Patna. 13 Jan: Students hailing from Don Bosco, St. Joseph’s, May Flower, A.N College and St. Xavier’s College congregated under the expansive Kamroop tree in Tarumitra to welcome back the life-giving Sun from the Southern hemisphere, now entering the zodiac of Makar “Capricorn.”
The Chief Guest of the occasion, the director of May Flower higher secondary School, Sri Jairam Sharma led the students to the tasting of Organic Chura “flattened rice”and curd with his wise words.
Fr. Robert Athickal, thru a special colorful PowerPoint presentation on the occasion gave the students ample invitation to reflect on the rice cultivation in the State and beyond. He underlined the fact that Asian cultures are based on rice and rice preparations. Rice forms the central staple food in Asia.
The scanty monsoon last two years meant that very few farmers managed to cultivate their traditional rice crop. In fact rice cultivation is not popular at all among the present generation of youngsters.
Tarumitra students celebrate the Solar feast of Makar Sankranti as Chura Dahi parv, essentially as a festival of the Sun by reverentially consuming rice, curd and sesame seeds. Traditionally people all over the state organize a repast made of flattened rice, sesame seeds and freshly made curd for the occasion. The students under the leadership of Anushka and Shivani from St. Xavier’s College organized the Organic festival of Rice with the same fare.
“The distinct feature of the celebration was that the feast was entirely organic and eco-friendly, ” said Anushka. ” We are using the freshly pounded rice from our own organic farm!” said Anunshka.
Students from different schools and colleges worked hard to produce totally organic rice from last summer. “We did not employ any hired labor to work in the rice field, instead we did the whole chore ourselves!” said Vishal, post graduate student of Environmental Sciences from A.N College. “We did not resort to the use of any chemical fertilizer or pesticides in the crop. The sowing, harvesting and threshing of the rice was entirely done by students,” said Gaurav from the same college.
Speaking on the occasion former activist of Tarumitra, Eva Gagan from Australia who was present on the occasion along with her husband Gagan and son Evang said that the festival reminded the people of the bygone variety-rich rice fields of Bihar. She said that the varieties have disappeared at the onslaught of hybrid rice. Very few farmers have the determination and courage to cultivate the traditional rice.
Coordinator of the Organic Farming, Ms Margaret Molomoo said every Indian village had its own rice variety conserved and handed over by many generations. Scientists estimated a total of over 20,000 rice varieties in the country. An earlier Tarumitra survey showed that people in Bihar cultivated less than 80 varieties of rice.
It was also the inauguration of a specially designed alfresco outdoor class room “Oxygen bar” in Tarumitra.
“Oval shaped, the class room under the trees can seat 150 students. The place is totally protected from mosquitoes inside a giant netting system!” said Saharsh who contributed to construct the innovative classroom which the students have named, “Oxygen Bar!”
The Oxygen Bar has its own story to narrate!
An earlier tremor from 2016 left one of our water reservoirs extremely damaged. While plans for repair came up, one of our visitors suggested the possibility of converting it into an outdoor classroom. The idea got spruced up with a design and plan of action by the students.
There was this offer of sponsorship from Dr. Meril Abraham Chirayil and her husband, Dr. Jeffrey Joseph Chirayil from Dallas USA. They took time from their hospital work to learn as how we were going to make the bar with a difference!
Paul Mariadoss SJ, from Solar Alternatives, suggested covering the space with netting to protect the students from mosquitoes.
The problem was to find a huge mosquito net for the roof!
Being a physicist, Fr. Paul used his good ol’ math’s formula to calculate the roof-size and got the plastic Netting tailor-made for the spot. That was hard work.
Banaras and his team of masons then built it up summarily with students from St. Xavier’s college helping out to dig up the foundations for posts. Gaurav, Vishal and Priti from A.N College worked on the spot several days before the place took shape.
“The spot is an excellent place for meditation in the mornings!” said Sr. Amalia who advocates the promotion of an earth-building eco-spirituality for our times. The Tertian Sisters spent a week at Tarumitra listening to Fr, Robert Athickal SJ presenting the inspiring insights of Big History of the universe.
The director of May Flower School, Jairam Sharma, by cutting a ribbon inducted the classroom. It is now being used daily, especially for the campaign to inform people about the issues of clean drinking water.
Students suggested the appellation for the al fresco classroom: Oxygen Bar!
The celebration of Makar Sankranti continued under the Pakur tree when the participating students served curd, rice and sesame seeds in leaf-plates and ate them with relish.