two and half months of efforts and almost 4 months of wait brought in a lot of happiness.
Sowing, planting, caring and great harvest
Kids busy harvesting
Team celebrated their success with yummy snacks made using freshly picked up vegetables. Kids also shared vegetable produce with housekeeping staff who helped them during activity.
Kids sharing produce with the house-keeping staff of society to express the gratitude
What an experience!
Medha planned “A Veggie Tale” activity to be a zero-cost activity for the participants as her intention was, purely, to create interest amongst them and to motivate society residents for such initiatives on bigger scale in future. It put the limitation on scale of activity. She had plethora of sub activities in mind, but it was not possible to implement them all due to availability issues of the team members.
This concept was probably new and unconventional and most importantly, required long term commitment. Now a days, when kids are enrolled for any workshops, summer camps, there is usually some material take away or a demonstrable skill earned, like sketching, playing an instrument or sport.
What was the take-away in this case? Oh, it was there, of course. But it was not obvious. Patience, hard work, commitment, consistency was needed for the activity. And the team did exhibit it all. That’s an achievement in itself. What is imbibed in them through “A Veggie Tale” is so much more than any material take away.
The little urban farmers encountered various insects, got their hands dirty (literally 😊) in the soil, saw seeds germinate, observed plants grow and even experienced failures. They understood how much hard work is involved in growing vegetables. They learnt all good things need time and patience. They understood team work. They realized importance of collaboration and sharing. Though not in these exact same words, this tangible experience will stay with them forever.
What Medha has to say?
In all, irrespective of many hindrances, “A Veggie Tale” was quite a “tale” and was concluded successfully, I must say!
I continue to share vegetables from our garden to keep alive the interest of people in society. My son, Aryan, visits his friends and neighbors and shares home grown vegetables with them. Ojasvi asked if Medha aunty could share saplings instead of cherry tomatoes so she can grow many of them herself. Shubhangi was reading a story “एक होता कार्व्हर” to her child Tanay and he actually remembered and narrated how Medha aunty, too, gave the sapling to them and how they planted it. Isn’t it wonderful the way the kids can relate their experiences! The youngest kids were Advait and Padmakashi, just 3 years. And not only that, Vrunda, Tanay’s sister, being in her mom’s tummy was part of the activity too. Yes. Shubhangi, mom of Tanay and Vrunda, used to water the plants even when she was carrying a child.
Also, I was glad to know that Shivansh and Samanyu watched the progress in our Veggie Tale garden along with their mom Seema, though they did not actively participate in this activity. In the end, the idea was to fire a flame! 😊
This ‘human synergy’ is our achievement through the initiative along with the team of wonderful kids and moms of our society. I am immensely grateful to everyone involved including Brown Leaf for this awesome experience I could share with all!
“A Veggie Tale” Team
“We do not inherit earth from our ancestors; We borrow it from our children”
And hence as parents, we need to ensure we leave behind a planet pollution-free, with living rivers, healthy soils, and clean air for our children.
However, as we should be concerned about planet we are leaving behind for our children, we should also be concerned about children that we are leaving behind on the planet.
As parents, care-takers, we have kids looking up to us. These kids are tomorrow’s artists, architects, town-planners, doctors, engineers and so on. It is up to us to create a generation of people with sensitivity towards environment and all living creatures.
And that’s what Medha intends to do with such initiatives.