Accommodation

Prakriti Farms, Rail Majra-Punjab

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A  day at Prakriti Farms unfolded layer by layer, making perfect sense. Just a day before, I was down in the dumps for cancelling my trip to Uttarakhand due to cloud burst and flash floods. The weekend had already begun when I had to change that plan and we had just a few minutes to decide the further course of action. We zeroed in on Chandigarh, for the ease of travelling as well as the shortage of time to plan anything else. A farmstay was an enticing option, and we were really hoping we could get something like that near the city. In case that didn’t work out, we had a backup plan of getting a little touristy at Chandigarh. But then, Punjab Tourism came to our aid and found a perfect heaven of a farmstay for us.

It all began with great conversations with the Kaushals which spilled over from early morning tea to our late breakfast. Two glassfuls of lassi down, it became difficult to stay awake but the surroundings made sure I didn’t waste any time sleeping away.

Armed with a camera, I roamed around the farm, looking for perfect frames. And I found them everywhere. It had just stopped raining and droplets of water were still resting on flowers to make them look even prettier. These flowers reminded me of my own front-lawn, back at home. And with that, came along the thought that I would love bringing my family to Prakriti Farms someday. For the next time they are in town, I know a perfect hide-away from all the relatives in Delhi! A fool-proof plan is all I need.It was already time for lunch when I came back to the real world after day dreaming about coming back to Prakriti Farms with my family.

Now, since this was off-season, the Kaushals didn’t have any cooks or help around in the kitchen. They considered us a part of the family and offered us whatever that was cooking in the kitchen. The best part about this meal was that everything on the plates below was grown in the farm itself. From lentils to capsicum, potatoes, garlic, ginger, green chillies, onions and even wheat. This was easily one of the best meals ever, simple food that touched a chord inside of me, reminding me of my mum. The fact that everything was organically home-grown came alive in the conversations  that followed this meal. The flavours were simple and had a character that’s missing from our food in big cities. You have to taste it to believe how good it was. Needless to say, credit also goes to Ira Kaushal, the day’s chef who prepared the meal. And we had onions for salad. Just the way farmers have them with their meals. Not chopped or sliced, but hand-crushed. Also grown in-house, along with green chillies.

Though this meal was cooked on a proper gas-stove, here’s the earthen one for you. They still use it sometimes. While discussing organic farming with the Kaushals, we came to know that they don’t use any chemical pesticides what-so-ever in the farm. Their farming practices ensure soil and water conservation; cow dung and bird manure is used in the fields along with vermi compost. They also use organic preparations such as “Jeevamrutha” to boost soil quality and use Neem leaves, cow milk, turmeric, garlic & red chilies to prepare pesticides that are used in our orchards and vegetable garden.

The conversation about everything that’s being grown on the farm intrigued us enough to go around on a farm-tour with the caretaker of the property who became our guide and showed us around. It’s a huge farm and it took us around three hours to cover it all. We began the tour with walking uphill, for a nice view of the Siwaliks, that were looking at us from a distance. It had begun drizzling again, which added to the charm of this walk through Prakriti Farms. From up here, we could see an orange orchard below. The fruits weren’t ripe yet, but hey, it was an orchard.First one I’ve ever seen. A friend of mine who hails from Punjab keeps on telling me about his orchard back home, but I never believed him. Now, I have to cajole him into taking me there.

Among the fruits that are grown here are varieties of guavas, pomegranates, papayas, gooseberries, sweet lemon, bananas and some berries I don’t remember the names of. The farm is a fruit lover’s delight and I intend to visit again when the fruits are ripe. What fun it would be to be able to pluck them from the trees for a snack!

Moving ahead, we saw plantations of many a vegetables and  lentils including my favourite one, okra. I was tempted to pluck them for dinner. With so many varieties of crops, I guess someone at Prakriti Farms maintains a timetable of when to sow, when to harvest, when to water, how much manure to put. Farming ain’t an easy job, and the fact that it takes a lot of effort to grow something and keep it alive was the highlight of my visit. I’ve got plants as projects multiple times, but somehow I have not been able to keep them alive. So, I know it’s a tough job.

There are spots in the farm that make you want to stop right there and admire the beauty of it all. There are many a flowering plants, trees, both ornamental and medicinal like Sheesham, Neem, Amaltas, Gulmohar,  Kachnar, Peepal etc and bushes of sweet-neem that grow here by their own.

The half-cut trunk you see below is one of the oldest tree of the village. It was cut down for so called development but then the Kaushals arranged for it to be brought to the farm and planted it here. Five thousand rupees to the crane service and a lot of effort later, the tree was re-planted, with a hope.

We went closer and found that it has now started to get green again. There’s still life in all that’s dead and brown. See, the wonders of having a little hope and hard work. The almost dead Peepal tree has sprung back to life this monsoon.

Prakriti Farms is also home to a  few hens, cocks and ducks. Farm-fresh eggs are a speciality here. A lot of migratory birds from colder regions visit them from October to April. It’s also  close to the forest so our friends from the wild also pay them a visit once a while, searching for food. The family also have a couple of dogs, but I was afraid to go near them to take a picture. Judge me all you wish, I don’t really like dogs. Or cats. Or any animal for that matter.

Our tents were just a minute’s walk from these cottages but my feet had touched bliss right here and they refused to get into my shoes. So I walked on that wet grass, barefoot. Trust me, it was soul-soothing.

Another morning, another round of lassi later, we headed for breakfast of aalu-puri and amla-pickle. Again, it was delicious and all things grown on the farm itself.

Our time at Prakriti Farms was a memorable one and the Kaushals made sure we get a taste of village life. Thankful to them for hosting us at such short notice even though they didn’t have much help around(it being off-season at the moment) The conversations, the stories and the food they served still lingers and I know I’ll be planning another visit sometime soon. They are passionate about the farm and it shows in the little things they do to make it all work.

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