The flyover and the farm

11 October, 2014

It's a mishmash up there..

More shades of green than you can count on your fingers..

Swathes of grass and fleshy gourds and wild, wild flowers growing inside the green, from the green and of the green..

At the periphery, voluptuous cupolas stand out amidst the straight lines of skyscrapers that came up overnight and little buildings that never made it past the third storey.

This flyover farm sits in the heart of Mohammad Ali Road, a Muslim neighbourhood of Bombay that is a long, long stretch of mosques, steaming plates of kebabs and naan breads, old and new bazaars – manned by industrious merchants selling you things you never thought you needed.

Once you reach the summit of the aged Mohamedi Manzil building, you spend a few moments trying to make sense of this big, fat terrace farm in the middle of this big, fat street. Somehow, the din and trapped heat and layer of vehicular exhaust from the JJ Flyover appear tamed by this lush micro-universe of vegetables and fruits, climbers and creepers, and large pumpkin flowers burning orange against the bleached blue of the sky.

I've been coming here over the last few months; met the loveliest folks. There's Aditi, Mohan and Ganesh, who know the unique stories of the soil; Adrienne and Nicola, who nurture this labour of love. And plenty of volunteers like me, who come to get their hands dirty on Sunday mornings..

We dig and plant and replant, and then we drink freshly made herbal tea or eat baby salad leaves with dressing and snacks. We chill and we laugh-a-lot and we bond... and feel exhilarated at the end of it all.

Here's Fresh & Local's website. Get in touch if you want to be added to the email list. And here's their Facebook page.

Symbiotic lessons in love
Banana, taro, tomato and citronella live amicably within the confines of this basket. They nourish the residents of this building, who chip in for manual labour and reap the benefits.

Pick a green you like
Assorted baskets, pots and plastic containers are filled with in-house compost, sugarcane bagasse and remnants of tender coconuts sourced from local sellers (who often throw away the 'waste') and coco peat. The result is healthy plants with a bountiful yield.

Planning for motherhood
Volunteers mix coco peat, compost, fill used coconuts, and prepare the containers for growing new plants from seed.

Wild things
This pretty, ornamental ipomoea is leaving red velvet n cream cheese trails all over the farm. With slender foliage that's as pretty as the flowers, no one's complaining.

Basil overdose is a reality
There's several kinds of them, all over, all mingling, all cross-pollinating with each other. So we dump them in the kettle for herbal tea.

A workstation is a workstation
This one has some gardening implements, pots and seedlings... Don't miss the compost trays in the background, one for each day of the week. Or the nice hollow gourd.. perhaps it will become a musical instrument or a birdhouse some day.

Ganesh, who works tirelessly and with such imagination
A chair constructed from an old plastic water drum, filled with compost, coconut and sugarcane waste, and a railway plywood piece for seating. Mounted on a bamboo trellis, soon to be recipient of climbers. We painted the trellis in early October with the pest-resistant karanj (Pongamia pinnata) oil, which also happens to be an excellent biofuel.

Sugar bloom
Naheed Carrimjee, who owns the building, visited last Sunday and suggesting soaking flowers in sugar syrup, drying them and eating them. Experiments are blossoming as we speak.

Images by Karen Menezes

Related tags: City-Farming, Composting, Terrace-Farms

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