About Me

Someone who fell in love with the natural world early on and has been smitten ever since. A blade of grass, a mighty mountain, a tiny raindrop, a roaring waterfall, all fill me with awe and wonder. Nature feels home, filled with warmth and love. It pains my heart to see this home being ravaged. This blog is an effort to find tweaks in modern living to preserve the sanctity of this home. I sincerely hope that you join me in this green karmic journey.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

To Plant Or Not To Plant - The Curry Leaf Conundrum

Those of us who live in apartment complexes, enjoy a bit of greenery in the form of ornamental trees, bushes, and lawns. When my Mom came visiting and she wanted a sprig of curry leaf, she wondered why we didn't grow useful plants like curry leaves, tulsi, aloe vera, etc. in our common landscape. Valid question. This had crossed my mind too but when she aired it, it set me thinking.

Recently, a similar thought was echoed by a visiting farmer who practices organic farming. According to him, all available land should be used to grow food. In this day and age when there are multiple issues around food, it is imperative that we grow as much of our own food as possible. Plants with medicinal and culinary value should be an integral part of every community landscape. Only if we could work it out!

The usual defense against growing any useful trees in common areas is that they would be plundered. Isn't it a pity? We have resources of land, water, labour, money but we can't put them to effective use because it would lead to wars - issues of who gets what and how much. 

I think this is a classic case of the tragedy of commons. (Those who are too lazy to click the link, here's a simple explanation. Picture a piece of grazing land which is free for common use. To get the maximum benefit out of the land, each owner would try to put as many cows for grazing as he can. In this way, while the gains from putting an additional cow would be enjoyed by the individual, the cost in terms of decreased grass would be shared by all. Over a period of time, there would be too many cows with no grass and everybody would lose out.)

If we replace this pasture with curry leaf trees, we can picture people plucking more and more leaves out of self-interest without giving a thought to the sustainability of the tree. Soon enough, the tree would die and we would all lose out. Though we are a community of highly educated people, human nature would overpower reason and we wouldn't be able to manage our common resources. Sounds sad, doesn't it? 

Nevertheless, in my opinion, we should go ahead and plant a few curry leaf and drumstick trees. Say one curry leaf plant per block. The plants should be protected by enclosures till they are mature and then they should be open for use. Out of 216 apartments, how many would
- use curry leaf every day?
- would be willing to come down to pluck their share? 

I don't think there would be too many (how many of us use the clubhouse though we pay for it?) 

It wouldn't be possible to monitor trees so it would depend on residents (and housekeeping and helps) to behave responsibly. Though it might not work out, it's worth the experiment. What say, folks? Do you think a handful of curry leaves is worth bothering about? Will it work / won't work? Why? Has your apartment complex successfully managed such a resource? How can we ensure sustainable use of such resources?

Out with your ideas now so that we can reach a common ground. Tragedy or comedy of commons, we need to try out things for our own good.


  1. Hi Anu,
    Nowadays having a sq ft of land available for agriculture is really a big deal. .so I m so much of the opinion that we should grow some medicinal as well as culinary plants in our common landscape. The plants on my list are
    Krishna Thulsi
    Coriander leaf plant
    Guava tree

  2. And how do you propose monitoring usage?