Thursday, October 4, 2007

My garden 'project'

My NGO work of many years had trained my mind in the mode of working on ‘pilot / demonstration projects’ that people can come see, get a document about the formula that will help them ‘replicate’ it in their own areas. Then, there will be first ten, then a hundred, then a thousand such replicas, and the world would have changed for the better!

And so, my garden was initially one such project in my mind, of which I had a visual image when completed. I had visualized and put down on paper all its detail, what would go where, how it would look, and so on... To bring it to this state, it would need several people working on it for several days. But I was determined to work hard on it myself and make a perfect garden. Then people would come and see it, go back and start their own. There will be a few more gardens (like mine), and then there will be even more, and one day, Chennai will have vegetable and herbal gardens across its length and breadth and have changed for the better!

Though I was aware of the futility and hollowness of such thinking, I couldn’t escape the conditioning of my own mind. I mean, it is one thing for ‘futility and hollowness of such thinking’ to be ideas that appeal to my rational mind, and quite another for me to realize it.

As the garden grew, I started getting lost for hours on end, simply gazing at it.

Digging my hands into the soft soil,
following the army of ants,
counting the number of shades of green on the same guava tree,
and the interplay of light and shade on the leaves and branches,
examining the crow nest on the tree made of metal hangers and wires,
discovering a newly formed honeycomb,
following the swift movements of the squirrel as it was picking the tastiest guava…

At the end of each day of my work, I would realize that I had not progressed much on my task list! I was getting frustrated for being so ‘disorganized’ and ‘inefficient’. “When was the pilot project going to end?” My ‘perfect garden’ was becoming an ever evasive ideal.

Over time, I am slowly coming to realize
Not just that my garden may never reach a perfect end-state,
Not just that it may not be possible to do so,
But that it is not even desirable!
I don’t want to stop growing with her.

I am also beginning to see how this is, at some level, a reflection of my own life.
I had all along wanted to reach a certain perfect state, for ‘something’ to happen. Then all would be well.

But, life has constantly been throwing surprise parties at me. I have always grudgingly sat through them, wondering why events were not unfolding the way ‘I’ had planned them!

I am slowly letting go of notions of ‘reaching somewhere in order to be happy and content’, ‘knowing exactly what I am going to be doing’, and ‘showcasing the perfectly finished piece’.

I am learning to simply be content with being alive every moment, welcoming surprises with wide-open arms, showcasing my experiences during my journey guided by the inner yearning towards wholeness.

I have taken the first baby step, and oh my! There is a long long way to go!!

And by the way, friends, you are more than welcome to my garden.

Come expecting stories of my beautiful relationship with her; of how I sing and dance with her.
Definitely not a formula for a ‘replicable home garden’.


Kate said...


Nick (YSC) and I would love to come and visit you and your garden! Can we arrange? My e-mail:


R said...

Life is what happens when you're busy planning other things - John Lennon

Pattu Raj said...

Felt like , oh, is it something I too experienced?:-).

Thanks , a sense of calm and peace runs through your words.