Tuesday , 19 November 2019
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Living a full life in the woods


Hindu priest, Vivek Patil believes that ‘nature is next to godliness’. He has been living with his family for over 50 years in his ancestral house in the hinterlands of Panchwadi, Shiroda. With barely any facilities for communication and healthcare, he often has thoughts of moving out of the lone house in that area of the woods. However, when he realises that his vision is to protect and take care of the vast plantations around the house that his ancestors have left him, he put such thoughts away. His wife, Renuka is the only companion he has and has supported him in this endeavour.

In 1910, Patil’s grandfather Vishnu Govind Patil bought the land as ‘aframent’. During the Portuguese regime some lands were sold at a minimal rate and buying it did not affect the family so much back then as there were no major development projects happening. There were no facilities like electricity or proper transport unlike today. “Our native house is near the Kamakshi Temple in Shiroda. After purchasing this land, my grandfather, father Ram Patil and uncle, Sadashiv Patil levelled the area as it is a hilly region. They constructed a house of mud and decided to cultivate plants that were would produce food items,” says Patil.

They then began cultivating rice, followed by fruits like bananas and later betel nut, coconut and jackfruit. Patil also speaks of how his father and uncle learned to plant coconut trees at 16 arms distance so that they could grow straight without their fronds touching the other coconut palms. His father used different techniques in gardening that yielded a good produce.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Vivek Patil grew fond of gardening and horticulture. Apart from different vegetables and fruits he cultivates, he has planted flowers for fire rituals or ‘havans’ of the nava graha (nine planets) performed in several Hindu houses. Havan conducted for nine planets Ravi, Som, Mangal, Budh, Guru, Shukra, Shani, Rahu and Ketu have been represented each by a colour and thus flowers and other items of each colour find a place in the rituals. Patil has thus cultivated nine kinds of flowers. The green and leafy rose is a unique flower used for the havan performed for planet Budh. The Ashoka, reetha or soap nut, fig, small variety of Indian gooseberry (amla) are some other rare plants at his house at Panchwadi.

Patil is of the belief that nature needs no fixing or modifications; and that plants, birds and animals are specific to the region because of the weather prevailing there. “Plants of Himalayan region are way different than the plants here. Hence, everything is created as per how it suits the region. The moment we try to change nature, we destruct it. Chemicals are now used for better produce and it in turns gives us so many health problems. We do not realise how much we are destroying our own lives,” Patil says that he and his wife are lucky to enjoy the delicacies prepared out of fruits and vegetables grown in their yard without using any chemicals.

Everything that we use today comes with the use-and-throw tag and perhaps this is why children do not value even the minor valuables. Patil recalls that having grown up in the times when people would get only two or four pieces of new clothes to wear in a year, they learned not to complain but adjust. Unlike today, each member of the house had to compulsorily do tasks according to their own capabilities. This developed feelings of responsibility and belongingness to the place they lived in. “The feeling no more exists in children today,” he laments.

India is a country well-known for its agricultural land and according to Patil, one can live without the luxuries and comforts of life but no one can survive without oxygen that trees offer us. “We, humans do not utilise our natural resources in a correct way. It is written in Vedas that the Sun is the soul we cannot live without. It gives us light and heat. It is only when solar cooked was endorsed commercially that we started valuing solar energy. Very often until natural sources are endorsed commercially, they remain hidden.”

However, Patil does not aim to endorse his land commercially. His wife, Renuka talks about how upset her family was when they saw her house after her marriage, situated in the dense forest of Panchwadi far away from the main road. “I loved the place when I made my first visit here. It is in the midst of nature and I didn’t find any problem staying here. It is just as I’m growing old that I’m facing issues but I still don’t want to leave my house,” she says. For Renuka leaving the house and plantations that was built with so much dedication and sincerity would feel like leaving her own family.

The Goan forests are thriving with fauna and the area of Panchwadi is no different; there are gaurs, leopards and wild boars in the vicinity. Patil says that his three sons are not ready to follow his lead and are currently staying at different locations to pursue their education. “One of them is actually willing to live in the forest, but to survive the challenges, one needs to stay and experience living in remote areas. We only need a road and health facility here. Since the time my family shifted here, doctors had no way to reach this area, and this is the same situation even now. I got electricity in 1990 after making several visits to the department,” he says.

Patil says his inspiration in pursuing living in the woodlands is his ancestor’s and his hard work to build everything he has today. He concludes: “The amount of effort it took us to make this garden, doesn’t allow me and my wife to just leave it like that and go away for our comfort. Nature is our necessity and I don’t look at it from the business perspective. Not everything in life should be viewed in the way of deriving profit or loss. We should all love trees, love nature unconditionally because they are already giving us so much.”

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