Most of us have likes, dislikes and preferences about our food, but we don’t often stop to wonder about any aspects of our fruits or vegetables, about what makes them so unique and interesting.
But if we are willing to spend a little time, there is wonder and amazement everywhere, even for instance, in carrots.
For example, did you know that in the 10th century, most of the carrots eaten in India were purple? And while eating this root makes you healthier for sure and improves your eyesight, it is not going to make you a better human being.
During World War 2, the British wanted to keep the invention of Radar secret from the Germans, so they spread a myth that they could ‘see’ German planes better at night because they ate a lot of carrots!
As if you couldn’t tell already – clearly, we here at The Better India, have carrots on our minds.
As I mentioned at the start – wonderful, amazing things can be discovered if you go deep into the ground.
And that is precisely what our Hindi Editor, Manabi Katoch, uncovered when she spoke to Vallabhbhai Vasrambhai Marvaniya, then a 95-year-old farmer from Khamdhrol village of Gujarat’s Junagadh district in 2016.
What she helped harvest that day was an exceptional story of success, growth and a heroic ‘never say die’ spirit – along with lots, and lots, of carrots.
Read the story here.
Two years on, thanks to our brilliant readers who made a lot of things happen for Marvaniya, we are proud, delighted and humbled to share that the Union government has honoured him for his lifelong efforts in carrot farming with the Padma Shri.
He is 97 (nearly 98) now and going as strong as ever.
Here’s what he had to say:
“My father was never convinced about growing carrots. But I was determined to do so – it worked well for a while. We were famous in the region for our carrots. But I had to part ways with my father over a dispute and had nothing in my hand.
“For a short while, my wife and I worked as farm labourers to feed our seven children. Soon, noticing my hard work, one of the farm owners we worked for, offered me six acres of land on lease, to grow carrots and asked me to pay him whenever I could.
“I worked hard and developed my crops. In a few years, carrot cultivation bought me immense returns. I bought 40 acres of land. In time, my daughters were married, my elder son had a job and my younger son, Arvind, was looking after my carrot farm. It was a happy retired life for me.
“But then, when Arvind was 20, he met with an accident and his hip bone broke. I was too old by then to look after the farm properly, and things were getting worse with every passing day. So, sadly, I had to sell 10 acres of my hard-earned land.
“But through it all, I never gave up on growing carrots and developing carrot seeds and varieties. And that is how I created the ‘Madhuvan Gajar’, and all of this happened.
“I had been felicitated as ‘the first carrot farmer of Gujarat’ a few times. But very few people knew about me. In July 2017, one fine day, someone named Manabi Bacher Katoch called Arvind to ask about me. She kept asking questions almost for two hours, while Arvind would translate for both of us. After a few days, my story was on ‘The Better India’! It was like watching my own biopic.
“Calls started coming in as soon as the story was published. One of the calls was from a big hotel and farm owner in Delhi. He visited us and bought our carrot seeds. Once he was back in Delhi, he sent us two air tickets to visit Delhi. I had never sat in a taxi before – so sitting in an aeroplane was a huge thing.
“Orders started coming from various states, and now we supply our carrots and seeds to eight states in the country.
“Last night, at 8:30 pm, Arvind received a call from the Union Ministry. They said that I was nominated for the Padma Shri. We couldn’t believe it at first, but then the media started calling. Some of them are still here, while I am speaking to you (he smiles).
“I am 97 now. I had lived my life to the fullest. But today, just one story gave me something that no amount of money could have given.”
Stories like these are the ones that we live for. We all come to work every day so that we can share these tales with you, our readers, who always make magical things happen.
It is time for us all to celebrate – how else – with some ‘Gajar ka Halwa’.
Congratulations to the true hero Marvaniya, and our readers, who are making India better!