TIRUNELVELI: Let’s face it. Many who work in the corporate sector nurture the dream of leaving the job for a life in the lap of nature. Most, however, can never realise it and continue their lives in vast concrete jungles. But, not Noushadya and Sudhakar.
Once successful corporate employees in Mumbai and Bengaluru, they have been leading a self-sustaining life near a forest in Vickramasingapuram for the past three years. And they can’t be more satisfied. Their decision to transform their lives, however, wasn’t taken in seven breaths. 34-year-old Sudhakar, who is a native of Tirunelveli, spent eight years in Mumbai working for different companies, learning quietly about a life less travelled.
He volunteered in many NGOs based in Bengaluru and worked in an organic farm in Puducherry. And as luck would have it, it was during such a visit to Bengaluru that Sudhakar met 28-year-old Noushadya, a Thanjavur native working for the same NGO Sudhakar was volunteering for. Before long, the two realised they have so much in common.
After marriage, the couple decided to bid farewell to their corporate careers and head to Tirunelveli, where they hoped to start their lives afresh. After much search, they found a parcel of 11 acres on the edge of a forest at Arunachalapuram in Vickramasingapuram in 2018. “When we bought it, there were a few coconut trees, two mango trees, and two sheds on it. After we moved in, we started implementing minimum tillage system, mixed farming, and multi-layer farming on various parts of the plot,” Sudhakar said.
The couple cultivated paddy, banana, and vegetables; and planted saplings of coconut and pomegranate on their plot. They simultaneously worked on their dream home as well. To reduce carbon footprint, they used lime concrete, second-hand wood, and paddy husk as raw material. “With the help of volunteers and friends, we completed the home’s construction in two years and moved in August 2020. Currently, we use five acres for cultivation and the rest for planting saplings,” he said.
The couple’s property sits on the edge of a forest, and is protected by a solar-powered fence; a stream flows nearby. Two old mango trees stand at the entrance, like a lush archway. The first patch of land employs mixed-farming system with 12 species of trees, including coconut and drumstick. “The mulching method is used to preserve water sprayed for the plants. This not only conserves water, but also improves soil fertility by promoting growth of earthworms and fungi,” Sudhakar said.
The next section of land is filled with papaya, turmeric, and edible plants, and uses drip-irrigation and multi-layer farming system. Banana and other trees are planted in circles, with nitrogen-fixing promoting their growth. “The dry leaves are copiously turned into manure by mixing them with cow dung and letting them compost for over two months,” Sudhakar told TNIE.
“In addition to the vegetables for our use, we also grow groundnut and grams. There is an abundance of curry leaves, tulsi, and palmyrah trees here. We dry the curry and tulsi leaves in the solar dehydrator and powder it for sale. We also make palm jaggery, dry mango slices, and other value-added products. As we use a wooden hearth and solar panels for electricity, we lead an almost self-sustaining life here,” said Noushadya.
Both Sudhakar and Noushadya are lavish in their praise for elders in the village, from whom they learnt so much about cultivation. The two also work closely with other organic farmers from the Ambasamudram region and receives visitors to their farmstead every Saturday, for they want to inspire many to fulfil their dreams of leading eco-friendly lives.