Growing Your Own Food: The Role of Vea’r in Kashmir
Most Kashmiris own a Vea’r, a small in-house kitchen garden. This little piece of land sustains their daily needs. Need some lettuce, fetch it from the garden. Craving some dhaniya ki chutney, rush out to collect the leaves. Its like an all you can eat vegetable buffet at home. The most common produce grown are spinach, cauliflower, tomatoes, green chillies, potatoes, string and green beans, bottle gourd, gourd, cucumbers, coriander, mint, and how can we do without it, the famous collard greens (haakh).
For many, maintaining a kitchen garden has become a way of life, an activity they cannot do without. It is a hobby that proffers not only quality time and respite from stress but numerous ecological and financial benefits too. It imparts independence and freedom from daily visits to vegetable markets. During this pandemic, this Vea’r is a saviour, protecting from unexpected exposure, and satisfying daily nutrient requirements of each household. What’s more, even the kitchen waste is utilized as compost for the soil. Thus, wastes generated in a household are taken care of in a proper ethical way.
The idea of maintaining a kitchen garden might have started or been borrowed from our agriculturist ancestors, however, recognizing its importance at present is not. It is through experience that most people own and practice growing vegetables at home. Kashmir has off and on been under curfews and hartals, and at times the national highways are closed for transport. This happens in winters as well, although for a completely different reason; unprecedented landslides. So, we have learnt to be self-reliant. Being strong in body and mind, acting resolutely, and adapting to survive makes Kashmiris bold. Similarly the principle of Vea’r recognizes our need to hold fort, be sustainable and not depend on others for daily necessities. The basic attribute that identifies a Kashmiri is his/her will to survive, even in turmoil.
Apart from self reliance, another important factor that highlights importance of Vea’r in Kashmir is an idea of safeguarding our environment. People who are into cultivating plants, flowers, anything that has life, even shepherds or Bakarwaals, know and take utmost care of their environment. Even though many might be illiterate, yet they have a sense of preservation ingrained inside. In doing so, they act as front-runners in the marathon to save our planet. Being self-sustaining in every aspect of their life, they move ahead with the least ecological footprint.
Nurturing a Vea’r is a sense of pride and accomplishment in itself. It’s not unsophisticated or retrograde. Simply put, in this day and age, it is the optimal way to organically overcome exploitation of resources.