It’s been three years since we started ArtyPlantz. What started as an idea has grown into fulfillment of dreams for a few young people who have stayed on with us. Like planting a seed and watching it grow or even like giving birth to a baby and nurturing it, I have watched these lovely people grow to become true leaders of themselves first and then of the world around them.
These few young people joined me because they needed a job that paid them, to begin with. I saw in them a passion for plants and hoped the energy would drive them to be the leaders they inherently could be. They have beaten my expectations many times over…
In the beginning it was more a, “You tell us, and we shall do,” syndrome. Over the years however, they have learnt by themselves to be assertive about their thoughts, to learn to delve deep within themselves to discover where their passion lay and to focus on bringing their passion to the fore, while all the time driving the initiative of their choice towards creating the impact they dreamt they would.
Nalini, a mother of a young child, was on a sabbatical from work 3 years back. Now she is such a motivated natural farmer that she declares that she would like to set up model farms all around the country and has a plan to show how she would achieve this. Nalini wishes to empower agriculture students to become social entrepreneurs who farm and market produce from natural farms that she will help to set up. She would be the link between urban/rural/suburban landowners and these aspiring entrepreneurs. She will offer a 3 year internship to such students on farms belonging to urban landowners who need help in converting their farms into natural farms. Once an intern is inspired enough, she wants them to in turn inspire a few other agriculture students. The ripple will move on. You should listen to her talk animatedly about what she wishes to achieve. 🙂
Ganeshram, a Botany student who was happy to be in a “planty” organisation after an ordeal of facing a few unsustainable jobs, has grown into such a soldier who is driven to make people “experience” the beauty of plants. He wants to do it all, food forests, empowering gardens, connecting people to plants through his writing and helping his colleagues when they put up events. He says that even during weekends, when he meets friends, he is talking about plants and naturopathy! Is it some kind of addiction, he wonders! Reading his blogs is a treat in itself and I often just forget myself while doing so.:). He loves being on the field and wishes to one day teach landscape designers the right way of landscaping. It has been a treat to have him take up the responsibilities of projects using native plants of UAE.
Isha Kamdar, a seasoned landscape architect, loves to work on our projects and adds flavour to what we wish to create. We love to watch her doodle and draw and incorporate our kind of plant palette into her designs that are flawless, each time. She has shown keen interest to learn to use native plants and hopes to master this one day.
Hidayath came to us knowing just a few skills about mechanical drawing. Today he is a super draftsperson and a landscape supervisor who knows more about native plants than any young landscape architect! He would love to explore the world of landscape design and is one person whom we can all depend on any time, any day.
Rejith, the master craftsman and artist, simply spins magic in all the creations he creates for us. We watch him paint our plants on canvas with awe as he does it every day with such care and happiness. We are very proud that he stood first in his Visual Art post graduation degree, while working with us. 🙂
Karthik, Ramya and Surya are pillars of patience. Always with a smile and a trick or two with plants, they have over the years developed a curriculum for Horticulture Therapy for the Indian context. It has been a pleasure to work alongside with them in creating this monumental work. The tender ways in which they deal with their patients silently, all the while making the plants do the interaction, rather than themselves, has been a reward of a very special kind. They would soon be holding workshops for people like Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, nurses, caretakers and others who simply care about using a very gentle and effective palliative care to heal people. They would also help hospitals convert their gardens to offer Horticulture Therapy to patients. This would not only make their gardens more beautiful but also majorly help patients recover faster and create a new revenue stream and job opportunities for people. Watch out for them, they are going to become very busy soon…
Vandy, our dear Vandana, the super botanist finished her Ph. D from Hawai University while working with us. She came back to take on the mantle of Empowering Gardens saying that it is an agenda every city should have. The idea that a city could become a “living herbarium” is something that she feels very strongly about. She has now made it her own agenda to walk corporates and communities through hand-held programs where they actually plant native plants in and around their campus and community parks. Her desire is to facilitate such programmes in a fun manner, all the while teaching the participants little things about the resilience of certain trees and plants and the beautiful ways in which they adapt themselves to their surroundings. She also wishes to float workshops for botany students and landscape architects to make them realise their importance in making cities sustainable. She calls her workshops “Sustainable Land Care”. Another ambitious program that she wants to float with Nalini and Ganesh is in empowering “malis” in the city to become entrepreneurs who will plant only using native plants. Do call her and see the magic she is spinning with this program.
Sudhakar, our favourite gardener is on his way to becoming an entrepreneur soon. :). He is the first City Empowering Gardener that Vandy is launching. 🙂
Janani Eswar, the youngest of the lot, has been a darling to all of us. She has become a towering person now, in just three years time. She has blithely entered the hearts of many Bangaloreans and others from around the world, with her charming ways of connecting people to plants. She has discovered that she would be happiest if she could catch all the children of this world and infuse in them a love for nature when they are young. She says that way the world would certainly be a better place. It is a treat to watch her spread magic amongst kids while she introduces them to the world of plants. Right now she is with a bunch of 7-8 year olds in a medicinal garden at FRLHT, walking them through a beautiful experience of exploration of the plant kingdom. In the evening she is going to walk a few teachers in a school through a session where she would show them how every subject can be taught outdoors. Her passion is to create a change in curriculum in schools and make every school take kids outdoors to learn whatever they need to learn.
Lakanna watches over our little farm in Gubbi, with patience and care. He is an expert at natural farming now.
Our admin staff having Gayathri, Leela, Venkatesh and Dharmappa take care of all of us while all the good folks from IdeinLab Architects encourage, help and watch over us with care. Dr. Ganesh Babu from FRLHT has been a constant source of inspiration and we can never thank him enough. Mahesh, the natural farmer from Gubbi has been a good friend on our path as well.
Well, I? I watch, and ask questions and get amazed when everyone is able to answer on their own through the spirit that drives them all. Taking concepts of homeschooling into the office space has helped a lot. Waiting to make people discover where their interest lay, allowing them to be compassionate with themselves first, while showing them their true spirit that was much bigger than what they thought of about themselves, encouraging them to fail at low cost but win the big games, never making them turn away from the world, but to take it head on, with grace and infinite strength, have been a few ways that have helped us to reach where we are today.
This kind of leadership, I find, has a slow beginning, but all of a sudden there are very capable leaders who can take on the mantle quite nicely. It is a kind that nurtures people for long term impact and like the many alternate methods of living on the planet has lasting impact. The ground rule for this mentoring has been to enable people to realise their true potential and direction life, while making them realise that every profession and goal in life is complete only when it serves the society or the environment.
There have been people who have dropped out of being mentored by me. In each case it has been their own inability to stick it out and watch the transformation happen to themselves over time. Interesting for me to note that sometimes my slow-space-giving environment can make a few refuse to dig deeper. With more years I am sure I will learn better how to make even those who refuse to look within more patiently, do so with more ease. Can this leadership sustain? Yes if initial investment is not baulked at. Will it help society? Mightily so. Where would it work best? I feel that every government should want to create a cell of social leaders and such cells should be the responsibility of each government to nurture social entrepreneurs and leaders.
Watching this little team, Murali, our mentor declares that we must be heard as we would bring more peace and happiness to all around us with our passion and drive for showing the right ways of doing things. I am sure it will happen with this bunch of happy and driven leaders of tomorrow.