A little bit of patience

I’m an innately restless person. I hate waiting. I like it when things happen quickly, when results follow very soon after action. I’d really like it if I could get the happy buzz that usually takes three beers to hit me after the very first one. I fantasize about the day when I’m really craving something yummy and all I’ll had to do is think about it, for it to materialise before me. I have a hard time waiting for cakes and loaves of bread to cool before cutting them. Despite knowing fully well that there’s a 100% chance of ruining a cake with that kind of haste. For someone that gets a special kick in every kitchen short-cut ever discovered, or every cheat’s recipe figured out, every tedious, long-drawn method circumvented, I have waited 45 painfully long days to get to today. To this. 04full Today, I looked at my pot of palak, the same pot I have patiently glanced at every morning, inspecting the leaves, checking how much they’ve grown by pressing a single leaf against my index finger, watching the trails bugs leave behind, worrying over shriveled leaves. The same pot I managed not to wreck in a hurry to eat the palak, I looked at it and thought, “now it’s ready for harvest.” There’s been a little bit of magic that happened between the moment I tore up the 10-rupee packet and wondered if I’d been conned with bits of dry-poop being passed off as spinach seeds, and this morning when I realised the tallest stalks of spinach leaves are now almost as big as my palm. Magic is the only way to explain it, because growing this stuff didn’t take any doing on my part. I’ve been getting comments complimenting my green thumb and questions about how I did this and that, every time I post a picture along with my very own surprise and amazement at how these things just grow while I wait and watch. And all I can sheepishly offer is the truth. Essentially, all I really did was wait. I waited. Patiently. Which brings me to the title of the post. I don’t think growing a bunch of basic stuff in a few pots in my balcony, or a corner of my garden has anything at all to do with a green thumb, black, blue or yellow thumb. I know close to nothing about doing this thing they fancily call “kitchen gardening” or “balcony gardening” or whatchamacallit. With a little advice from friends who do it bigger and better, and just that sudden burst of inspiration I had one find day to dive in, I began. 01mint Here’s what I did: – Found some good quality potting mix: after a lot of hunting I found a good nursery that sells a potting mix of healthy black earth that is abundantly available in Goa, which they mix with their homemade compost. It sells at Rs. 70 a bag. I bought 4 bags of it. – Small pots: I bought an assortment of pots. Medium sized round ones for mint and garlic, long trays for the leafy stuff, and a big oblong one, just for fun. – Some seeds: I started with what’s easily available in my kitchen — methi, dhaniya, garlic. And then bought spinach and cucumber seeds (for no apparent reason) on a visit to the Mapusa market. I rooted some mint bought from the market, by sticking a bunch of stalks in a bottle of water, till tiny white roots began to appear. This took about two days, I then stuck those stalks into a pot. More recently, I experimented with ginger — again, always available in my kitchen. – Regular watering: this took some trial and error. My tendency to over-water caused my onion plant to rot and die, and killed two batches of methi. But I’ve found my rhythm now, which I gauge based on how wet the inside of the soil (and not just the top soil) of the pot is. – My ability to wait and watch, that has been tested to the max. Technicalities aside, there is something to be said about the waiting and the patience the process forces into you. I think it is the key to cultivating anything. Whether it’s plants, a habit, or even patience itself. That elusive trait, so fleeting, impossible to catch and imbibe — it’s come to me in snatches, most recently thanks to the plants in the pots on my balcony. 02babies With every wee leaf that sprouts from a shoot, every tendril that reaches out ever so tenderly, only to make contact with the balcony railing at that exact moment it is meant to, not sooner, not later. I realise more and more I have so little to do with the way the plants are growing. I can’t hasten it, I can’t help them along. Virtually nothing apart from watering them adequately, is in my hands. No green thumb is responsible for their growth. They’re doing it all on their own. On their own time. 06cucumber Things happen when they’re meant to. Shoots will appear only when they’re ready to. Where there was methi, hyper productive and sprouting like it was on steroids, there was also dhaniya refusing to grow. No matter how many combinations I tried — changing the soil, changing the pot, altering the watering. Nothing could coax it on its way. And then there was ginger, the little stub I carelessly pushed into the soil some twenty days ago, completely not expecting anything to happen. And suddenly two days ago I saw the tiny beginnings of ginger shoots poking out of the soil. Everyday, I am made to see everything has it’s own rhythm, it’s time to come out into the sun. Some seeds take up to three weeks of hiding beneath the stony surface of the soil, drinking up every bit of water, getting fat in hiding, while I am slowly giving up. And just when I’m washing my hands off altogether like I did with the ginger, wondering what could possibly come out of a shabby wasted piece, it showed me exactly what. A perfectly respectable, fresh green plant, is what. New beginnings from junk. Three weeks of nurturing in hiding, before it was ready to peek out of the soil to see the light of day. Growth takes patience. It takes time. And in the bargain, it makes you give up too. But most of all, it takes constant nurturing. Unflinching action, no questions asked, no doubts aired. Constant giving, the habit and tedium of keeping at it, a little everyday. Whether it’s sprinkling water, writing a few lines every day, reading those 50 pages — whatever you’re making a habit of, whatever you’re trying to cultivate. Do it every single day. With the plants its been that daily sprinkling of water, those few words whispered shyly in the dark, the silent prayers, the not-so-silent excitement and wonder, and finally that surprise and amazement at a new shoot discovered. I am innately restless, and this morning when I looked at the pot of palak so full and verdant, I counted back to the day I had planted the tiny seeds. Forty five whole days. I can’t believe I waited this long to go from this: 1 To this: 07palak There’s the thing about growing anything you want to grow. It really doesn’t take much. Definitely not a green thumb. Just patience and regularity will do. And even if you feel you don’t have it in you, give it a try and chances are you’ll end up cultivating it. 03mint And the fresh harvest of mint in last week’s biryani. And the palak in my dal tonight. That is just the bonus.

