Fresh Vegetables at Doorstep: Organic Way

Kitchen Garden Promotion Programme of Swadhina

The train reached at Ghatsila station around 9 in the night. As soon as the train touched platform I could locate the smiling face of Laduram, waiving desperately at me. I waived back, assuring him that I too have located him. As soon as I got down at the platform, Laduram took from me the carry-bag and now I only have my shoulder

bag. We were all set for the little walk till we reach our destination – the local Swadhina camp office located near the daily village market (Haat). Swadhina, a voluntary organisation is working in this area of Jharkhand on a women’s empowerment and livelihood enhancement programme for the past many years now.  Laduram is the able field- organiser for Swadhina here.

After finishing the packed dinner, of chapati and vegetable curry procured from the local eatery , we spent a little time about the next day’s visit to the villages. My sole purpose of coming here was to visit the Household Vegetable Farming or Kitchen Garden Programme of Swadhina.

Next couple of days Laduram took me in villages around Ghatsila  in his over-used motorcycle ! It gives relatively more sound than speed, and, I anyway had no complains to make since I myself drive at a moderate pace ! At the end of the trip, with the help of the project documents I could gather many insights which are shared here.

IMG-20171128-WA0083Objective: The basic objective of the programme, supported by SARRA,  is to raise Kitchen Garden not only to have Food for All In The Home, but also to enhance nutrition intake in the family. It is also envisaged to promote organic way of farming, with organic fertilizers and organic pesticides. As a result this programme would

– Provide Food Security & Nutritional support to families using their available household land resources.
– Provide scope for local women to stake claim on family plots
– Change the attitude of the families and the society towards women’s land ownership
– Encourage land-based livelihood among communities. As a follow-up activity, efforts will be vested on encouraging people for seed preservation. The programme was facilitated by: SARRA, under ILC and implemented by: Swadhina

Activities3 participants from Swadhina participated in the Training of Trainers (TOT) organized by SARRA at Tirupathi last year4. Mr. Laduram Mahato , Ms. Yashoda Mardi and Ms. Karmi Kisku participated in the 3 day intense training programme on the Basics of Kitchen Garden preparation, Food and Nutrition through Kitchen Garden, preparation of organic composts for Kitchen Garden.

Later a 3 day Training Programme was organised at Ghatsila, East Singbhum in Jharkhand. The trainers who had attended the TOT, along with Resource Persons from Swadhina explained the process of kitchen garden preparation and organic fertiliser/pesticide preparation and usage, through charts/ posters/ Flash-Cards.  

Through socio-economic family survey, the field workers identified potential implementors of the Kitchen Garden programme. These women were chosen for the Kitchen Garden Training and trained accordingly.

The implementation of the gardens initially received a huge set-back as Jharkhand experienced a massive rainfall in the region continuously throughout August and September. The plots that were being identified and prepared couldn’t be developed as a result of the continuous rainfall. However work began with rapid ferocity as soon as the rainfall subsided. The families members supported the women in developing plots, applying primary layer of organic fertilizers (as prepared by the trainees of SARRA training). Fencing was given to all the plots.

Seeds of red amaranthus, pumpkin, green chillies, tomato, brinjal, ladies finger, and several variety of leafy-vegetables were provided to the women.

This programme has been taken up in four villages, covering 21 families who are mostly belonging to Scheduled Tribe and backward class communities in East Singbhum district in Jharkhand state.

SOME REFLECTIONS: -Though the families are yet to experience the direct benefits of food security and nutrition from the kitchen garden, the fact that they have an access IMG-20171128-WA0030to direct nutrition in their back or front yard is an exciting prospect for the beneficiaries.
– The trainings have convinced the local families of the benefits of organic farming, they have especially learnt to use local natural fruit and vegetable resources to prepare organic fertilizers at home itself.
– Earmarking a plot in the name of the woman of the family has given a strong message to the society about women’s land ownership. To the woman, it is her personal piece of land.
– Those who had successfully implemented FAITH Gardens earlier could set a very good example to others about the farming abilities of women. In the words of Karmi Kisku – “The quality of my produce was so good that my husband took tips from me on how to actually grow such vegetables. He and his friends used my technique and had a good produce”

 

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New Year – Celebrations Continue !

