On January 1, 2022, I returned to Mumbai from Goa (coastal state in India known for its fertile soil, beautiful beaches, and susegad or untroubled lifestyle that has been changing rapidly with urbanisation and an influx of urbanites into the state).
In my car was a cake box that had been converted into a tray for three spinach saplings and two herbs—Brahmi (Waterhyssop) and Chirata (Swertia). Alongside sat three recycled plastic bottles, one holding a sapling of Ritha/Reetha or Indian soapberry (Sapindus mukorossi), and the other two carrying a young Kadipatta or Curry tree and a passion fruit plant.
Seeds and cuttings of other beautiful plants, including the favoured butterfly pea with its deep blue (almost purple) flower that colours our tisane and soothes our nerves also made the journey. I had ordered tisane and enjoyed spinach like any good consumer of nourishment, but now my process of maturation had begun. I was soon to become a beneficiary of nature’s benevolence and a participant in its joy.
Every morning, I watched as the butterfly pea and other seeds and saplings continued to grow and thrive, while I contributed by caring for their needs. Sunlight, water, fresh air, and healthy soil are amply present in natural surroundings that haven’t been interfered with, however in an apartment they must be provided for, making my care a mere circumstantial necessity.
I observed that the seeds integrated the nutrients made available to them to become the plants that they were meant to become, and the plants were integrating nutrients, from the atmosphere and the soil, to become nourishment for us: as nature intended.
The butterfly pea sprouted and grew from seed to sapling. It swayed gently in the air and the head of its upper stem turned towards the sun at intervals, like a rotating device atop a lookout tower. One evening, I intuitively grounded a stick in the pot for the slender stem to lean on. The next morning, I found the plant gracefully wrapped around the stick. This plant’s nature is to wrap itself around a more solid structure, from which its fragility gains strength, as soon as the wooden stick was offered it did as nature intended for it to do.
I continued to share my observations with friends and benefactors who had gifted me the seeds and saplings in Goa, and they continued to share what they witnessed of natural cycles in their food forest.
M from the M&M duo shared a beautiful photograph of a mature Ritha/Reetha (Indian soapberry) tree that had shed its leaves to mulch the soil and protect it from being scorched by the summer sun in India. M mentioned that the shedding of leaves followed the fruit-bearing period.
The fruits were drying in the sun, the leaves were protecting the soil, and the tree trunk and branches were preparing to sprout and unfurl new leaves: What had been integrated, had disintegrated to become.
The leaves were becoming nourishment for the soil and its creatures, the fruits were becoming medicine for our wellbeing and a resource for personal hygiene, cleaning, and other household requirements, and the soil was becoming a food source for many plants and trees that sustained life. The tree was disintegrating to integrate and was “becoming to become”: as nature intended.
And we, what are we becoming to become? If at the heart of nature’s cycle is regeneration, then are our tasks all distractions? Those working to empower the subjugated amongst us are likely to think otherwise, because lack of equity is the cause of many problems in human society. However, without the firmament of regeneration, we might merely be helping people to become part of an exploitative system.
As I write, I hear the raucous call of those working on road repairs outside our apartment building. In the heat of 38°C (100.4°F), they exert energy to pull and tug at underground wires and call out loud the command of the leader at the head of a long human chain.
Had they been educated, within the system, they would design and build the machines that ploughed the earth, excavated the soil, and tugged at the wires. They wouldn’t labour with their hands and bodies, they would labour with their brains and mind. Labour they would still remain!
They would not become skilled craftsmen, or talented workers, nor would they become empowered creators who experience and live the joy of participating in a regenerative system: as nature intended.
With this understanding, I explored the feeling of empowerment within me. When is it that I felt most empowered? Therein I sensed lay the answer to the essence of empowerment. Choice, free thought, free speech, financial provision, all of which I have had access to since birth, somehow reminded me of weak clay pots that collapse when exposed to heat—These ideas of empowerment, I realised were incapable of containing its essence.
My exploration brought me closer to the feelings that empowerment evoked or the feelings that evoked empowerment. Joy, wellbeing, harmony, and trust contained my experience of empowerment, they were its essence. How then are we to empower? Where lie these attributes of human experience? Perhaps in a regenerative system, as a solution towards equity for all living beings, where that which integrates disintegrates, and that which disintegrates becomes: as nature intended.