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Pradeep Pattanayak

Covid-19 has transformed a cook into a farmer who has not just scripted success in the new profession but has also set an example for many.  

Meet Suryakant Padhi, a resident of Dihasithalo village of Sithalo Panchayat under Niali block in Cuttack district, who has proved the age-old saying, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’.

Till the outbreak of the pandemic, things were normal for Padhi who was a cook by profession. Whatever he earned was enough to run his family. Then came Covid-19 and the subsequent restrictions, lockdowns and shutdowns which did not spare any sector from its marauding grip. The events and circumstances that unfolded with the onset of the pandemic dealt a body blow, especially to daily wagers and road-side vendors. 

Padhi too lost his earnings to the pandemic. But it was his ‘never-say-die’ attitude that helped him withstand the jolt. Unlike many who kept complaining about losing their livelihood and asking the government for succour, Padhi decided to switch over to farming.

Without losing time, he translated what he had conceived into action. He procured around 120 Thailand berry saplings from Kolkata and planted those on his farmland. Initially his villagers and relatives were doubtful about the survival of foreign origin berry saplings in local climate. Some even went on to dissuade him. But Padhi was confident of his labour bearing fruit. 

And luck favoured him. Not only did the saplings survive, but they also bore fruits. 

These days, his orchard with plants laden with ripe berries is a feast for eyes. They have grown up to five to six feet high. “I am very delighted that my labour did not go in vain. The fruit bearing plants are giving me immense pleasure. This variety of berry is selling for Rs 100 to Rs 120 per kilogram in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar,” said an exalted Padhi. 

A villager, Manas Ranjan Hati heaped praise on Padhi. “I have tasted the berries. They are as tasty and juicy as apples. Instead of migrating to other states in search of work, if people grow Thailand berry plants in their land, they can live a happy life without depending on anyone,” Hati observed. 

Padhi’s orchard has two breeds of Thailand berry-Red Apple Berry and Bal Sundari. To have a glimpse of his fruit garden, people from Padhi’s village and nearby villages are currently visiting the orchard. They said they were speechless after seeing the plants laden with red berries. “Initially Padhi was discouraged. People even ridiculed him for planting foreign origin berry plants. Now, he has proved them all wrong. These pulpy berries are very sweet to taste,” said Raj Kumar Mitrabhatt, a villager. 

Sarpanch of Sithalo Panchayat, Antaryami Badu, who visited the orchard, was all praise for Padhi. “He took up the challenge and has become successful in his endeavour. Young farmers should follow his footsteps to become self-reliant,” said Badu.

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