For Chottanikkara-native Ezekiel Paulose, his favourite thing to do is the collection and protection of rare medicinal plants.
But farming is not just a hobby for him. He hails from a farming family where his ancestors were full-time cultivators. “My father was a mechanical engineer but loved farming so much. It was he who first started collecting medicinal plants. That’s how I got interested too,” says Ezekiel, who works as a systems architect in Bengaluru.
The medicinal herbs garden is put together on the four-acre land near his home. Here there are 500 varieties, including rudraksha, paarijatha, cluster fig, gurmar, Lakshmi taru and betadine plants. Other plants in his garden include shimshapa from Sri Lanka, which is tree turmeric proven to be effective for skin problems and anali vegam from Agasthyamalai used as an antidote for viper bites.
Apart from medicinal plants, there’s a space reserved for some exotic plant species like the pitcher as well as duck, black fowl and fish farming. “I am practising an integrated farming method which is the maintenance of livestock, poultry and fish in the same place. One’s excreta becomes the other’s food. For example, fishes are kept in a 1,45,000 litre tank from which the sludge is collected to be used as the food for ducks and black fowls,” explains the farmer.
Additionally, Ezekiel’s house in Kerala is equipped with a rainwater harvester and solar panels which takes care of the entire water and electricity needs of the family.
The medicine man
It was during 2007-2008 that Ezekiel kicked off his medicinal herbs collection. “This hobby requires effort and to a great extent, money too. When I got my first job and got to travel around the country as part of it, I took the plant collection seriously. Sometimes it is from fellow hobbyists in exchange for any other plant and otherwise, it is bought. I also became part of a community of medicinal plant collectors,” shares the 39-year-old.
Ezekiel’s friends in Karnataka and Northern states usually help him in finding rare plants and send them across. “When people visit my garden in search of any plant or medicines, depending upon the availability, I sell them or even give them away for free,” he says.
While the farmer was working in Bengaluru he used to visit his home in Ernakulam every weekend to make sure the plants were fine. After the lockdown and the subsequent work-from-home orders, he now finds time to look after the plants. “My family, including my wife and two children, are also engaged in these activities. We encourage kids to make new saplings of a plant and keep the curiosity for gardening alive,” he gushes.
The gardener says that preserving the rare varieties of such plants is essential as they have amazing medicinal properties. “Nature knows best when it comes to healing. In case of wounds or other ailments, none of us in the house runs to a hospital. If we know the correct formula and plants, there is a solution for every disease in this medicinal garden,” he says.
Ezekiel also adds that it has never been about ‘finding time’ for this hobby. “Everyone has or should have a hobby which can calm the mind and energise us to face whatever life throws our way. This is why I started this collection. It has become a ritual to visit the garden before and after work. It is a huge meditative practice for me,” he shares.
He adds that he also likes his antique collection. Space in his house is reserved to showcase the wide range of artefacts he has gathered from various locations. His collection includes a gramophone, typewriter, utensils, tailoring machine, measuring bowls and more.
Ezekiel’s dream is to turn his ancestral home and the garden around it into a ‘herbal homestay’. “I am planning to design it as a perfect getaway from city life. The presence of all these medicinal plants itself is a kind of detoxification which is much needed these days,” he says.
The passionate gardener also adds that he hopes to touch the magic number of 1,000 medicinal plants and expand his garden into a green haven.
Edited by Yoshita Rao
Photo Credits: Ezekiel Poulose