Spinal-cord injury hasn't deterred this nature lover's quest to preserve lost plant seeds

A fall, a spinal-cord injury, and a life confined to a wheelchair at the age of 16 couldn't stop Adaikkalam Anandhan who is on a quest to find and preserve lost plant seeds.
Adaikkalam Anandhan standing up for a moment using an assistive device, for a photo.
Adaikkalam Anandhan standing up for a moment using an assistive device, for a photo.

VIRUDHUNAGAR:  For the then 16-year-old Adaikkalam Anandhan, the mistake that almost cost him his life happened atop a tree. The fascination to climb it and hug it prodded him to events that changed his life – a fall, a spinal-cord injury, and a life confined to a wheelchair. While those are blows strong enough to snuff out one’s will to live, it did something entirely contrary to the lad. 

Ask him whether that incident affected his love for nature, and the boy-turned-organic farmer would give a firm ‘no’. Instead, the now 29-year-old is ever on an ascent to touch the lives around him. And through his quest to find and preserve lost plant seeds, he is redefining the meaning of his own life. 

Adaikkalam has so far retrieved four varieties of vegetable seeds, which had almost gone extinct, and has a collection of seeds of thirty native vegetables. Adaikkalam distributes the seeds to fellow farmers  for them to cultivate the vegetables. He is also the coordinator of the Spinal Injured Persons Association (SIPA) at Aruppukottai taluk.

Speaking to TNIE, Adaikkalam said he has 30 varieties of seeds with him, including two varieties of paddy, 10 varieties of brinjal and ladies’ finger each, and seven varieties of tomato. “I am cultivating the crops in four cents inside the Nadar Middle School at Puliyooran village in Aruppukottai,” he said. 

Adaikkalam credits the books of environmental activist G Nammalvar, which he started reading in 2014, for giving him the impetus to embark on his current mission. “In line with one of his principles, I wanted to collect native seeds of certain nearly-extinct but essential trees that he mentioned. That was how I came into this. Then, I started collecting paddy seeds and vegetable seeds. In no time, I was obsessed with collecting rare varieties and those that have been lost,” he said, adding that he has completely recovered two varieties of tomato and brinjal each.”

I got 10 or 15 seeds from someone, developed them, and distributed to farmers who cultivate them large scale and sell them in markets,” Adaikkalam said. “While commercial seeds yield for only two months, native seeds can yield up to four months. If it is cultivated in a completely organic method, the plant will yield up to two years.”

“Those interested can approach me and get the seeds. All these varieties are mutually shared and developed, to be passed down to the next generation,” added the man who otherwise does odd jobs for a living.

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The New Indian Express