Cherries, litchis, strawberries, blackberries, sweet lime, oranges, jackfruit, mangoes, grape, guava, various types of greens, capsicum, brinjal and herbs of all kinds – these are just a few of the fruits and vegetables that Dr Kali Prasad Saha grows on his 2200 sq ft terrace garden in Kolkata. A resident of New Town, the 63-year-old has created and nurtured a haven in the middle of the concrete jungle.
Dr Saha speaks to The Better India about his newfound passion — gardening, which helps him while away his time during the pandemic. A retired eye-surgeon from the Indian Railways, Dr Saha’s interest in gardening began almost by accident.
“It was during my posting at Malda that I discovered my love for gardening. The Malda Horticulture Department had organised a show in which my daughter’s drawing teacher was declared one of the winners,” he says. Being at the show, surrounded by such beautiful flowers, ignited a spark in Dr Saha which kept him going all these years.
“While the art teacher would visit our home to teach my daughter, I would often step into their class and end up speaking about various plants and flowers for long durations. I could see that my daughter did not approve of it one bit,” he laughs.
What started with a handful of plants at home today has grown into a diverse collection of more than 250 plants being nurtured by Dr Saha. Encouraged by their growth, Dr Saha also started participating in various competitions and shows in West Bengal. “A passion that was kindled in my 40s has kept me feeling very content today in my early 60s,” he says. He adds here that gardening requires a lot of hard work and could be a tedious task unless one is passionate about it.
Speaking about one of the first shows that Dr Saha won was organised by NTPC in Farakka, he says, “It is a lot of work — mixing the soil, ensuring that it remains well-moistened and finding the right mix of fertiliser for it. It was easier to do all of this when I was younger.” The plants have helped fight his boredom and depression.
Dr Saha is also part of various online gardening communities and is often on the lookout for exotic and rare plants that he can grow at home.
“Sweet tamarinds, blue mangoes and red guavas are some examples of the exotic fruits I have grown. While most of these taste like their regular versions, the charm lies in their rather unusual colours,” he says. Another fascinating aspect of Dr Saha’s garden is that he grows all the trees in pots, including mango and jackfruit which are traditionally grown in large open spaces.
Asked what his favourite flower is, he says, “That’s a very difficult question to answer. The Pine Rose, Geraniums and Calendula are all beautiful flowers.”
“The Petunia seems to have lost their sheen now, they might only last until April.” Dr Saha also has a kitchen garden set-up and is currently growing all kinds of saag (greens), okra, cucumber, tomatoes, capsicum and even cauliflowers.
“When my daughters, who are also doctors, come to visit, they insist that I cook for them. They enjoy my cooking,” says the proud father. During the lockdown in 2020, with restrictions placed on movement, Dr Saha says that tending to his plants has been a very big stress buster. “The fear of the virus has resulted in me seeing far fewer patients, and that in turn means I have a lot of free time. I wake up rather early and spend a lot of time with the plants each day.”
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)