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The man who sowed Gandhi and reaped happiness[continued]

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"I planted only what I found in the neighbourhood. Mango, jack, pepper, pineapple, silk cotton, banana, coconut, cashew and vegetable species. I picked the best of a breed and brought it over. In a few years, water stayed for longer months in the ditch. The land got cooler and the soil felt wetter. The leaf pile was getting thicker.

Message on a straw:

"One morning, I stopped in my tracks. A sturdy plant of rice, ripe with grains stood in my way. How had I missed it all these days? Where had it come from? Where it stood was no wetter than other parts of the farm and my land was by means abundant in water. I had certainly, not planted it. It was unlike any paddy I had known. It had buxom grains on 16 strands, all on one stem. It stood alone glistening in the morning sun.

"I was overwhelmed. I took it home and shook it. There was close to a kilo of grains from that one plant! And so began my rice harvest year after year. I scattered the seeds on unploughed land, spread leaves and manure and watered it by hand. There was no attempt at flooding the patch. Slowly, the patch grew wider but it was never more than a tenth of an acre. All it called for was one man's labour for three days in a season. That was enough to feed our family of five continually, for forty years.

"Folks were surprised. Paddy in dry land? Without flooding? Papers wrote about it. I was told that a Japanese man called Masanobu Fukuoka had done something similar. There was a stream of visitors asking questions. I was called to meetings, seminars and was honoured by adoring audiences.

More pay-offs:

"What cash I required, I got by growing vegetables in 20 cents and from what my trees gave me. We ate what we grew. I milled the silk cotton seeds for oil for our lamps. I deepened the ditch, and built a lined well over it. I drew all the water by hand, for the land and our home-- about forty pitchers in a day. There has been no electricity on this land till two years ago. Not that power-lines didn't run in these parts, but I didn't want it. Children went to school and read by oil lamps.

"My first son was a good student. When he passed high school, Mr Haridas Bhatt, principal of MGM College in Udupi, who was my admirer took him in at no cost to me. When he graduated, Mr K K Pai, another admirer, took him into his Syndicate Bank. He went away to become a good banker. I was happy, for him. I got my daughter married to a good man. The land had helped me do my duty by her. But I was happiest when my second son Ananda, came home from school one day and said: "Father, I do not want to study any more. I don't understand anything at school. I want to work with you on this land." He has been with me and does most of the hard work. I think he made a great choice.

"I don't want you to think I am a poor man in money terms, either. My bank account is as rich as this land. And it grew without any clever skills. I have more than what many salaried people have at the end of long careers. The term, 'impoverished farmer' bothers me.

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