An image of a lone farmer supporting a massive plough was part of a Whatsapp forward that caught my immediate attention.People from all walks of life are striving to make the farm to table connect with deep emphasis placed on sustainable and natural methods of agriculture and this particular message seemed an extension of that very thought process.
This initiative that was referred to as ‘namma ooru sandhai’ focused on selling natural products without the interference of middlemen,directly to the end consumer.The venue mentioned was the Corporation school on cross cut road and the timing specified was between 10 am and 5 pm. The other details mentioned in the forward was for the customer to come armed with their own shopping bags, baskets and containers to facilitate the purchase of everything including the wet commodities like cold pressed oils and pickles.
Excited at the thought of being part of such a wonderful movement, we arrived at the school grounds at 10.30 to find large queues of people quietly going about their buys.The open courtyard in the middle was used for various activities relating to the event like explaining about agricultural practices, a play highlighting the role of farmers etc.
The availability of the grounds for this Sunday market was thanks to the co-operation extended by the city authorities in co-ordination with the core team members of RAAC. The city commissioner Dr.Vijayakarthikeyan spoke a few but thought inspiring words. He said,”we need to look back at traditional practices to move forward in a manner that aids development. Whether it is choosing the cycle as a mode of transport or bringing back local ingredients into our kitchens,we have to realise that the old ways need to be re-adopted for a better future”. Those words did strike a chord with most folks present at the sandhai.It took me back to a time when provisions were bought directly from source thereby benefiting the farmer and ensured that the consumer followed a specific lifestyle that was in alignment to the way nature intended it to be.
We do need to look forward , implement modern techniques and ways of living wherever’necessary’ but certainly not at the cost of ignoring or forgetting our roots. Walking about a sandhai devoted to that which is sustainable allows for a great deal of thought into which direction lies the path to holistic living.
It was at this gathering that we got acquainted with Alageshwari ,the person who first thought up of the idea of this monthly sandhai. The teachings of the mighty green crusader,Nammalvar has had a profound impact on Alageshwari’s life and it is now her mission to follow through on his teachings. She has inspired others like Ashok and has worked with several schools, organisations and individuals in setting up working farm units that continue to be extremely successful. Ashok says that they hope to spread this awareness throughout the kongu region.
All of the items on display were set up on the floor of the long corridors that ran parallel to the central area. It left little space for walking but that did not deter the shopper’s enthusiasm.We came upon Ashok Kumar who had made the journey from his village of Uthukuli to showcase a wide range of naturally procured fruit and vegetable seeds.
Uma Maheshwaran gave up a corporate job to make, among other things, an aromatic kulliyal podi. It’s a bath scrub comprising of herbs, flowers and roots like vetiver, panneer rose,nanari etc that does not strip the skin of essential oils and has a cooling after effect on the body.He sources the ingredients from many a nattu marundhu kadai and friends’ farms.This is a must try.
This sandhai provided an opportunity for people of all age groups to mingle and come to an understanding about the advantages of adopting a more natural lifestyle with regard to sourcing daily necessities.Plastic bags were vetoed and the sellers made parcels out of banana leaves,old newspapers or cloth.
We met Bhaskaran from Vellaikovil selling pirandai pickle and spice powders to ward off colds, Suganthi who farms and sells grains, spices under her brand Tharumugai ,Anbu who runs a free range chicken farm at Kethanur and also cooks on order from his home at Tirupur ,Sundaram who weaves mats from dharbai grass and makes vetiver fans,loofahs etc,Viswanathan and his team who make colourful toys, pouches and baskets from palm fibre under the banner panaiyetram and several others who were too busy trading to find time to talk.
This outing provided a terrific exposure for children to imbibe many traditional practices just by observing. We couldn’t resist clicking a picture of a doting grandfather and his grandkids who had stepped away from the hustle and bustle to a quiet spot and were all smiles in midst of animated chatter. Some of the hand held play objects seemed to be a hit even with the adults. Mud pots filled with drinking water were placed around to quench thirst .The couple selling kambhu kool also attracted many customers.
A market such as this encourages stimulating conversation, sharing of ideas,an interaction between the community where age, social status or wealth fades into the background.Here the human being is respected for just his awareness and the thought process which then allows her/him to nurture not just themselves but everyone that is part of the human race in that physical space.
With so many people reacting to a message delivered on social media, it’s quite apparent that folks are looking to embrace a more natural way of life. The vibes exhibited here were only positive and thanks to the water sprinkled vetiver visiris ,the heat could not play spoiler. Just goes to show how one person really can make a difference!
The sandhai will be held on the 1st sunday of each new month
Nature’s bucket(Uma Maheshwaran) 9962250949