60-year-old Manju is a passionate gardener. She lives on the campus of Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT), Pune and her garden is a source of comfort to her. However, unlike most home gardeners, she is aware that the 1500 sq. ft. stretch of land that she has worked upon with great care will not last her a lifetime. It is just one more home garden that she will soon have to leave behind.
Manju’s love for gardening began at the age of nine when she helped her mother in their garden. “We had a small balcony in Jabalpur, where my mom grew roses and mogra (jasmine). It was my duty to water the plants twice every day, and I felt happy every time I saw the flowers blooming,” she recalls. Her love for gardening has only grown since then.
From Jabalpur to Assam and now Pune, Manju has been finding opportunities to work with the soil and plant vegetables and flowers everywhere.
“We were in Assam from 2015–2017, and I had approximately 2000 sq. ft. of barren land at my disposal. I turned it into a thriving vegetable garden—a bottle gourd grew to a length of four feet!”
In her current garden, Manju grows lentils, brinjal, broccoli, bitter gourd, okra, pumpkin, cauliflower, spinach, and lemongrass. She also grows roses, a plant that ignited the love of gardening in the first place.
The entire garden is organic, and Manju does not use artificial fertilisers or pesticides.
She says, “I developed the garden using cow dung and tea leaves as manure. Whatever waste products we get, like dry leaves, are also turned to manure. I don’t use any chemicals, and everything grown in the garden is organic. There’s a well in the campus which I use to water my garden.”
Manju’s family has found comfort in the greenery that the garden has to offer, and also consume the produce from the garden. It is also a pleasant place for squirrels, parrots, and other birds to visit. “People who live around leave their pets here when they are travelling. I once had a parrot, a squirrel and a cat living together in my garden!” she says with a smile.
Manju has made sure that there’s something for everyone in her piece of land.
Two swings hanging from trees are a perfect playing ground for children. She polished and painted waste tree logs to turn them into a quaint chair set!
“My children love this place. My daughter-in-law and daughter use the space to workout. My 87-year-old father sits here for hours reading his newspaper and soaking in the sun. And my husband and son spend their entire time here just catching up.”
She also welcomes visitors to relax in the garden and soak in the freshness.
“They just sit here for some time, we talk, and then they leave for their work. I feel good knowing that I was able to create something that we all enjoy this much.”
Manju’s husband currently works at MIT, but they will have to shift soon after his tenure. However, that doesn’t stop her from dedicating several hours every day to this beautiful garden.
“We will leave this campus, and I know none of this will move with me, but as they say a beautiful thing is a joy forever. I hope anyone who comes after us can enjoy the garden.”