Through the second week of June, Ragini Sundaram’s day was longer than usual. Around 9 p.m., after the household chores were done, she would settle down to making “seed envelopes” to be dispatched by India Post the next day. With gardening enthusiasts seeking vegetable and flower seeds from her, she would place tiny packets of these seeds in envelopes, and write the postal address on the outside.
This work would stretch on till 2 a.m; and the next day, she would walk to the nearby Thirunanravur post office and post the envelopes.
Similarly engaged during the lockdown, Velachery resident S. Vijayalakshmi has dispatched around 20 such seed envelopes to other gardening enthusiasts. Chandra Selvamani of West Tambaram, known for sharing seeds of rare species of lady’s-fingers such as sivappu vendakkai, yanai thandu vendakkai, kattu vendakkai and thunai vendakkai, with other gardening enthusiasts, has also been posting seed envelopes.
“A majority of us used to meet once or twice a month at city parks and exchange seeds and saplings. With just a few weeks to go for Aadi Perukku (the 18th day of the Tamil month Aadi), we terribly miss our monthly meet-ups, because Aadi Peruku is the right time for sowing seeds or planting saplings. India post has come to our rescue,” says J. Mohaneshwari, a member of “Green House”, a gardening group.
Some people mail their seeds and the recipients bear the postal charges. Some send self-addressed and stamped envelopes to their seed donors. Many barter seeds.
“People are realising the need for kitchen gardens, as it spares them risks that go with stepping out to buy vegetables. A few years ago, the Tamil Nadu Horticulture Department came up with a DIY programme to encourage people to take up kitchen gardening. The department should revisit the programme now,” says Sathiya Shanmugham, a gardening enthusiast from Ambattur. Gardeners point out that now there is a spurt in interest in growing herbs as they are believed to boost the immune system — that’s is clearly a COVID-19 effect.