20 April 2014

Wisdom drops from Narammala

About four kilometers from Narammala when traveling towards Giriulla, there’s a promising cement road that quickly slips into nondescript dirt track.  Less than a kilometer on this road, there’s a temple.  By the temple is an even more humble path.  It leads to the house of D.G.S. Karunaratne, development officer, organic farmer, political activist and philosopher. 

The ‘farm’ is still in-the-making, he says, but it generates a lot of income already.  It yields approximately 800 eggs every day. He milks his buffaloes and produces curd of a quality that has pushed out the cheaper products that had for a long time dominated the market.  He walks around his ‘estate’ of one and a half acres, and has his fill of all kinds of fruits.  

There’s mango, kaju puhulang jambu, kambaranga, ambarella, rambutan, guava, plantains and papaw, and probably other fruit trees too.  He doesn’t have to purchase leafy greens.  The diversity makes for a different kind of mallum every day.  There are coconut and erecanut trees.  There is kithul too which he plans to tap later on to make treacle and jaggery. 

The buffaloes get excited when they see him approach.  He talks to them, pats their faces and they reciprocate the affection.  He has ‘regular’ chicken as well as the ‘village’ breed or gam kukulo.  Karu says that eventually he will only have gam kukulo.  They would not be held in a coop but allowed to roam around. That’s pest control.  He claims that most pests breed on the ground, even though they feed ‘higher’, for example there are creatures that operate 30-40 feet above ground, attacking the coconuts.  Gam kukulo can sort out that problem, he believes.

He spoke a lot, explaining what he does and why.  He spoke about the Marxian notion of alienation and the need to recover self by re-thinking and re-defining lifestyles.  He spoke about multinational companies, the market economy and how people, turned into ignorant and uncritical consumers are poisoned even as they are robbed. 

He spoke of children.  His children are not exactly bursting with enthusiasm about their father’s work.  He says that he doesn’t expect them to be either, after all what he does is ‘new’ to him in the first instance.  In addition they, like most people, are skeptical.  ‘Great idea, but not practical’ is what he gets from his friends.  But he’s convinced that once he lays out his idea on the ground, on the earth, in the soil, people will think differently.

For now, he has no illusions about his children.  They are intelligent and are doing well in school.  They are courteous and kind. They are good children. Karu is philosophical. 

‘We sacrifice so much to educate our children, and yet we really don’t know what they’ll end up doing.  We do everything and they study hard.  They get into medical college and become doctors.  We don’t know what they’ll do thereafter.  They could very well end up becoming glorified peddlers working for pharmaceutical companies that sell us drugs we don’t need and which don’t work.’

He loves his children and is proud of their achievements, but he does not harbor illusions.  He trusts trees more.

‘I take care of the trees and they give me everything they have and are ready to give me even more than I need.  That’s assured.  That kind of assurance one cannot get or expect from one’s own children.’

The same goes for his livestock of course, although he didn’t say it.  But it is certainly something to think about.  Perhaps the greatest liability of the human being is this thing called ‘consciousness’.  They think, therefore they err.  They can think so they think they are superior to those they think cannot think or feel. 

Trees, now, don’t write books.  They are nevertheless excellent narrators of ways of being, elucidators of the eternal verities.  We just don’t listen to them enough, perhaps.  Karu probably does, although he didn’t make the claim.  He draws that wisdom and spreads it around.  Free of charge.  I think he is a tree himself, with deep roots, splendid branches made for embrace, and a stout heart that survives the turning of the seasons.



Mahinda Gunasekera said...

We need more Karu's to make the world greener and bountiful. I do hope others would take a leaf from his successful experiment and create their own little garden that would provide them their daily needs. Sri Lanka must adopt Karu's systems to propagate similar family farms that promote organic forms of agriculture which will help to prevent chemical degradation of the soil and water. This is the way to sustainability and prosperity for our nation. Mahinda Gunasekera, Toronto

Anonymous said...

"Woodman spare that tree
Touch not a single bough
In youth it sheltered me
And I'll protect it now"

Dileeni said...

Malinda, I liked your article. The scene of Karu's garden sounds so idyllic. Wish the government would propagate this idea,island wide,where possible,, so that Sri Lanka could and would be self sufficient in fruit, vegetables as well as livestock, for a healthier, happier nation.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a utopian sustainable unit. The government would have to support with an efficient, viable collection/ distribution facility between farmer and consumer to support a larger collective of such units.