Arunachalam and Sri Ramana Ashram
- August 27, 2018
- Travel Musings
The moment my bus crossed the border and entered Tamil Nadu I started feeling at home! The weather never suits me, but... Read More
This world wouldn’t exist without love. To strongly believe in this beautiful phenomenon and hold on to it irrespective of how it treats you, is a very challenging task. Love makes you dream and then it calls for action. At times you have no choice but be silent and watch love play on your head and heart some ‘dirty tricks’. You will have no choice but stay calm. Lucky ones get to fly high. Bold ones succeed in holding on to it tight what may come! At any point in time, love remains to be the seed for all that we see around us… This is a document of a farmer’s efforts for past 16 years. He should be addressed as an eco-sustainable entrepreneur, and I know that it is his love for what he does, that has made him what he is today. Manjunath was born and raised in Kerala. He was visiting a village almost two decades ago, during a vacation. He was then introduced to a relatively new concept in farming by a good friend. A casual visit, as he thought it was, turned out to be a life changing one. By that time the conventional way to do farming was to use fertilisers to boost the yield at any cost! Bananas had to be spotless yellow in colour. Greens were not expected to have dirt or a natural pest attack. Things were ‘’globalised’’ and people wanted everything picture-perfect! The amount of chemicals that was used to portray this ”perfect picture” was alarming to Manjunath who had by then travelled wide and experienced food from various places. He had seen how careful people are when it comes to health care and food production. He even came across farmers who grew poison/chemical-free food for their personal use! He admits that it was those shocking insights that made him reflect and act quickly. Apparently this new concept of farming was far away from these requirements. Therefore this method was not for-profit and had little commercial value. A few farm visits, brainstorming with like-minded people and the willingness to follow his heart. Manjunath [addressed with love as Manju], was all set for this life-changing choice. For a skilled software engineer who was comfortably settled in the United States of America, this was but a road to recovery from an alien lifestyle.
Eco-sustainable Entrepreneur, MANJUNATH aka Manju
“I don’t really know how to differentiate organic and inorganic food. How do we do that?” I asked Manju as he invited me for breakfast. My friend had forced me to meet this man and I was not sure about the extent to which this meeting could help. I was on the lookout for genuine nature lovers’ communities who could give inputs for IGLOOPUPA. “Come, let us have breakfast and begin our discussion”, he said. “Begin your meal with these bananas, and tell me how they taste”, I met Manju at his residence in Bangalore. He greeted me with a pleasant smile which reflected none of the hardships that he had gone through to practice his beliefs in food production. We sat down for breakfast and Ms. Sandhya his better half treated us with such delicious food. The banana chips coated with jaggery and ginger powder, idlis accompanied by sambar, home baked cakes and cookies- all organic. I had no time to comment but treat myself with organic happiness! The minute details that Manju and Sandhya attend to, are so beautiful. They are very clear- they do not want to poison the soil they cultivate in. They do not want to pollute the water used for irrigation. But they want to give an opportunity for their children and society in general to eat healthy food. He strongly believes that organic food is the preventive medicine to nurture a better, healthier society. I cannot disagree with this, Manju just proved that food is the shortest way to heart!
We sipped hot cups of black coffee that was made of jaggery and ginger. It is popularly known as Jaappi in Kerala [if not South India]. Then we drove to “Lumiere Organic Farm”. It is a small farm not too far from the city. One can humble oneself just by observing this place. There is a basic setup that allows plants to grow in a clean and poison-free environment.
There were aloe vera in full bloom. I have never seen such healthy aloe vera, and never even knew that they could flower! Manju knows each and every aspect of his farm. He speaks about them with a great deal of pride, his love children I must say. I believe that the plants love him back for not treating them as just substances of trade, but sources of health for whoever consumes them. He allowed me to pluck my favorite- guavas. They were the white variety and i made the most of the opportunity and grabbed quite a few to satisfy my “greed”. By the way, they are not just fruits to me but also excellent cleansing agents to have a clean set of teeth! Thanks to the lonely moments in my childhood that let me climb the guava trees to relish those amazing fruits and sit in deep thoughts about what they did to me. I used to be accompanied by birds whose casting would carry the legend of the guava trees forever. I wonder whether the new varieties of guava can be propagated through the same process. By then two women had plucked Coriander leaves and Palak to be sold in Lumiere Organic Store. The air was filled with the fragrance [I bet] of coriander and the gentle breeze failed to carry it away from us. I wanted to know what Manju felt about Responsible Travel, and this is what he told me
We then visited The Store. A lovely place in every way for a true nature lover to stop and shop. There are mud vessels, greens, dairy products from farms that keep cattle in eco-friendly methods, mangoes that smell sweet unlike their ‘’poisonous cousins’’, dry fruits picked and packaged at other organic farms, pulses and cereals that are popular among locals etc. I have seen that many organic stores fail to provide staple food. As a customer I was not comfortable or willing to buy strange grains to make my meal everyday. That is where Lumiere excels. The store gives you food that you are familiar with. They also provide options for those who want to experiment. Hot Adais [a sweet dish made of rice powder, coconut and jaggery] came to us. I grabbed my portion and continued to speak to Manju who by then signalled that it was time for him to leave.
I must try to convey this- the success of Lumiere lies in Love! Manjunath is deeply in love with what he does for himself and the society at large. His journey began at a time when awareness was almost nil among common man. For a social change to happen, the results have to peep into all the strata. It is no easy task to compete with the trends in the market either! Manju’s success lies in commitment to the philosophy. He walks his talk. Even as Lumiere is ready to extend its services through franchise, Manju is very clear that quality will not be compromised. Manju is setting benchmarks for himself and for those who aspire to be organic food producers. He has coordinated with like-minded farmers and proves that commendable change can be achieved if people decide to stay united. “It makes things easier for me to source various products from other producers. Just that I verify their quality in person and there are no two ways about it!”, Manju ensures that the standards are never diluted..
“What happens to the vegetables and fruits that are left over?”, I was sure that there was a challenge. “I have my beloved wife to take care of that”, Manju continued. “She makes pickles and jams out of them if they are not fully sold. So we ensure that there is no wastage. It is a complete cycle and we have been doing this successfully. Once you taste organic, you will not want to buy the inorganic anymore. I bet”.
Lumiere is not just another Dream. It is a stupid attempt to define the myriad effort that Manju and his team is putting forth. Lumiere is a promise given by Manjunath and whoever associates with him, to provide options for a healthy lifestyle. Food is preventive medicine- for the body where the mind resides…