So, after being in my current apartment for nearly 11 months, I’m going to have to move again — or “shift” in the local vernacular — partly because the landlord wanted to put the rent up, and partly because I’ve realised I need to move somewhere cheaper anyway.
The place I’m in now has been great, but it’s huge and I only use half of it. It’s also way more expensive than what I’d been budgeting for, but I was persuaded by the fact that it has 2 large balconies and a roof terrace. I was really keen to get back into gardening after a 12-year hiatus (gardens are almost impossible to find in the centre of Edinburgh), and the balconies clinched it.
When I moved here in February the flat was completely unfurnished except for a fridge and washing machine, and of course the balconies were completely empty. I very quickly set about turning the balcony outside the kitchen door into a container garden… foraging plants locally via nocturnal walks around the neighbourhood with a pair of scissors and a carrier bag ;-) as well as making weekly visits to the Gardener’s Co-op at the Lalbagh, Bangalore’s botanic gardens, and coming home in an auto full of plants and compost.
Here’s after I’d been in the place for 2 weeks:
… and here’s a couple of weeks ago:
The climate and the seasons here have taken some getting used to, but basically it feels like I can grow anything I want to, at any time! I guess this is one reason why Bangalore used to be known as “Garden City” before the big IT companies moved in, and rapid expansion saw large-scale road-widening at the expense of many trees. Anyway I started growing tomatoes about 5-6 months ago and I’ve had 2 harvests so far. One of the plants that looked like it was just about to give up has just perked up and started flowering for a second time, so it looks like I’ll have another batch before I leave as well.
The slightly wonky bamboo structure was meant to be a support for some shade netting, because there’s no shade at all in the afternoon and some of the plants didn’t like it. I haven’t yet managed to find anywhere to buy the netting, but it seems pointless looking for any now, until I know where I’ll be moving to. Still, I had fun for a weekend looking up lashing techniques on various Boy Scout websites and teaching myself timber hitch and clove hitch from YouTube…
And the 3-tier ceramic thing you can see is a Kambha, a composter I bought from Daily Dump, a local firm who are promoting composting as well as the understanding of waste management, which in India is a really big issue. (And more people composting their own waste is A Good Thing.) The Kambha works really well — you add kitchen and garden waste to the pot at the top, and then swap it with the middle one after a month or so. Rinse and repeat. And after 3 months you get usable compost which you can transfer to the bottom pot and start again. Making the ceramics employs local artisan potters, and the design is open source so that anyone who wants to can start up a “clone” business making and selling the composters. It’s a pretty inspiring project.
It’s been fantastic having a garden again after such a long time and I will be sad to move on, but I’m reminded that I arrived in India with 2 suitcases and I will have to leave with the same at some point. It feels like a reminder of the saying about arriving in the world with nothing, and leaving with nothing…
Having to shift has also meant I’ve been thinking ahead about what it will be like to leave India. I’ve been here almost a year now, and my current contract expires at the end of 2012 — although it should be possible to extend it. My conclusion is that despite all the difficulties of living here, I will be really sad to leave when it eventually happens — life here is so vivid, intense, colourful and crazy most of the time. Returning to cold, grey Britain doesn’t really seem very appealing right now, especially with the economic difficulties, the state of the job market, and particularly the utter shambles the current government has made while trying to reform Higher Education.
Still, who knows how things will change over the next year — as we come to the end of 2011, the world is a very different place to what it was in January.