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21 Replies to “A little bit of patience”

  1. Such a lovely post da. I love how you not only make these connections but manage to concisely weave your thoughts into a post. Maybe this will come to my writing too if I exercise patience and regularity? :)

  2. Hey,

    Try and use Earthen pots as much as you can ( No, am no environmentalist) because it helps with the drainage of water much more than the plastic ones.

    Source : A tiny garden I am proud of :-)

    1. Yes Iv been told. And i intend to move to earthen pots in time. i wasnt sure how successful my attempts would be and since earthen pots of this size are expensive I decided to start small and cheap to see how well it goes. Thanks for the protip!

  3. Over water – That’s definitely my problem. The other thing is unlike Goa Delhi does not get good Sun in the winter months.. Waiting impatiently for Feb end- March now..

    Lovely post..!

    1. Yep i think even my plants suffered a wee bit with the drop in temps this winter (by our standards!) beause it got cooler than it has been in a while. That, combined with not enough sunlight is definitely not a good idea.

    1. Nothing nothing, at all! Even though a few measly pots is not really filling my veggie quotient for the week, it is deeply satisfying. And VERY fascinating to watch the process up close, after years of reading about it.

      1. And as a bonus, it also helps address those situations where one just needs to have pudina chai but alas, no mint in the house.

        …although I’m not sure whether that counts as helping curb impatience or just encourages cravings :)

  4. What a lovely post! In this day of instant gratification/appreciation (like/heart/favorite/RT), possessing the patience to work steadily and constantly on a long-term project without immediate results can quite an elusive and impossible task (for me, at least). However, it is simple but significant instances such as what you write about growing your plants that powerfully drive home the beauty of waiting while continuing to cultivate and nourish. I loved both how your garden narrative unfolded (loved the line, ‘…getting fat in hiding,’ what a vivid image!) as well as how you wove it into the bigger picture:)

    1. I find it extremely hard to wait, Priyanka. I’ve noticed how easily I have turned into an instant-gratification craving creature. Not just patience, I find my tolerance and temper fading too. We’re getting so very used to things happening on tap!

  5. My son has a little kitchen garden of his own, from which he sells me stuff at exorbitant rates (like Rs.1 per sprig of curry leaves). But I so see what you mean in this post. He is a bundle of energy that wants everything yesterday but I find that this little green refuge of his grounds him. Much like you, he is often found in his balcony examining his plants in great detail and giving me updates. In fact, he even wrote the most adorable Plant Newsletter a few months ago to apprise the household of the status of his plants.

    1. I’d love to read the newsletter. I think its great hes getting these experiences so much sooner than most others his age, and other people in general :) God knows the world needs us to learn patience.

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