IMG_20180107_213715Celebration Continues !

It was the first Sunday of this new Year and Jojo, the present generation of the Nathaniels   came around noon to inform that there would be a small family get-together at the Nathaniel House.  The next thing he did was to rush to the Entally market to get the items to be cooked.

It was a dinner party and we were about 10 people- young and old, and, of course the children. The menu was simple – rice, dhal, pork vindaloo and pork sausages, green salads, dhania chutney. No  eating in Bengal is complete without sweets, and, there were sweet items galore. Sweet Curd, Sandesh, a special  IMG_20180107_213250rosomalai and rossogolla dipped in nolen gur syrup.

The pork vindaloo cooked by Jhumpa  i.e. Mrs. Jojo was awesome, after ages I could taste such a perfect vindaloo and despite a lot of warning (agreed I am quite old now- but if the food is too good !!)  I took large helpings.

It was a nostalgic journey. I was narrating about the good old days when Christmas at the Nathaniels meant basically Pulao, roast and  chicken kassa. My aunty alias Bordi Mashi alias Mrs. Sunny Nathaniel was a great cook, and, I was a great eater !

The function continued till late night. Thanks dear Jojo-Jhumpa ! This indeed is a very nice memory to cherish.

(Nathaniel House christened as “Sunny Side”, and the senior Nathaniel i.e. ‘Sunny Sahib’)

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Valentines Day : Of Another Kind !

One of our colleagues was unwell and we took her to a Doctor a bit far away. The appointment with the doctor was at 7 in the evening and by the time we returned home it was already 8 in the evening. Following our taxi was another vehicle and as we got down a loud voice greeted us from the said vehicle “Good evening uncle, …. go ahead, we will just drop in”. I could recognize the thick voice… it was Jojo, my nephew.
Exactly ten minutes later Jojo surfaced at our house with a Cake in hand, along with his wife and son Jijo. “Happy Anniversary Uncle !” It was then I realised it was the D-day for us ! Our marriage anniversary !

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Those days we were in Bangalore, and Sara greeted us “Happy Anniversary” !  We were surprised and amused. “How come you remember the day ? “  I asked Sara. “Simple, the date is 14th of February – the Valentine Day !. And by the way  how did you manage to coincide your marriage with this special date ?” I was a bit confused and flatly asked “Err..what is this Valentine Day “ ? Sara had a real loud laugh and took a class for me on the significance of V Day !. I explained to her that contrary to her belief, we got married in the days of Black & White era and life was not as colourful as it is now !

Pix : Sen Studio, Barasat (Suburb off Kolkata)

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Pix: Subhadip Mukherji

Jojo quickly placed the cake on a small table and after a long time we had the reason to celebrate our Marriage Anniversary !!!  Our little grand daughter Rianna was the chief guest ! Jojo is a singer in Bollywood and during end months of the year he comes regularly to Kolkata ….  that is the season here for musical functions, mostly open air public performances. The season starts with Durgapuja and lingers on till mid February.

Thanks a lot Jojo…… let me play one of your popular numbers. (just Click below)

Click !

 

Pre-Christmas in Kolkata : Then & Now !

dsc_0022In our teen age days the pre-Christmas outing was a visit to the New Market. We are located at an extreme end locality in South Calcutta and this visit to the central Calcutta was some thing great for us. I always eagerly awaited for the day. My grandpa would come around noon, a few days before Christmas, and we will set out for this journey to the wonder-land ! I always narrated about this dream outing to my grand children – they are 3 in number. The elder one Rijul, who is at his final class of schooling, always had many interesting queries about  this… my olden days New Market trip !

This Christmas I promised Rijul to take him on a similar pre-Christmas trip to New dsc_0016Market. More than him, I was the one who was keen on re-living history !

dsc_0014When we reached near the main entrance the area was too crowded and there was a near stampede situation. Ah.. that was the Light House Cinema…. this is the spot where there were some head-loaders… they will come running with a large bamboo basket…. go along nmwith you to collect whatever you buy from the New Market… carry the load on their head and at the end of your shopping, come to the taxi stand and put all the packets inside the taxi neatly…. and finally be happy with whatever bakhsis (tips) you offer… after all its the festive time ! I was feeling sorry that none of them were found here, they must have found much lucrative alternative vocations !

