EVERYONE LIKES a word or two of appreciation to be said in public. Human beings apart, even plants and animals love to be appreciated when and where it is due. I shall talk about plants for the time being as they fall within the scope of the article in hand and about the animals a little later.
BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING
The Army Welfare Housing Organisation was formed as a welfare measure to enable the Army personnel of All Ranks to have a roof overhead before hanging the spurs and migrating to the Civy Street. Since I did not qualify for allotment of a house in Som Vihar, New Delhi, a blessing in disguise as I got an opportunity to move to greener pastures of what then was a semi urban-semi rural area across the Yamuna river. The place was named NOIDA and it had yet to make a debut on the map of India.
It could be just a Mao smile at an Indian diplomat in the post India-China conflict period. In a few weeks the episode was just a part of personal history and took a back seat in our minds. Solving day-to-day problems was of primary importance. Who had the time to decode Mao's smile that appeared to be more enigmatic than Mona Lisa. I dismissed it with a wave of left hand and consigned it to Records of fading memories. Within a few weeks arrived a Notice from the AWHO, Kashmir House, New Delhi and landed on my office table in the South Block, just a walking distance away, asking me to deposit a few thousand rupees more because I had been allotted a single unit Duplex with some free land as an appurtenance to grow Greens, including a handkerchief lawn and a flower bed or two. Of course, the Future was bright and in this wide open world, sky was the limit for expansion. The Lady luck had smiled again beckoning the SAWANTS to join.
EX-SERVICEMEN TO VETERANS
After leaving good old cantonment houses of the British days with a lot of land at your beck and call, this was a golden opportunity to be constantly in touch with Mother Earth. AS YOU SOW, SO MUST YOU REAP - the writing went on the wall for us to read morning and evening after doing our Vedic Sandhya. Children looked up the telephone directory to find out a name or two of old class mates living on the sprawling complex of the Agricultural Research Institute so that we could procure genuinely good seeds for our Noida Kitchen Garden. Good manure of cow dung was the next priority. There was a big NO NO to insecticides and chemicals as our aim was to grow and consume organic greens only. Indeed we were committed to irrigate our plants in the kitchen garden with the water of Noida Jal Vibhag. Our hopes for future were shattered when the news came that the Noida Jal Vibhag water was brackish and almost unfit for human consumption.
The Greens became Browns if they lived on the Noida water for more than a couple of days. I recalled that the British Military Authorities had placed on record that the entire area ( where NOIDA came up) was unfit for being a Military Cantonment or for building bungalows for serving army officers. The historical records made me realize that I and many more of my tribe were now Ex-servicemen and there was nothing on the British records to forbid our finding permanent shelters there. Our drinking buddies downed the resultant grief with a couple of sun-downers and euphemistically called ourselves VETERANS.
Indeed a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing like blank cartridges fired at funerals. A large part of our kitchen gardens in Noida in the initial stages died a pre-mature death because they could not survive on the brackish water. Our veterans and families, even some serving personnel condemned to live in Noida in 1980s and 1990s, continued to drink the Noida water that was unfit for human consumption. How could our expensive plants and creepers survive? A pre-mature withering away of rare vegetation could not be prevented despite the best efforts of Botanists, Horticulturists and even Cactus-specialists. The future was doomed. However, it was the indomitable spirit of veterans that made the dead plants and creepers revive themselves willy-nilly and let some Greens remain in existence.
TURNING A CORNER
Noida started seeing better days when the Ganga water arrived from Garh Mukteshwar. The rare plants and creepers lapped it up. The dry Noida had turned a corner and the slogan GREEN NOIDA CLEAN NOIDA seemed to be becoming a reality. It was Dream Come True. Of course, all good things in life take time, take money before the plan is put into action. Even after the plan is put into action, it takes time before results are visible to the naked eye. We the horticulturists who have contributed to the ? SWACHCH NOIDA: HARIT NOIDA? Abhiyan of the Noida Administration have learnt from personal experience that a seed takes time to germinate.
A plant takes time to flower/ A flowering fruit tree takes time to bear fruits. The man or the woman who sowed the first seed knows that Patience is needed to wait and watch. The positive results are bound to be seen by all concerned and eventually the Administration as well as the Horticulturist or an average farmer will see for himself the seed germinating and sprouting; a flower turning into sweet edible fruits and Labour on the Field paying rich dividends to the man and the woman who have been at it. The entire Family of the Noida resident burns the midnight oil, lives by the sweat of the brow to make both ends meet.
The young and the old, adults and children, men and women take turns to work as horticulturists and bring a smile to frozen faces by encouraging results. Seeing is believing. So it would be a good idea to walk across and see for yourself how the enthusiastic residents double up as horticulturists and bring the Greens on to the dining table. The results in greening of our lands may take time, nevertheless, lands will be Greening, Flowering and Fruiting giving JOY to one and all; to the Family that has been at farming braving hardships and to children who look for the Greens at the dull, dreary dry lands. The Family doing Farming to make Noida clean and Green will have an ear to ear grin. The Grin will prevail over the god-forsaken barren lands of brackish water for a brighter future and broader smile.