Even at the age of 93, Chidambaram Nair is firmly planted on his feet. The nonagenarian has been practicing agriculture since his childhood, and credits his health and fitness to it.
“Agriculture is the foundation of everything in this world,” he tells The Better India, adding, “The day we forget this fact, our failures begin.” Nair, a native of Kerala’s Kozhikode, says the scent of the soil is his motivation.
Nair’s love for the profession stems from the small vegetable garden he had at home as a child. His gardening hobby eventually transformed into full-fledged cultivation of a barren land that his parents owned. Then there was no looking back.
“I worked as a primary school teacher in a school nearby for almost 27 years. During that time, I would cultivate my land before heading to school, till about 9 in the morning. After school, children would rush to get home, and I would rush to get back to my farm,” he recalls.
Nair has planted over 350 coconut trees on his 7-acre land. He cultivates vegetables and fruits including banana, tomato, tapioca, elephant yam, pepper and paddy. He keeps some produce for his home, and sells the rest in the market nearby. He follows organic farming, which he says is more difficult than the regular, because one has to prepare the soil and make natural fertilisers and pesticides.
Regardless, Nair says the practice ensures his health remains at its prime. “The use of organic waste keeps the soil alive and in good health. It reduces pollution, helps conserve water, prevents soil erosion, and increases fertility. I don’t use any synthetic pesticides, and use cow dung powder, organic compost, and groundnut cakes as manure,” he says.
A simple lifestyle
On the routine he follows every day, Nair says, “I go to sleep by 8.30 pm and wake up by 6 in the morning. After bathing, I head to my farm, and only return home to eat and sleep. I dedicate the rest of my time to agriculture.”
Nair follows a strictly vegetarian diet, which he says is the reason for his energy, even at this age. He refrains from eating oily and junk food. He helps his wife prepare traditional dishes in the kitchen.
Nair’s son, Radhakrishnan, says, “My personal favourites are rice pudding and avial (a thick mixture of over 10 vegetables). He makes sure he doesn’t add too much sugar to the pudding. When we eat the avial, he makes sure we eat all the vegetables in it. We don’t mind, because it tastes delicious.”
He adds, “I’ve been seeing my father on the field ever since I was little. Our family doesn’t purchase too many items from the market, maybe except salt. We haven’t used oil in our cooking in many years. New products in the market were never exciting to us, because whatever produce our father brought from his farm was enough. Even when it comes to clothes, my father usually makes them at home using the spinning wheel we have here.”
‘My first love’
While most of his family remains busy with their professional lives, they help him out on the farm whenever they get the time. Nair and his wife, Karthyayani, have four children — K Mohandas, K Radhakrishnan, Komalavally and Usha. Mohandas is a retired agricultural officer and Radhakrishnan is a retired teacher. Both daughters are homemakers.
As Nair does not have any house help to aid him in the farming, his children frequently ask him not to go to the land without them, owing to his age. They also often chide him for not eating on time, because he spends so much time on his farm But he remains adamant.
“My children often ask me to not go alone, as they worry I may fall sick if I work too much at this age. But I always say that agriculture is an alternative exercise that has kept me healthy and thriving so far, and I haven’t had to be hospitalised,” he says. He has no health issues apart from a minor hearing problem.
Calling it his first love, Nair says he is willing to dedicate the rest of his days to farming and cultivation.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)