The site was desecrated and beyond the point of salvage when I first saw it. A small portion of the campus land had been ‘given’ to a bunch of us to experiment with growing of edible plants and vegetable. ‘Giving’ simply meant the permission to use the space, minus any rights over it. So, we were aghast to find our precious saplings trampled over by contract workers repairing and painting the campus fence. I was particularly grieved to see the limp vine of an Ash Gourd sapling planted recently, as it had started climbing the very fence that had been ripped off, effectively breaking the plant stem as well. The remaining leaves on the surviving part of the plant were badly bruised and flecked with the green paint used for the fence (even in moments of grief, the irony didn’t escape me).
I buried the uprooted parts of the plant, and added some compost and wood ash, while prayers escaped my lips since this was an act of faith in the resilience of Nature. As I covered the mound, I was reminded of Robert Mac Farlane’s commentary on burial sites, where he notes, “We are more tender to the dead than to the living, though it is the living who need our tenderness the most.” Here, the act of burial entailed a hope for its revival.
Sure enough, a couple of weeks later I saw fragile tendrils clasping the fence for support. Over time, the delicate vine had turned into a thick stem, as its shoots enmeshed the canopy of a tree. The flowers gave way to fruits and they grew to astounding sizes (some reaching 17 kgs); a testimony to the abundance and generosity of Nature in exchange for the paltry, yet heartfelt care. Each fruit contained hundreds of seeds, that were saved for the next season. The economics of Nature is far more complex, and relational for our primitive, uprooted minds to fathom. No wonder, ‘understanding’ something connotes being beneath it, grounding the view in order to grasp the meaning. For now, I feel grateful to have witnessed the Ash Gourd’s journey, and enriched my own in the process.