Manoj Kumar a man who lives in his self made forest…story from kochi city where 2 acre land is a natural forest
Very large trees on either side of it cast their benevolent shadows in which we walk to the house. It stands in a clearing amid a mini forest.
The one-acre at Edavanakkad- (a costal panchayath in Vypin-near Kochi city-kerala) was painstakingly made into a forest by Manoj; he had to fend off attempts from his family who wanted to clear out the “jungle”, prune wild bushes and spruce up their living space. He often found himself at odds with people, who could not comprehend his philosophy of letting things be. He finally had his way, and the forest around grew and thrived. His mother has come around and at times even participates in plucking fruit and leaves that are edible.
An electrical engineer, Manoj was drawn to Nature and environmental conservation early on by virtue of his association with environmentalist professor John C Jacob. The concepts of natural living, nature cure and natural hygiene inspire him, but he does not claim to be an environmentalist or an activist.
“I have always loved Nature without expecting anything from it.” His outlook towards life is hugely drawn from American writer Daniel Quinn’s ideology of not isolating man from Nature. “The two are not mutually exclusive. Man is a part of Nature, it is when we take ourselves out the equation that problems arise,” he says. Manoj is among the people who helped organise a weekly organic farmers’ market at Kakkanad where small-time farmers come together to sell their produce.
Manoj is particularly passionate about jackfruit, his own “forest” has easily over 200 jackfruit trees alone. He collects seeds and brings them home where he creates soil beds and sows the seeds. Once they grow into saplings, he gives them away to those who want to plant them. When he gets large orders, he charges a nominal fee per sapling.
He has not bought vegetables and fruits from shops for over three years now. Everything is available at home—from yam to pumpkin, banana and its blossoms, a multitude of spinach varieties, drumstick, chikoo, jackfruit, papaya, lemon, mangoes and coconuts to begin with. The tree variety is as diverse. In summer, Manoj survives on fruits that the trees give in plenty. “There is so much fruit, I give them away to friends.”
His land has two ponds and a small stream running through it, which swells and ebbs according to the tide. (Edavanakkad has the Vembanad lake on one side and the ocean on the other). Butterflies, bees, birds and creepy-crawlies are regular inhabitants, says Manoj, who adoringly cajoles a moth caterpillar (kambili puzhu) into crossing over a twig towards its family.
Manoj takes care of a scared grove a little away from his house, which belongs to his extended family. “Sacred groves have native trees and encourage biodiversity. Even today, houses with land can replicate a model of a sacred grove by planting trees native to the region.”
Manoj is not driven by an agenda, he speaks about things that he is passionate about unsentimentally. His forests and gardens are not manicured and what is considered aesthetically pretty. “I just want to make the land I live on fertile, so that other living beings can benefit from it, or not, I don’t know. If there is unused land, give it to me, and I’ll grow a forest in it.”
Media Person. Working as senior sub editor-Janama TV kerala.