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All company executives need downtime to reenergise and one green-fingered businessman has found tooling the soil in Saar the ideal solution to stress-busting.
Dr Arun Kumar Praharaj, the chief executive of the Dadabhai Group of Companies, found the roots to success in his garden ... with his wife, Sunitha, by his side.
Enjoying the company of a pigeon couple, bees and sparrows, they tend to a variety of fruits, flowers and vegetables, ranging from strawberries to pomegranate, papaya, chikoo, Indian plum, dates and types of bananas, alongside tomatoes, carrots, radishes, eggplants, green chillies, cucumbers, pumpkins, drumsticks, potatoes, lentils, melons, lemons, gourds, spices and even groundnuts.
“When we came to this villa it was just a building on a plot of desert land and now it’s a green oasis with fruits, flowers and vegetables,” said Arun.
Arun, 55, hails from Mayurbhanj in Orissa, the Indian state famous for beaches and pilgrimage sites, and has been a resident in Bahrain for 25 years.
Sunitha, a mother-to-two, enjoys life amidst the flora and fauna too. “I spent almost all my day in the garden, especially in the winter,” she said. “I have never faced the dilemma of having to look for ingredients to cook – all I need to do is walk around the garden and I’ll find enough and more to make a dish or two.”
Jasmine, chrysanthemums, the mirabilis that wake up at four o’ clock, the medicinal agasthya (West Indian pea) and types of roses are planted across the villa yard which also has a small beehive on a tree in the front yard, which delights the couple.
“We have never tried to extract honey – it is really joyous to see the insects drinking nectar from the flowers – they are nature’s friends,” said Arun, as his wife added that the insects were harmless.
“I pick flowers fresh for pooja (worship) every day in the morning and I invariable spot the bees on these flowers. Usually they would sting when we disturb them, but these insects fly away when I get close and then come back as I leave. They seem tame.” she added.
While making mint chutney (paste) with fresh leaves plucked from the garden, a ‘daily dish’ at the Praharaj home, she noted that they also have turmeric, garlic, mint and coriander in the garden.
“It is really tasty when you pluck these leaves fresh to grind them and blend it with anything you like, such as yogurt, and is a great side for snacks like the samosas.”
Yet another tenant in the garden is a pair of pigeons which has put up their fragile nest on the corner of a ceiling wall next to the swimming pool.
“They have reared a number of chicks and the two are always around, I enjoy their company when in the garden,” said Arun.
Other highlights in the garden are an immunity booster and flowers and plants regarded as sacred – the giloy or amrita (root of immortality) which is an ideal leaf to eat during Covid-19 says Dr Parharaj, the tulsi or the holy basil, Dhatura, the species of poisonous vespertine that is sacred to Hindu God Shiva and Arka offered to Lord Ganesha.
Caressing a bounty of cherry tomatoes, Arun pointed out that the change in the weather affected the crops, referring to a recent dust storm that hit Bahrain. Yet, he acknowledged nature’s artistic dash amidst the odds. A man with an eye for photography, what caught his attention soon after the dust storm, was the sight of his swimming pool decked with fallen yellow and tangy leaves from his neem trees.
“I took some pictures of the leaves floating on the water, which resembled a painting – yes, the dust did damage my crops, but this sight was amazing!”
Bahrain’s soil is fertile enough for many crops said the meritorious alumnus of the Indian Institute of Finance, New Delhi, as he pulled out potatoes from the mud. The gold medallist, who excelled in his field of chartered accountancy, always kept close to nature and believes in the joy of giving.
“My produce is all organic and I use only kitchen waste and grass mowed from my lawn as manure.
“This soil is rich that it inspires me to try more crops and, yes, we need to put in a little effort but the reward is sweet.
“We get enough and more produce for the family and we give it to friends and neighbours and I believe in the joy of sharing. I am glad that I have inspired many into gardening and I gift them saplings.”
The couple has two children – Arunitha, 25, a journalist and currently working in Bahrain and Akash, 21, pursing a mechanical engineering degree in the US, both alumni of the New Millennium School Bahrain.
“Every threat is an opportunity and such situations like the pandemic are a balancing act of God,” he believes.
“Covid-19 gave me ample time and I found my best comfort in nature during these tough times - plants are friends, and the first thing I do in the morning is to talk to them and it is my greatest joy.”
The founder of Bahrain Odiya Samaj and chief patron of Samskruthi, Bahrain, Arun is an avid reader, who enjoys debating, is a keen cricket fan and a social worker too.
Involved in a number of organisations and initiatives contributing to distress relief, education-for-all and the promotion of arts and culture, Arun fondly remembered his role model – his father – Dr Trilokya Nath Praharaj, an educationist, social worker and a homeopath, who he said instilled humane values in him and a true love of nature.