Rice is Life! - THIRUNEL
Rice is Life! It has always been, with grandparents and aunts being committed paddy farmers and a great grandmother who farmed alone till the age of 84. Paddy is in my blood.
In 2008, when I became part of a campaign, appropriately named " Save Our Rice", working across four rice growing states to conserve indigenous/ heritage rice varieties, with organic farmers, it was a culmination of this love and passion. It was not a planned decision but a pure coincidence, Usha who coordinated the Campaign nationally asked me whether I would like to join, I said, "Sure, I don't know much, but I love rice and can eat it for all three meals, that should be a good beginning".
Not being a farmer, unlike my grandparents, rice farming, paddy eco systems and paddy farmers was a romantic notion for me. But I realised that the behind the romance of paddy farming lies a lot of agony, hardship & heartbreak, disenchantment, unfavourable markets, loss of diversity, unsustainable chemical use, and policies that distort the cropping choices.
The Campaign was my chance to work with rice.
The focus of the Campaign was paddy diversity, as the erosion of diversity was almost unstoppable. Indigenous paddy seeds became the raison d etre.
The journey was for seeds and farmers to grow it organically .Across 6 states and 1000s of seed conservers later the Campaign succeeded in conserving over 1500 varieties and brought 100s of indigenous varieties into the market in six states.
Conserving heritage seeds has to lead consuming heritage varieties is what we learnt when the farmers conserved and harvested myriad paddy varieties. Brown, black, golden paddy varieties covering rices red, black, brown and hues in between; with flavours ranging from sweet to nutty to buttery; fragrances that can bring us back to eating rice.
A grain that feeds half of humankind, vilified for supposedly causing us to gain weight or becoming diabetic. While we forget that it is our commercial considerations and need for shelf life that has led to denaturing this precious grain full of wholesome nutrition.
As a continuation of my decade long work with the Campaign, we at Bio Basics decided to popularise , curate, champion, valorise , cook, talk and document these rices. Again not planned but just started to happen and today we carry 40 rice varieties.
I cook and eat scores of heritage varieties. I visit numerous paddy farms and small mills, this is the high point of my calendar. Meet farmers, watch the varieties grow, see transplanting harvesting, drying and parboiling. Watching the skill, knowledge, hard work and rigour demanded by this beautiful crop and tasty grain is humbling. And I am glad to be a part of this value chain trying to reach indigenous rice to more people and support the much needed seed diversity blocks to continue the conservation work.
I personally and we as a team in Bio Basics believe that this rice journey is all about #givingtothefuture
I feel very happy to be part of Thirunel by @bigshortfilms directed by @nishantashok and helmed by @amarramesh . The beautiful result of their work, championing the heritage rices of Tamil Nadu is a joy to watch and savour.
We hope this stunning short film will convince each and everyone who watches it to be part of this journey as farmers, as heritage rice lovers, as rice champions and as rice eaters.
Watch this lovely tribute to heritage rices, adopt these grains into your plates and palates .
We would love you to start your rice journey in 2022 with us as part of #givingtothefuture