In a fast-moving world where cooking is often deemed cumbersome, ‘ready-to-eat’ food items are the way to go. Along similar lines, a farmer from Telangana is cultivating magic rice, which only needs to be soaked in hot or cold water before it’s ready to be eaten.
“I come from an agricultural family, and soil is my first mother,” Srikanth Garampally (38), who hails from Karimnagar district, tells The Better India.
Srikanth has been a farmer for 30 years. “Apart from magic rice, I also have a collection of 120 rice varieties, including navara, mappillai samba and kuska,” he says. Besides, he also cultivates 60 varieties of paddy and organic vegetables on his 12-acre land, which he has taken on lease.
A quick trip to Assam
Srikanth’s tryst with magic rice began two years ago, during a temple visit in Orissa. “There, I met a person who was standing with me in the queue to collect prasad. We struck up a conversation, and I introduced myself as a farmer. When I told him about my collection of rice, he asked if that included magic rice. That’s how I first heard about it,” he says.
Srikanth forgot to ask his new friend for his contact information, but had managed to attain enough information about this new variety of rice, in terms of who cultivated it and how it is cooked. He then travelled to Assam, where magic rice is grown, and visited Gauhati University to understand which breed of this rice was best to cultivate.
University authorities helped him select the boka saul, or mud rice. They told him that the rice, which requires zero fuel to cook, contains 10.73 per cent fibre and 6.8 per cent protein. The Government of India’s Intellectual Property India (IPI) body has also given the rice a GI tag. The authorities also told Srikant that he can learn more about the cultivation process if he visits the lower Assam tribes, and hill regions like Nalbari, Darrang and Dhubri.
‘With good intentions’
Right away, Srikant went to visit the Assam tribes. “There’s a misconception that the tribes will attack people from outside communities, but if you approach them with good intentions at heart, they will help you. When the tribe members found out I wanted to grow boka saul and make it more accessible and available to our future generations, they were more than happy to help,” he says.
He lived with the tribes for more than a week to learn more about magic rice. There, he was taught about the cultivation process, and how it was similar to cultivation of regular paddy. The tribe was moved by the farmer’s dedication, and gifted him 100 grams of magic rice before he left for Telangana.
Some time around June 2020, Srikanth, with help from his wife and parents, began cultivating the magic rice on a small patch of his land, and harvested around 15 kilos. “The cropping period is 145 days. I used some rice to take back home, and distributed the rest to the Gauhati University, and my friends and relatives,” he says.
He adds that the rice can be made by soaking in either hot or cold water for about 30 minutes, and its temperature will depend on that of the water. “My personal favourite,” he says, “is hot rice with sliced banana, mixed with curd. My three kids prefer eating it cold, and my wife and parents like it hot,” he says.
From the 15 kilos, Srikanth collected around 5 kilos for cultivation this year. “I don’t want to see this cultivation from a financial angle. I will use my yield as seeds to produce more. Maybe, after three or four years, I’ll sell the rice to people, depending on the harvest,” he says.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)