Rishi Majumder checks out the country’s first nature mall. Located on the outskirts of the city, off Panvel, it draws Mumbaikars in droves
Photographer: Rana Chakraborty
At a village called Tara, near Panvel, a one acre plot of land has a sign offering “Landscaping” next to another which reads “Balcony Gardening”. A shop on the plot displays irrigation tools and ‘plant food tablets’ beside a two CD pack of 157 Indian Bird Calls, and natural neem soap. The number of plant species on display and for sale in the nursery number 175. A month ago, Go Green Pvt Ltd introduced what it advertises as “India’s First Ever Garden Mall”.
“It’s amazing to find so many plant species in one place. I’ll recommend this place at college for a botanical excursion,” says Kinjal Gogri, a third year botany student. Kinjal is one of 30 collected here to get acquainted with all the plants in a day’s time. The botanist who acquaints them also conducts an audio visual presentation to further this knowledge. A trip to an NGO creating marketable products from such natural resource follows. Adding value to the Rs 150 package is breakfast, lunch and tea. Eight months ago, Go Green Pvt Ltd introduced what it advertises as “India’s first ever ‘nature dating’ concept.” It’s only natural then that the company has been launched and run by an adman (Bharat Soni) with his Thumb Print Advertising as sister concern. It’s also natural, that the annual turnover this plot last yielded was Rs 80,00,000.
“Resort mein baith baith ke kantaal aa gaya. Isliye socha kuch naya dekhenge,”states Diva Ajani, who heads the Kothara Jain Mahila Mandal. Go Green’s ‘nature dating’ specifically woos social clubs and educational institutions. And hence 20 ladies from Mumbai, associated by virtue of hailing from the same village, planned their joint picnic to benefit them and their children of environmental information. Unlike government managed nurseries, each plant here bears a large label with the common name, scientific name, family and type written in English and Marathi. Printed icons indicate the amount of sun and watering the species requires, and its flowering season. “The people maintaining and explaining the plants include a botanist, a plant pathologist, a horticulturist and an agricultural adviser,” senior horticuluturist Ramchandra Patil boasts.
Begun approximately six years ago, the company earliest clientele was those stopping over on this Mumbai Goa highway spot en route to a holiday. Plant varieties for sale include flowering, fruit, medicinal, aromatic, Bonsai, cactus, creepers, aquatic plants and, well, grass. Garden concepts range from balcony, terrace and kitchen to the more bizarre: hanging, ayurvedic, aromatic, sacred and astral. Patil shows off “a plant which provides multivitamins”, a rudraksh tree and a vanilla plant. Other rare, interesting and indigenous curiosities are flaunted: “The Ahmestia nobilis – with only two samples in Mumbai. And the English browflesia: its flowers change colour everyday, till they fall.” Services go from landscaping and farm management to garden maintenance. The price and size of each plant vary, with no relation between the factors. While a mango tree is sold for Rs 350, for instance, a far smaller cycus would cost Rs 15,000. And services include both landscaping for Reliance and managing plants potted at a tiny Vashi flat.
Patil, a farmer’s son, graduated in agriculture but failed to pursue it. “Most people studying agriculture, have entered completely unrelated professions: like the police force or banking services,” he rues. “I’m happy to be doing something linked to my education.” Recently he designed the gardens surrounding a bungalow, such that they could grow a range of vegetables and grains, and eat some of their own produce every day, every year. Go Green also offers agricultural advice, referring the client to a reliable expert where necessary.
“We too want to grow and cook our own vegetables in our Mumbai flats. Hopefully we’ll be able to,” two housewives from the mahila mandal smile, inspired. Their two kids, meanwhile, parrot what endless signs around the plot say on global warming, pollution prevention and saving water. Patil exalts the value of these social messages and awards received by the company for the same. Yet the justification for his pride lies in the organisation’s preservation of nature, through its marketing. By evincing the possibility of going green, by going for the green.
This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/mm4j