BENGALURU: D r Rajeev B R grows herbal, medicinal and indigenous plants in his house in Bengaluru. This is because he started on gardening, in earnest, after working with an NGO in Gudalur, Nilgiris.
The NGO is trying to revive the adivasis’ traditional systems of medicine. Rajeev learnt from their healers and took walks with adivasi children through villages, identifying and listing plants and trees. “I came back to the city and found the best resource in Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions, in Bengaluru,” he says. “They have the biggest repository and I could get the most unusual plants from them.”
He had started collecting herbal plants. “I realised Amruthaballi is one of the best medicines to treat flu-like symptoms,” he says. “You cut a twig, boil it in milk and add some sugar to it.” He began using pomegranate to treat diarrhoea and many varieties for tulasis to treat various ailment. “Drumstick leaves are the best cure for anaemia”.
Rajeev has all of these in a garden spread across his terrace, balcony and the ground floor “where there is enough light”.
He finds it “very difficult” to pick a favourite plant. “Maybe, recently the rosemary,” says Rajeev. “I used to think it is exotic but realised that it grows really fast… in two to three months. I use it in every food I eat these days. Then I love Indian Labarnum… yellow is my favourite colour and when the tree blooms it is like gold. When I was doing my masters, one of the inroads of the hospital campus was lined with these trees that made a yellow carpet in spring.”
Rajeev says it is just as difficult to name a plant he would never grow. “Probably thorny plants, but that is because I have a nephew and I am scared he will hurt himself during play,” he says.
The gardener has been trying to get the Kandyan Dancer, an orchid. “Orchids are native species, infact many varieties are from the Western Ghats, Northeast India and Himachal Pradesh. The Kandyan Dancer is from Sri Lanka though.” he says. “I like it because there is a dance form in the country that resembles it… it shows how our cultural life is closely linked to Nature.”
He misses the time when every house in Bengaluru had planned gardens. “There was lemon trees and coriander in the backyard… near the kitchen, mango and guava in the front yard where children play,” he says. “Every house had a gooseberry tree and, in my house, we had spent hours climbing and plucking berries from it”.