17 June 2020

Tulsi ki Kyari

By Gunjan Sharma

It has been almost three months since lockdown. Today morning, when I was dusting my desk, I found this crumbled, hand-made potli of paper, which had a few okra seeds inside. It reminded me of my visit to this school on the outskirts of Gurugram shortly before the lockdown began.

The school had a large playground with a lot of trees and plants along its boundary wall. Children, all spritely and friendly, gathered around me as I entered the premises. Soon, after the classes began, all children dispersed, except a small group of giggly girls, all between 6 to  8 years of age. They had so many questions to ask me: “who I was”, “why I was there”. They also had a lot to tell and show me.

During my four-five hour stay at the school, they would show up at small intervals with some drawing or craft they made, their notebooks, some flowers from the plant outside their classroom. In the recess, they took me to one corner of the school where they had planted vegetables in neat squares spaces, separated with bricks. Each square had ‘owner’, who was responsible for the upkeep of the plants in it.

I was impressed by their in-depth knowledge about the soil, which vegetables one should sow, and when; how to take care of the plants. I learned that many of them were from farmers’ families. They all had created small kitchen gardens at home, sowing peas, radish, carrot, spinach, tomatoes. And whatever produce they get, they would gift it to their ‘favorite’ teacher.

I was impressed by their in-depth knowledge about the soil, which vegetables one should sow, and when; how to take care of the plants. I learned that many of them were from farmers’ families. They all had created small kitchen gardens at home, sowing peas, radish, carrot, spinach, tomatoes. And whatever produce they get, they would gift it to their ‘favorite’ teacher.

Though to me all these beds of vegetables looked alike, the girls excitedly pointed to one that belonged to their friend Tulsi. They called it ‘ Tulsi ki Kyari’. The ‘owner’ of this kyari, Tulsi, was an introvert and quiet girl. She didn’t say anything until I started asking her questions about her plants.

‘She is very possessive about her plants,” one of the girls told me. “She spends a lot of time watering her plants and taking care of them. She even talks to them.”

Tulsi said that her father, a farmer, had told her that for seeds to grow into healthy plants, they need love, care, and nutrition the same way children do.

A little later she brought me some okra seeds and explained how to sow them in the balcony at my home. She told me that she does not like Sundays as she could not come to school and take care of her plants. 

Now that every day is a Sunday, with all children confined to homes, I hope there is someone to take care of Tulsi’s beloved plant…

(The writer is Communications Head at Sampark Foundation. Views expressed are personal.)