A few years before his retirement, Sureshchandra Patel started thinking of building his own house. Being a government officer, working in thermal power plants across Gujarat, he was transferred across the state for work.
But having grown up among greenery and farms in Valsad, Gujarat, Sureshchandra wanted to build a house on the farmland he had in Dungri, Valsad.
However, there was a problem. After living in cities for so long, he was unsure of whether his daughters and wife would want to live on a farm. To his surprise, they were more than happy to move to their village.
So, the family including Sureshchandra, his wife Harsha, daughter Dr Binita, and grandson decided to move to their newly constructed farmhouse permanently in 2013. Here they had three bigha land, of which they used some for the house and the rest for farming and gardening.
On the farm, there were also 150 mango trees. Passionate about gardening and farming, Sureshchandra embarked on a post-retirement project to add as many plants as possible.
In nine years, he has planted more than 8,000 saplings.
Sureshchandra planted 80 more mango trees after moving in, with varieties like Alphonso, Kesar, Amrapali, etc. He also grows fruits like guava, apple, green apple, pomegranate, jackfruit, custard apple, and exotic fruits like berries, mulberries, avocado, and dragonfruit. They also grow figs, amla (Indian gooseberry), tamarind, and coconuts, among other plants.
“Ask us which plant is not there in our garden,” laughs Dr Binita.
The farm life
“I grew up on a farm. We would give fodder to the cattle, and help on the farm. I’ve used the shovel and spade since I was a child. I loved that life, and I’m grateful that I’m reliving it,” says Sureshchandra.
He also mentions that he created small gardens at every government quarter that they stayed in.
Fond of roses, he has a huge variety of different coloured ones at his house.
He also grows other ornamental plants like Bonsai and adenium (desert rose), which he distributes to the villagers.
The septuagenarian doesn’t look his age. His secret? He keeps himself active by watering the plants and doing other farm work daily.
“We never see my father at home. He’s always at the farm, digging something, planting something. He manages the entire farm himself and only takes occasional help from others,” says Dr Binita, adding, “Being a single mother, my son has grown up with my parents. He is also very interested in gardening and both grandfather and grandson are planting something new daily.”
Harsha also helps in farming by painting each pot with great care and using different designs.
At a time when people are increasingly moving to cities, this family is enjoying farm life, living with nature.
“I have set up my practice here. We have no pollution and live amidst greenery with no traffic, and truly enjoy this life. Many of our friends and family members visit us here and love it. I am also glad that my son is growing up in a healthy environment,” adds Dr Binita.
They eat everything that is grown on their farm, as they are organically grown using vermicompost.
Out in the farmland, the retired engineer, Sureshchandra follows a method for his gardening. He has built a road and planted different plants on both sides of it. In some places, the plants are in a perfect circle. The farm is filled with different structures as per the needs of the plants. For his adeniums, he built a polyhouse.
He says, “People can’t believe I’m 70. They wonder about my wife’s age too. We’ve grown up eating healthy food and never ate out much. The same habits have been inculcated in my daughters and grandchildren too. I keep fit by being at the farm all day. It keeps me fit and positive. And I’m living my dream.”
Thanks to his efforts, others in their village, too, have taken to gardening now.
Read this story in Hindi here.
Edited by Yoshita Rao