Petrichor and Purpose
Another pleasant morning! I entered the kitchen, mechanically put the milk and water on the burner for boiling and started peeling some potatoes. The onions and garlic were next in line to be peeled. After all, the wonderful variety of flavours offered by the Indian kitchen has its share of strong fragrances, essences, tastes and smells of ingredients, which only the cook knows and experiences. I guess it helps to focus on the smile that the FINAL aroma brings to the people who partake of the meal!
Having used all my cooking short-cuts and packed the meals into the lunch-boxes, I really did not look forward to the next task, which involved clearing away the garbage.
Once again, I remembered Mr Dandekar saying: “You should never call this garbage. It could be useful. How come the peels which were on the vegetable all this while, get classified as ‘garbage’ the moment they are peeled off the vegetable? …. Yes, I have been remembering this sentence every morning, and motivating myself to pick up this degradable waste, and make it part of my experiment with vermi-culture. Last year, in Diwali, I had started this experiment, with the resolve of throwing minimum degradable waste out of my home.
My mother and Mr. Dandekar helped me to setup a cute little vermi-culture kit in the balcony. The instructions were given clearly by him. His passion about the subject was infectious. He treated the earthworms with so much love and handled the vegetable peels as if they were precious food for his darlings. I wondered how he could have so much affection for earthworms. I got my answer, couple of days ago.
Since October 2014, I have been putting the waste into the vermi-culture kit. I started this project with a lot of enthusiasm, and even shared this initiative with my neighbours. Over the last 5 months, my use of garbage bags has reduced. I have been putting out garbage only once or twice a week, and so the guy who comes to collect the garbage, greets me with a smile whenever I do that. My daughter and the maid who worked for me, also learnt how to manage waste. This vermin-culture box seemed to be doing some global good.
Yet, this task has its share of dirt – literally. Throughout the last 5 months, I had started associating the opening of that kit, with a typical stink and a swarm of small insects that flew out of it ( I think they are called mango-flies). I certainly did not look forward to the act of adding garbage (I still called it that) to the box…. How could I sustain this activity if I didn’t enjoy it…so what if it was doing global good.
….Until this morning!! This morning, I opened the box after a couple of days since I had been travelling. When I opened the box, I had a pleasant surprise! There was a beautiful fragrance. The one which cannot be replicated artificially. It was the fragrance of wet soil when it rains for the first time after days of summer…. Petrichor!! It meant that the earthworms were at work, turning the garbage into fertilizer. These slimy animals converted stink into fragrance. I excitedly shared the feeling with some of my friends and it seems there is a word for Petrichor in almost every Indian language… In Marathi it is called ‘mridgandh’ and in Gujarati ‘pannadi’, I am told. I felt a sense of achievement, and can’t wait to go to my box, my own treasure, each morning.
This transformation of my vermi-culture project into an active and living fragrance factory has been a revelation and led to the evolution of a thought.
When one starts a task that’s linked with a larger purpose, it’s easy to get disillusioned. The larger purpose may seem too far away, or one might start feeling like an insignificant part of it. The people who motivated you for the larger purpose, may seem larger than life for you. The actual task may have its share of ‘stinks’ and ‘flies’. Take breaks, talk to trusted friends, divide the tasks, delegate, find solutions, fail and re-try…. but stay at it. Hang in there and the Petrichor is yours. Of course it’s not the result or the objective, but just an indicator that life’s good on this path.
Small pleasures which one finds in daily tasks, may not have the same excitement for others…but it is surely interesting to have a conversation about these small pleasures with people we meet. It is equally exciting to help people discover these pleasures through conversations. At Element78, our recent experience in a diagnostic study where we met close to 20 employees and together discovered their excitement in seemingly routine jobs, has been gratifying. That spark in the eyes, slight smile on the face, expression of pride while talking of an achievement, is surely the Petrichor for me as a facilitator.
But more about that sometime later….
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