The child is the father of the man — this line is more popular than the poem it’s a part of. From William Wordsworth’s poem My Heart Leaps Up, this often-quoted line suggests that every human being is the product of the habits developed in childhood.
“Even as a two-year-old, he showed immense interest in learning about plants and animals. When he started going to school, he would insist on gifting plants as return gifts at his birthday parties,” Unnamalai says of her son, Shiva K.A. Annamalai.
Today, at age 13, Shiva, a student of APL Global School, wants to become a farmer. It’s not a vague wish. He’s working towards seeing it fulfilled, proving the validity of Wordsworth’s observation.
There are patches of green in front of Shiva’s house in Neelankarai — all because of Shiva’s efforts.
“In the house that we used to live in, I was growing vegetables like capsicum and tomatoes in pots, and I would sell them at the local market. That was when someone suggested that I switch to organic methods as a healthier alternative,” says Shiva.
At his house in Neelankarai, Shiva has been growing spinach, lady’s finger, chillies, coriander, watermelons and tomatoes with the help of his watchman who was once a farmer.
“It’s fortunate that we found someone who could guide Shiva. There’s more space in this house and we’ve filled the ground with manure and red soil,” says his mother.
Shiva has another guide in Arun who runs Ainthinai Organic Shop at OMR.
Arun guides Shiva on the kind of manure and natural insecticides that could be used.
“We use panchakavyam which consists of cow’s dung and urine and the pesticide is neem-based,” says Shiva.
Shiva’s produce was offered at a stall at the Organic Farmer’s Market (OFM) recently and it received a great response.
In many of his experiments, Shiva has discovered newer and better ways of grow his plants.
Pointing to a patch in front of his house, he says, “Interestingly, those are watermelons that were not planted by me. The cow-dung that we used as manure had these seeds in them and they’ve been growing naturally.”
Shiva is also interested in learning more about new farming techniques and he tells me he’d like to experiment with hydroponics.
“More than 70 percent of the pests come from soil and if we were to remove soil from the equation, we can easily address the issue. Hydrophonics is a technology in which plants are grown only in water, without the soil,” he explains.
Shiva’s first batch of plants have been harvested and sold and he plans to grow more this summer. His mother tells me Shiva spends a considerable amount of time with his plants every day. His parents are enthusiastic about the idea of learning about plants and horticulture, along with Shiva.
“At school, Shiva’s teachers and his principal are a major source of encouragement,” says his mother.
Shiva plans on pursuing agricultural studies and developing his own farm with animals and plants one day.
The child is indeed the father of the man.