Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 6, Issue 08, Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Painting on nature's canvas

Living in this concrete jungle called Dhaka, many of us had forgotten or never experienced the joy of watching a plant grow from a seed. A tiny shoot is the first to appear followed by one, two and finally three tiny leaves. It was in search of this euphoria of seeing life grow that Laila Karim, an Advocacy Advisor at Save the Children, decided to grow herself a garden.

Here's a to-do list which will help you start off that garden of yours.
Seeds: Tomatoes, Peas, Bottle Gourd, Beans, Ginger, Iris, Primula
These hardy plants will ensure that while you experiment you also smell and taste success at the end of the harvest time.
Tools Required: Bow Rake, Garden Shears, Hoes, Shovels, Spading Forks, and Watering Cans.
Where to find the tools: Dhanmondi Nursery (15 Green Road, Telephone: 9661734, Garden Center (H#248, Road# 19, Dhanmondi R/A, Telephone: 9115692), Torukunja Nursery (PVT.) Ltd (272/A, New D.O.H.S. Telephone: 603784), Shakh Nursery (1/14, (3rd floor), South Pollobi, section # 7, Telephone: 8011698)

Initially she was struck by the very real and common problem of space. Where in this crowded city could she obtain enough space to build her green sanctuary? Since moving horizontally wasn't an option, she chose the vertical direction. Hence was born her rooftop garden.

Today, after 10 years, the place is a spectacular sight of greenery amidst the concretes of the Banani apartments surrounding her's. Within a year of its initiation, the garden started producing numerous fruits, vegetables and flowers from mangoes, lychees and pomegranates to raddish, string-beans and pumpkins to country gooseberries (aamloki) and bay leaves (tejpata).

Laila Karim identifies herself as a genuine tree lover and says that was the only reason why she began this project. “Everyone has to have an outlet to fend off the daily frustrations of life; some of us like to cook while some of us like to read books. I like to paint, and I paint on nature's canvas.” Her 'painting' started with small plant pots on her balconies until she moved to her flat (intentionally on the top floor) and expanded the canvas to include part of her shared roof.

Because she uses the shared roof, she has to pay heed to various concerns of her neighbours. There have been concerns voiced about bugs and mosquitoes but such pests do not grow on trees; all that is needed is to keep the garden clean and disinfected and that job is quite simple. The blazing sun ensures the removal of any stagnant pool of water, the main habitat for breeding mosquitoes, while a little disinfectant keeps the trees and the surroundings healthy and bug free.

“I still have people vandalising my plants. The maids who come up to dry clothes break off good shoots and tear off the unripe fruits,” she said picking up two discarded baby tomatoes from the roof floor “I stopped feeling sad over such happenings long ago and now it feels like an unavoidable evil”. Her project has, however, created more than thieves and vandals. The rooftop next door to hers now sports a few big pots and tubs full of flowering plants and everyone within viewing vicinity eagerly anticipates the coming of the months when her 'canvas' will once again be filled with the hundreds of colours of nature.

Her plan for the future includes educating more people about this painting on nature's canvas. “Our people are not cruel to plants; they are merely ignorant to the feeling that these are living things too and thus deserve some care.” The government, she believes, should have a plan to introduce and maintain a greener Dhaka city but individuals can easily make a move for the better as well.

Following in Laila Karim's footsteps is not difficult. All one needs is the desire, enthusiasm and a bit of patience. Fortunately our soil is fertile and our weather friendly. Vegetables do require a bit more attention but in general the work required over such a project is minimal and enjoyable. The project is even cost friendly. You can use anything from an old tire to an old bathtub or even a table to create your landscape.

Our journey from village to town to city has been very hasty and we seem to have lost sight of healthy survival on the way. Laila Karim has created a sanctuary for herself, of her own accord. Maybe its time we all take a 'leaf' out of her book.

By: Raisaa Tashnova
Photo: Zahedul I Khan
Special thanks to Ms Laila Karim


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