BANGALORE: In 1932, The Adventure of the Black Girl in her search for God by George Bernard Shaw hit the stands. It was one of Shaw’s major prose work, articulate yet thought provoking. One amongst the many profound proses being ‘The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there’. Today, not many among us have the opportunity to do that so we have obvious options. But there are a few who still believe that God is in the garden and they work to seek him there. Manikandan P is one among them.
A software engineer by profession, he is among those who could click his mouse and green thumb to perfection. In a city where the air finds less space to breath for itself, Manikandan followed his passion towards gardening by going to the extent of building a greenhouse on top of his apartment.
“There is no count on how many times I have longed to have a large space for my garden. Anytime I pass by a house with lots of garden space but not a single plant in it, I used to feel ‘Why is life so unfair?’. People with passion have only a balcony while those who are not interested, have acres without a trace of green in it,” he says. As a child, Manikandan played with vegetables and ornamental plants in a small patch of land on the outskirts of Chennai. After coming to Bangalore in pursuit of his software career, he found the patch missing. Not giving up, he started experimenting by growing vegetables in pots.
“The initial fear, uncertainty, doubt was very evident as there was no resource on how to grow vegetables in pots. The nursery guys hide their tribal secrets very well. After initial struggles, I got going. A lot of research had to go in. It takes time, but then it is your own and therefore, it is special,” he says.
Manikandan did not want space to be a constraint so he convinced other owners of his apartment building in Bilekahalli and decided to build a greenhouse on the terrace. “It had more than 1000 sq ft of open space. Excellent sunlight and water facility, but wind was a problem. The greenhouse overcame it,” he says.
His gardening success mainly comes by seeing things from the nature’s viewpoint. Knowing its needs, he has experimented with several techniques including usage of different raw materials. “I am a regular visitor to the Lalbagh nursery where I get ideas and try to improvise on them. I have tried to go organic. Perhaps it is time we Indians start using the old techniques of organic farming mentioned in our Vedic literature otherwise the researchers abroad will follow it and tell us about it,” he smirks.
He has also mastered the science of hydroponics in which plants are grown in water that contains all the essential nutrients necessary for the plants to grow. “Today people who want to start a garden often ask me if they can grow plants in a container. I tell them that they can grow a watermelon in a container! You may end up spending a little bit of money and effort during the process, but you start seeing it as another element in your life,” he says. So, when he is not found tinkering with some stuff in Linux, python and occasionally worrying about global warming, he is in his garden, just smiling.