Living in Greater Noida gives you an esoteric mix of experiences. If I go 2-3 kms east from my house, I reach Kasna village. It is a true blue town-village with small shops, narrow walkways and unique mix of urban and rural products for sale. I can buy vegetables 30% cheaper than Reliance Fresh. I can buy a ‘charpai’ or even ‘chai’ glasses used to serve tea in roadside tea stalls – things my nearby Spencer will be embarrassed to even talk about.
If I head north instead, I reach Grand Venice Mall, which is supposed to be “Modern India’s first mega tourist destination”, whatever it means!
Continue north for a few more kms though, and you hit a huge green plot bang in the middle of sectors.
We discovered these plots a few months ago. They were selling garden fresh vegetables right near the road. My wife asked to pick her vegetables from the field herself, and the gentlemen obliged, though a bit surprised at the request.
Kids had great fun too. They spent more than an hour trying to walk on the plot dividers, taking random turns while maintaining balance, and getting excited about where they ended up! They also enjoyed looking at lush green vegetables, playing with the farmers’ kids, and eating coriander leaves right off the farm! Wholesome entertainment and it was hard to get them off from there.
We talked to the farmer and his family and asked them about how such a plot existed. It turned out someone let them use the land for farming till the time the construction didn’t start (in return of money of course!). So we wondered how long they would be around, and they were not sure either. But quickly we moved to more interesting topic for discussion – it was carrot season and they were expecting a good harvest of carrots next month. We promised we would be back for carrots. They threw in a large bunch of coriander for free, and refused to take money even when we insisted.
We were excited – getting farm fresh vegetables, at below-market prices, offering entertainment to my kids (who hate grocery shopping!), and giving me satisfaction that what I pay for the produce is going directly to the producer. It felt too good to be true, and we wanted to make the most of it while it lasted. We wanted to come again, soon.
It was too good to be true indeed! As we drove by today to buy some veggies again, we couldn’t find it. The whole area was cordoned off with 5-6 ft. high fencing and there were bulldozers working to level the area. So much for the green patch in the city!
As I drove back home and sat down in my usual comfy chair, the irony of the situation hit me hard. Here I was, getting sad at losing a romantic tinge of rural life in my otherwise 100% urban life. It didn’t cross my mind to stop and enquire about the family that stayed there. So much for my sensitivity! I hadn’t even bothered to go their more frequently than what I did. I had gladly accepted the freebie thrown in, and I didn’t even come back to give them more earning while they were there.
They were a large family – all living in a house with thatched roof and broken fences, 4-5 kids and 5-6 adults at least – and this was their primary means of livelihood. They were nice people, large-hearted, hard-working and honest, and within a few days/weeks (depending on how much time they were given to vacate), their world turned upside-down. Even though they knew this would happen, they tended to each patch lovingly and excitedly talked about the carrot harvest. I wondered about that harvest – did they manage to reap it? How much money did they lose/earn overall?
I was witnessing urban development stamping out rural life, one plot at a time. Which side was I on?