Think of it. Chennai has acres of potential farm space, thanks to the city's sun-drenched flat roofs. And beneath these roofs, so much of human resources in the form of housewives, senior citizens and others go underutilised. This got S.S. Radhakrishnan, senior advocate and former IRS officer thinking. “Growing your own food in your own home by yourself is one activity that could make use of both these facets,” he decided. And so, Radhakrishnan set out to help create 37 terrace-vegetable farms in the city, with vegetables growing in pots, besides distributing about 10,000 potted plants, 716 saplings, and countless free seeds. But that is only the story so far. This 64-year-old green enthusiast would like to see Chennai emerge as a ‘kitchen garden city' the way Bangalore has made a name for itself as a garden city.
Getting the masses to farm-at-home is a simple idea that is financially rewarding (think of the soaring vegetable prices), personally invigorating and environmentally ingenuous (it can offset the looming food crisis). No wonder he has been invited to speak at UNESCO's forthcoming 13 Annual Bioethics Conference to be held at Malaysia, later this year.
“With 750 square feet of open space, a family of four can raise all the vegetables they would need every single day; and it would be pesticide-free,” he says. “On the side, you also get good oxygen, subtle physical exercise, better health, a cool roof and home, and so much to think about. It is thrilling to see a brinjal materialise overnight. And it is like caring for a pet; I feel a pang if I miss out on watering them,” remarks K. Geetha, who has recently set up a kitchen garden on her terrace, with Radhakrishnan's assistance.
In fact, Radhakrishnan believes that housing regulations should make it mandatory for builders to allot kitchen garden space for each flat that they sell. “This system is already in vogue in Australia and Switzerland,” he points out. He sees the kitchen garden movement as a socio-economic one in which every individual can easily participate in nation building, right at home. Lately, he has established Good Governance Guards, an organisation to promote the kitchen garden concept and other issues.
A winning idea
Since Radhakrishnan's kitchen garden concept works on the potted plant model, it averts the bottlenecks of waterproofing roofs, the major hassle in establishing a terrace garden. As for Radhakrishnan himself, it takes this genial old man and his wife about 20 minutes every evening to water the vegetable farm on their terrace, where they grow everything from tomatoes and cucumber to brinjals and pumpkins in pots. The pots are available in light weight formats which even senior citizens can lift comfortably. The advocate notes, “An idea can change the world, but then, it should be workable.” Well, this idea seems to have clicked. Besides kitchen gardens, Radhakrishnan has had many corporate groups and families getting potted vegetable plants from him, to give away as gifts. Charging for the material expenses of the pot and soil alone, Radhakrishnan offers to help anybody who approaches him to set up their own kitchen garden. So, if you are ruminating on a gift or hobby, why not pick up this live, green idea? Radhakrishnan can be contacted at 98410 23448