HomeEnvironmentBack to the earth

In the movie Kumki, a must-watch Tamil movie about the love between a mahout, his elephant, and a village belle, the chieftain of a tribal group tells the government officials waiting to buy out his land, “You’d all better watch out! In a few years from now, at the rate you are all going, you are going to end up eating the stones and mud that makes buildings.” He alluded to the fact that there may be no earth left to cultivate edible crops. The pathos, sincerity, and anger in his voice struck a deep chord in me.

I remembered my young days, when my grandmother would painstakingly cultivate her garden and bring the veggies into her kitchen to cook in earthenware. Grandfather would preserve seeds in cow dung plastered to the mud walls and exchange the heirlooms with farmers the year after. The remaining cow dung would be mixed and used as methane gas to run the stoves of the homes. The food was yummy and tasty and the atmosphere was, oh, so natural!
My days in New York and Chicago brought me the simple pleasures of the Farmers’ Market – home-baked breads, jellies, fresh fruits and veggies. The joyful feeling of being nourished by our earth!

The best part of a meal in my household is to see my children sincerely close their eyes before eating and offer thanks. Sometimes they softly say, “Please let it not be beetroot again,” but they always end with an offering of gratitude, “Thank you for giving me this food that helps me be strong.”

Watching the serene expressions on their faces always reminds me that eating is much more than just relishing, chewing and swallowing food. It is a nourishing activity that connects us to our roots, to the earth, and to the magnificence of Nature that provides for us so we may live well in body, mind and spirit. If we choose to do so, eating can be an uplifting act of meditation.

Modern farming methods have led to the burgeoning of supermarkets and the availability of food in many processed forms. The farmers are often forgotten, especially those who use traditional and safe practices to cultivate foods. This is an alarming trend, as “We are what we eat.” The younger generation face the danger of being disconnected from farmers, from farming practices, and sometimes even from the earth. I am grateful that we take my children to farms, where local produce is cultivated and available for sale. They know local farmers, who bring with them the joy of being in tune with Nature. Now, whenever they can, my husband, ten-year-old daughter, and five-year-old son are quick to point out opportunities to recycle, compost and work with the earth.

Recently, a small child asked me, “How does a mango tree produce such yummy fruit when all we give it is some water?” I paused and of course had to go back to Mother Nature – the sunshine she gives and the nutrients in her soil. The biggest advantage of living a life that is in tune with Nature is that we discover that we are an integral element of a whole. We are filled with wonderment, with awe and with reverence. In parallel, the more connected we are with the food we eat, the more likely we are to promote soil restoration, seed preservation and the use of natural crop and animal husbandry practices. We then have safe food on our plates, and this means healthier bodies and healthier minds for generations to come.

“This Earth is not a gift from our parents, it is a loan from our children,” is a Kenyan proverb, and I have often pondered on the significance of this statement as well as ways in which to protect and enrich this loan. Always, I have come back to the same starting point – to be in tune with Nature.