At the New Market entrance, in olden days, we used to make short stop over at the greetings-card shops…. there were about 10 such shops. dsc_0012Only one we found still surviving, but with no takers. In the internet era none is interested in those greetings cards. Once inside the market, the scenario did not change much. Many of the old charming clothing shops were still there, though they did not have much buyers. Most of the families go for online shopping for their readymade clothes, and, even the sarees are procured by the same method.

The mistletoes and other decorative selling shops are still there. They are doing some what better business than others. The cake shops are doing brisk business. I was indeed upset as dsc_0009I did not find the same old charming New Market hopping experience. But for Rijul, he was enjoying the visit… I was showing him some of the old shops still in the business. I bought him a heart-cake and a hot patties ! I tasted a bit. Ummm…. some what nearer the olden-day –taste, except less buttery ! Well… at least some good things still survived the test of the time.

Those days our return trip was by a tram ride. Then the trams had less riders and it was a pleasant smooth journey. I did not propose the repeat mode for our return journey. It was a very difficult time to get hold of the taxi to take us.

Finally we managed to get one taxi after putting half and hour effort, and, reached home. It was indeed an enjoyable trip…. a good start for Christmas 2016 !

A Bengal Christmas @ Christian Para Kolkata

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24th December, 2016 the day before Christmas Day started early for the young ones. They got themselves engrossed in making a Manger and placing images of the Nativity. Some of them were running around with a huge wooden ladder and climbing to tie out the colourful paper strips in the locality. Soon the area, our small Christian Para (Christian Dwelling) wore a real festive look ! Their hectic work schedule were often punctuated by the shoutings from grandpas and grandmas “time for lunch… please come home….” But their routine answers were “just  ten minutes more, and we would be through !” My daughter- in- law made a huge Snow Man which was placed next to a Santa outside our home. It was very nicely made . By the time we could gather for the lunch it was already well paste noon !

 

dsc_0151After the Lunch, it was the continuation of the same routine for the boys, and, this time the girls took the charge of decora-ting the church… with lots of mistletoes and flowers of varied colours.

25th December, 2016

We woke up with the boom of the sound box playing “jingle bells”. Around 7.30 in the morning we all gathered at our church of the locality. Ours is a small

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Church being decorated with flowers and leaves

church with a sitting capacity of about 40 . On occasion like this we arrange for close-circuit-television transmission on the first floor room of the church so that those who could not make it inside the church can still go upstairs and join the worship. It was an hour-long service. Less of sermon and more of carols ! Along with traditional English tune carols, we also sing a few Bengali Christian songs set on old folk tunes. After the service we gathered outside the church for cake and coffee. There after we had Christmas Tree and all at the congregation got some useful prizes by picking up lucky numbers. The  prizes were house hold items like comb, tea-stainer, mug, soap case, small kitchen cans and so on ! There after we gathered to pose for a family

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Tea after the church service

photograph…… a very old tradition very religiously followed every year…. of course the photographer changes with changing times. In olden days it was one of my uncles who was a passionate photographer who did the job. Thereafter my elder brother-in-law, followed by me for some years. Presently my son is doing the photography for the past several Christmas !

Thereafter, there was the gathering of friends and  relatives inside and outside our house…. with hot coffee,  home made cakes and my daughter made a lot of chocolates to share for this occasion.

dsc_0064dsc_0068Around noon relatives from far flung places started arriving for the Christmas Lunch. This is a participatory event where every one shares the expenses for the food. I have some long tables which  are taken out of our store-room for this occasion ! The lunch menu was very much a Bengali fare… Rice, Dal, mixed vegetable curry, chicken curry, sweet chutney, papad and sandesh (milk sweets). There were about 50 persons joining the meal.dsc_0009

In the evening I was sitting on a chair in front of the decorated Manger… playing Santa, by presenting each visiting child a small Santa replica and a toffee ! Till late evening there
were a good number of children who visited this festive arena. dsc_0025Around  9.45  in the night we had our night meal …. the loud speaker outside still playing  “Man will live for ever more because of Christmas Day”!

