Saturday 6 January 2024

Samarth Bharat Parva - R Pappammal Amma - Farming is Meditation

It has been one of the principles of my life not to be ashamed of my own ancestors. I am one of the proudest men ever born, but let me tell you frankly, it is not for myself, but on account of my ancestry.

- Swami Vivekananda
{CWSV-3 : Lectures From Colombo to Almora : The Common Bases of Hinduism}
{Swami Vivekananda's Rousing Call to Hindu Nation : Religion, The Soul of India: We are Hindus}

If you want proof that being outdoors is one of the best ways to stay healthy, then all you have to do is look at the life of R Pappammal of Thekkampatti village near Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Almost the entire day, this 105-year old organic farmer is in the field, doing what generations of her family have done - farming the land with dedication. Another remarkable facet to this great woman's personality is that she truly believes in and practices sustainability.

And yes, you read it right - she is 106 years old!

In the year 2021, Pappammal was awarded the fourth highest civilian award, Padma Shri, by the government of India. This was in recognition of the work that she has done in the world of agriculture. Of course she is a role model!

Pappammal's work in agriculture runs deep because she comes from a long-standing family of farmers. But she did not rest on this legacy - she works closely with the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), and is also a major part of the Village Stay Programme which attracts agriculture students into her farm.

Pappammal has also done a lot to encourage women to take up farming. Apart from being in the public eye and talking to women everywhere about farming, she has also been a leading figure in the programs led by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK). After taking basic training with KVK, she assumed a leadership role in the local management committee and almost immediately began the task of mobilising women to take up farming and creating self-help groups.   

Her farm in Thekkampatti village is a model farm and attracts people for the many initiatives she has taken in organic farming. 

Pappammal is a delightful exception in a world where almost everybody looks for multiple degrees and certificates to establish expertise. She has had no formal education in agriculture when she was growing up. Yes, she has attended sessions in the TNAU after coming to know about organic farming. Her learning has come from being deeply connected to the soil she tills and a rich tradition of farming.

Her life has been her teacher as well - she eats healthy, all the time. Even on her travels to Delhi, she has carried banana leaves to eat from! In a world which believes in disposable plates and plastic pollution, how refreshing is this - an inspirational woman having no qualms about doing her bit to promote eco-consciousness.

She lives life by a simple formula - healthy food, keeping her mind stress-free, hard work and being honest. One of the legends associated with her is how she has absolutely no qualms in approaching anybody with her questions - whether in the TNAU sessions or in the meetings with officials, Pappammal believes in being straightforward with her quest for help and information.

Being close to Nature - that's her mantra and whether she is eating from banana leaves or brushing her teeth with neem twigs - her life is inspirational in more ways than one indeed.

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