Thursday, November 18, 2010

Seed Saving Workshop

We had a seed saving training at Sunita's house. As far as work goes, mostly I've been working in the vegetable garden, pulling weeds, helping write reports, putting together gardening and seed saving advice, and working on education/camp projects. So it's nice to be brought back to the original reason I am here.

First there was a thanksgiving puja. Puja is difficult to explain. Basically it is a prayer with flowers, foods, oils, and fire. Every day flowers are placed before the god of the house (usually the jolly Ganesha, remover of obstacles) and coconut water is also given. Lamps are lit. But on this day, a priest (who is also the village postman) dressed in saffron dhoti came and cooked special paysa to be blessed and eaten by people and gods alike. The women all came in their best saris, and for a while I was wrapped up in the priest's voice chanting Sanskrit prayers, working Vanastree's work into the prayer, and the women's singing in the pauses.

 Pre-puja, everything ready. Also important was remembering Savithriamma, a seed leader who died of cancer last March. She was brave and a seed leader till the end--addressing a new seed group from her hospital bed!--and she is loved and missed.
 Post-puja: flowers and coconuts.
 Some of the vegetables whose seeds were being exchanged: bottle gourd, gherkins (I think that's the English word) brinjal (eggplant) and a relative of the jackfruit
 Rangoli in turmeric (haldi)--turmeric is very integral to rituals and to food here
 Savitri carrying the GIANT pumpkin, which we made into sambar and ate! Its seeds were given out to everyone. It was quite a full-circle sort of experience...are you PICAns out there getting ideas? :)
 Seed saving training: hands-on
 Sunita trying to explain the Annadana seed saving techniques.
 Planting a coconut tree in Savithriamma's memory...the Siddi seed group brought the tree the 30-odd kilometers from their village to plant at Hutthina Betta at this meeting.

 Some seeds to be saved: pumpkin, okra, big bean, cucumber (on paper.) The beans and okra can just be dried in the pod and then taken out; pumpkin seeds must be washed; cucumber seeds must be soaked and washed; and everything must be stored in dark airtight containers. Fungus and moisture are huge challenges to seed savers in the Malnad.

 Now to Matthigatta, the Siddis' home. A very attractive rooster belonging to one of the ladies.

 Post-kokum balm training. These ladies were so excited to have a training in their own village, their own houses. A note about this: someone coming to your house means they respect you. These Brahmins will not eat in the Siddis' houses, so it means a lot that these ladies have come to them. The Siddis have been picked upon, looked down upon and heckled by the Havyik Brahmins, the high-caste farmers; their men are often troublesome; and tragedy seems to follow them. They are foreigners with no home, in a sense; their ancestors were slaves brought from Africa by the Portuguese. They do not know their original language or place of origin; I hear they have intense and wonderful dancing. But for all the obstacles they face, they are some of the most beautiful people I have met. I am sure there is much I do not know; but there was something about the very neat mud houses and the community living on such steep land, amid such natural beauty, that struck me. The following photo doesn't really show the steepness...and then the camera battery died.

Once again, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Sarah, lovely wonderful informative- glorious photos- We marvel! Good work! Sending love...