As soon as the nationwide lockdown began in India on 25 March 2020 because of the Coronavirus pandemic, heart rending visuals of hungry, exhausted, impoverished, dejected migrants walking on highways and railway tracks began appearing all over social media. It was difficult to remain unaffected and my mind began crowding with lots of negative thoughts and worries about my own existence.
I tried to distract myself by taking up the challenge of growing a creeper plant on our balcony railing, something I always thought was extremely difficult. I planned to do this without spending a single penny, since every penny saved in such uncertain times is precious.
I began by taking out soil from two empty flower pots and crushing some dried leaves into it. I put this enriched soil back into the flower pots.
On that very day, I happened to buy some karela (bitter gourd) for cooking and some of them turned out to be too ripe. So I sun-dried their seeds and planted a few of them later in these pots. I was not aware at that time that you need to remove their red coats before planting. None of the seeds germinated.
So I tried again; this time after removing their red coats. When the first seedling raised its head out of the soil a few days later, I was thrilled. And then came out three more, one after the other. My joy knew no bounds.
But when the fifth one came out and expired a week later, I thought it was the beginning of the end for all of them. Creepers have never, after all, lived for too long in my balcony anyway. It sounded too much like a migrant’s story, so I turned myself to other things.
But no, the 4 plants, 2 in each pot continued growing and my interest was rekindled. And then began the real challenge. To keep them adequately supported. I was obviously not going to put any money into this, so it was a double challenge.
One day, an idea germinated in my mind. I placed a pair of bricks, which lay in one corner of our balcony, between the pots and cut out some strings from an old kitchen duster that I was going to discard. I tied up their ends and turned them into a long string. I then tied this to the railing and fastened the opposite end to the bricks. I made similar strings later and tied them all to the railing and bricks in a similar manner. To my pleasant surprise, I soon had a network of strings ready to receive the growing karela branches. See below.
On 30 April 2020
On 16 May 2020
Well, here is the present picture as of today, 8 June 2020, with the lockdown officially removed. Don’t they look pretty, all green?
The plants are now producing yellow flowers too and little karelas are showing on the vines. I spend a few minutes every morning on pollinating the female flowers and tying the newly developed claspers around the rag strings to prevent them from strangling their own branches. Here are the pics.
Buoyed by my success with the creepers, I started my next project: recycling old plastic bottles and containers. My husband Sukhangshu helped me in this by doing the cutting work for me. Here are the photos.
I have planted some coriander seeds in these plastic egg cases…Let’s see how it goes.
Young, growing plants are like little children. They need good, nutritious food, so I recently started a compost pile for them. This too doesn’t require any financial investment, as all that’s required is kitchen waste and newspapers along with dried leaves and green Neem leaves, which I source from the nearby community park. You must be wondering where I learned all this from. Well, I recently came across a YouTube video on this recently and I was so impressed that I decided to do it myself too. Here, take a look at my home made plant fertilizer pot…
While rummaging through my drawers recently, I discovered 2 packets of plant food that Sukhangshu had ordered through Amazon before lockdown. So I am using them while the compost gets processed.
On 3 June 2020, what I was dreading came to pass finally. I lost my job. But I took it stoically and carried on with my routine household chores as usual, which now includes keeping food and water on our terrace for the birds.
While working with soil these days, I think of Sant Kabir’s lines: Maati kahe kumhar se, tu kya roonde mohe, ik din esa ayega main roondungi tohe… Which means,”Soil says to potter, who are you to trample on me? A day will come when I will trample upon you.” These are very humbling lines and compel you to accept each day the way it is with grace and dignity.
Today, as I look around in my balcony and terrace, I am filled with a deep sense of satisfaction and gratitude to God.
My next goal is to grow French beans on our terrace.