Vijay Daund wanted to become a lawyer, but instead, took up his family occupation of grape-farming in his village Lonwadi in Nasik district of Maharashtra. His wife, Lata, aspired to become a doctor but had to leave education after completing class 12.
Though the couple made peace with the cards they were dealt, they were not going to let their children’s dreams to come to naught. Vijay and Lata had high hopes for their daughter, Jyotsna, a bright student. Yet, all the best-laid plans sometimes go awry.
Jyotsna too had to step into her father’s shoes to save their farm. However, Jyotsna outdid her father and carried her studies forward, despite farming being an all-consuming occupation. No parents could be prouder.
This is Jyotsna’s story
It was 1998 when Jyotsna, then a 6-year-old and her brother merely one year of age, that their father broke his legs in an accident. He had to spend seven months in the hospital. This is when Lata took up the responsibility of her husband, kids, and the farm too. Lata would also take little Jyotsna along with her to the farm. By the time Jyotsna was 12, she knew most of the farm-work and would help her mother.
“I went to the farm before school and post school. Even during the exams, I would study at the farm and finish farm work too. Eventually, I could do everything at the farm and could give my mother some time to relax,” says Jyotsna while speaking to The Better India (TBI).
Things took a turn for the better in 2005, when Vijay could walk again and take over the farming giving respite to his wife and his daughter. Now Jyotsna was free to focus on her studies and forge her way to becoming an engineer.
“We were really happy. Everything was back in place again. Those were the best years of our life,” says Jyotsna.
However, the happiness was short-lived. In 2010, when the grapes in Vijay’s farm were ready to be harvested, Lonwadi faced untimely heavy rains causing damage to the yield. Vijay rushed out to buy a fertiliser that could save the rest of the fruits. But, as fate would have it, on his way back, he slipped off the stairs. The injury permanently damaged his leg.
“I remember my mother rushing out to see my father in the hospital that rainy night. My father knew about his leg, but all he could think about was his fruits. He sent my mother back with the fertiliser to save the farm,” recalls Jyotsna.
Over the next few months, Vijay would coach Jyotsna through the motions and gave her step by step instructions. Being an eager student, Jyotsna followed suit conscientiously. Though Jyotsna really wanted to pursue her studies in Computer Engineering, she had to compromise with a degree in B.Sc Computers, to be able to give proper time to her father’s beloved farm.
Lonwadi is a small village and Jyotsna travelled 18 km everyday to reach her college in Pimpalgaon which entailed changing two buses and walking for 2 km. The young farmer fell back into the old routine of juggling work and studies. She woke up early every morning, went to the farm to work and then go to college. On returning in the evening she would back go to her farm.
“My father taught me to drive a tractor, while in the hospital. He would tell me where the clutch was, when to change the gear and I would try that at the farm,” says Jyotsna.
After finishing her Masters in Computer, Jyotsna was selected for a software development company in Nasik via campus placements. She joined the Company, but the constant worry for the farm was ever-present at the back of her head.
Finally, after working as a software developer for a year and a half, she left her job in 2017, and returned to take over farming once again. The dutiful daughter had saved up some money which she used to fund her brother’s education and meet the household expenses.
For the next six months, Jyotsna gave her full attention to the farm. As the plants were budding, she stayed at the farm day and night and looked after them.
“If you take good care of the plant till it grows to a tree, the results are then really good. I would cut the unwanted branches, straighten the vines and give them the required nutrition as and when required. Electricity is a huge problem here. Sometimes we get electricity for only few hours in the night, so I would stay awake all night to start the pump and water the plants,” says Jyotsna.
Within six months the vines grew strong affording Jyotsna some free time. She joined a local school as a teacher to stay tethered to academics and earn some extra money. But she never ignored her beloved farm. Her hardwork paid off during the fruiting season. Usually, one bunch of grapes has 15-17 fruits, whereas that year’s each bunch had 25-30 fruits.
Thus getting double the income for Jyotsna.
In 2018, Jyotsna was awarded with the ‘Krishithon Best Woman farmer award’ and her father was happier than ever.
“She has turned out to be a much better farmer than me. She uses the logic that she has gained through her education. I am so happy for her achievements. She is my pride,” says her Father.
Read this story in Hindi
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)