A Friend In Need (4): “Sil-Katau” Man

There was a commotion outside and Deep’s mother had to come out of the kitchen. She found that Deep is on a heated argument with some one, at the entrance door ! The Sil-Katau man was telling “Look boy, I told you I can give you Tajmahal for Rs. 4/- and not less than that”. At this juncture, Deep’s mother laughed out  loud .. “ Tajmahal going at a such cheap price ….what is this all about !!” The man then explained “Look  Maijee (Madam),  as you know, the prices of everything has gone up, and, now my rate is Tajmahal  Rs.4/-,  Fish Rs. 3/- and  Plain Lines Rs. 2/-. “  At this point Deep’s mother told  that man,  “Look, he is only a small boy, and he really wants the Tajmahal …. you can do one thing … take Rs. 3/-, you may give a little smaller Tajmahal” . The man smiled and said “Okay, I will take Rs. 3/- from you, and,  I will not reduce the size.. be assured.”

Soon the man took out his small bag , took out different sizes of chisels and the two hammers and concentrated on  his job…. tuk, tuk, tuk, tuk. Deep  sat beside him on the ground and started watching his hand movement. He was now visibly wearing an amused and  mesmerized look.

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img960 It was noon time, I was waiting for the school bus which will bring my grand-daughter home from the school. And then heard  “Sil-Katau…. Sil-Katau”. The sound was emerging from among some building premise nearby, and soon the man surfaced. I called him and showed him my house, and asked him to wait for me till I come. I returned home soon with my grand-daughter and asked her to inform her grandma about us. The child surely got confused about the whole thing, but informed her grandma, who came running. Once she saw the Sil-Katau man, she knew what is it, and, soon came out with the Sil and the Nora. These are two important kitchen tools, still found in many old-tradition families. Sil is a 14” long, 10” wide and  2” thick stone tablet. Nora is cylinder type black stone hammer about 10” long.  Fresh spices are ground on this Sil (stone tablet) with the help of the

img965Nora (black stone  hand grinder). With constant use, the surface of the sil and nora becomes smooth. Hence the surface need to chipped with chisel periodically. The Sil-Katau Man is a chipping craftsman who can make various designs…. “Criss-crossing lines”, “Fish” and of course “Tajmahal”! I could not hide my childhood nostalgia and asked “Can you chisel out a Tajmahal ?”. The man apologised and said he can only make lines and that he has only one kind of chisel and a lone hammer !

He finished his job within about 10 minutes, and the lone enthused witness to the act… my grand daughter did not get any thrill nor awestruck by the craftsman ship. I handed over Rs. 15/- for the act to the sil-katau man, and, told him to come again about a couple of months later –  lest we lose a dying tradition !

Photo Courtesy: Srichandra

Bhaiya Duj : Brothers Day

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Today is the Brother’s Day – in Bengal it is called Bahi Phota.(tilak for the brother) Ruhani (11 yrs) and Rianna (6yrs) ,my two grand daughters are busy since morning, getting ready for the event. This day sisters put tilak, of sandal wood photo2562paste on the forehead of their brothers. Three times they would put this tilak, while chanting a small wish “I put this tilak on the forehead of my brother, let this tilak work as the thorn on the path of the evil”. Thereafter the sisters would offer sweets, always odd in number… three or five or seven . After this, brothers will offer a small gift to the sisters… in our house it is usually a small chocolate !

A round stone, normally used to make sandal paste, and the small sandal-wood stick were taken out from tphoto2564he family box, . Ruhani kept on rubbing this stick on the stone, after sprinkling a bit water on the stone. This is indeed a laborious process to attain a little  paste.

Then Ruhani collected some more items to complete the rituals. Collecting a bit of tender green grass, paddy, a diya. Then on a plate the sandal paste, grass, paddy were placed. The diya was lit.

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The Big Brother Rijul  was seated on a mat. A cousin brother Jijo also joined. Then Ruhani photo2586and Rianna completed the rituals. The grass and the paddy were placed on the head of the younger ones, as a mark of blessings.Then the sweets were offered to the brothers. Brothers picked up one or two, and, the rest of the sweets were distributed among all present to witness the event.

A little later Subhadip- the brother of Srichandra took photo2587the tilak, and, he was blessed with grass and paddy on the head by his sister.photo2582
Finally it was my turn, I too was given a tilak by Smriti….. and of course I ate a lot of sweets !

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