My father worked for the Delhi Transport Authority. My mother didn’t have a brother, her parents needed a boy to take care of the household. So, they took me in. I was brought to Nangal when I was three. I grew up here, did my matric from the local school and fought my way to get Masters in Punjabi from Punjabi University, Patiala. My maternal grandparents didn’t want me to study so that I could stay at home and look after them. It’s important to be educated if you can’t make sense of the words the world is full of darkness.
Mangoes have always been my passion. When I was a kid, I would see the mango saplings growing on a heap of animal manure, I loved the shape and size of their leaves. ‘I have to have a mongo field one day.’ I thought to myself. I started planting mango trees in 1970. I would order new saplings from the Agricultural University in Ludhiana every year and try a different method to grow them. When I inquired with the university, they said the Ph value of the soil was too high to support a mango tree. Instead of giving up I worked on raising the Ph value. I worked on that soil for 20 years without any success. Even the university stopped providing me with the new plants. I asked them for 11 plants for the last time and this time I dug holes in the ground, filled them with soil (from the ground I prepared) by pouring it into the holes and let them be. I succeeded. Now there are nearly 100 trees in this 1 acre, 33 types of mango trees and several others like litchi, amla, loquat. ‘You realised your dream.’ university said on being informed.
I don’t suggest organic farming to anyone, if they want to do it they can go ahead. Because one needs money to survive in today’s world and this won’t fetch you any profits. I do it for my satisfaction. My kids use pesticide for the crops they grow, even I did that till the time I worked the whole 16 acres. I don’t force them to follow me. I’ve always let them free. That’s the reason why kids are leaving the country, to get away from the bounds and worn out traditions. Not everything’s wrong with our traditional values but society should loosen its grip. Anyway, this small piece of land makes me happy, I feel more at peace and closer to nature by being here. I’ve even penned down three books about my experience.
Story by: Gurdeep Dhaliwal