When he came to know of my visit to Salem this week, Mr Selva Murali of Visual Media Technologies invited me to visit his hometown Pochampalli, near Krishnagiri. He enticed me by offering to show me, a city boy, to visit his organic farmlands, taste the native produce and enjoy the scenic views of the lake & greenery around. I readily agreed. I was expecting a small town, but I was surprised to find a buzzing township with several shops, eateries, and even industries nearby. From Salem, it is a two-hour drive-by National Highway 44 (new number) towards Krishnagiri, you need to take a right turn at Kariamangalam which comes after Dharmapuri, then crossing Agaram, Veeramalai to reach Pochampalli (போச்சம்பள்ளி). The roads, even the Tamil Nadu State Highway 862 (Krishnagiri to Pochampalli) was in good condition and was comfortable to drive.
Note: The Pochampalli town in Tamil Nadu I visited is not the same as the one famous for its sarees, which will be Bhoodan Pochampally in Telangana State.
Selva says the town has experienced unprecedented economic growth in the last few years due to the arrival of various industries like the new Ola Future Factory which manufacturers Electric Scooter in an all-women, export unit manufacturing shoes for Adidas and others. The government of Tamil Nadu has developed the area by constructing the SIPCOT Industrial SEZ complex at Bargur & Pochampalli which houses the two factories mentioned in the last line, a Primary Processing Centre (for farm produce) by TNSCM, and an upcoming Mega Food Park. Because of these, the price of farmlands in the region has increased multi-fold, so have the rentals for houses and shops.
The weekly market (சந்தை) that happens next door to the Pochampalli bus stand is one of the largest in the state. The market sees vendors starting from vegetables, fruits, cattle, chicken to household items. It is probably the only market in South India where goldsmiths put up shop and custom make jewellery on the spot. The market has a custom whereby the buyers can pay the sellers after a week of purchase, an interest-free credit system that is based on mutual trust and local community assurances. Selva treated us to a delicious Athimaturam Tea made with liquorice and palm sugar (அதிமதுரம் பணகற்கண்டு டீ) at TN-01 Chai Chai Tea stall, the tea is believed to have medicinal benefits for digestion, breathing and blood sugar levels.
Next on the agenda was a visit to the organic paddy farm managed by Selva and a coconut farm owned by a local farmer. The farmer Thiru Tharani Dharan, a friend of Selva was kind to show us around and offer us the sweetest tender coconuts that I have tasted, freshly plucked from the trees above. While there, in a nearby farm we could spot several local women who are assigned by the panchayat to work in the farms under the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) program, they are said to be paid INR 125-175 for a day’s work – a couple of them had come in their two-wheelers which were parked on the roadside, owning two-wheelers (may have been purchased from a recent Tamil Nadu Government scheme) is an indicator to their overall family income.
Selva gifted us with a kilo of three of the rice varieties grown locally and sold online through Agrisakthi online. The three varieties (picture below) were:
- Forbidden Black Rice (கருப்பு கவுனி அரிசி) which is good for your liver’s health and suitable for preparing Jaggery Pongal,
- the red coloured Women’s Rice or Poongar Rice (பூங்கார் அரிசி) which is rich with Vitamin B1 and is used to make tasty Idli and Dosa batter and for making sweets,
- the brown coloured Karunguruvai Rice (கருங்குறுவை அரிசி) gives overall body strength and is used for preparing steamed rice and in traditional medicines.
The last place we visited was the Barur Big Lake (பாரூர் பெரிய ஏரி) which is one of the largest in the region and was built in 1887 and is the water source for about 1600 acres of field. Since it has been only a few weeks after record rains in the region, the lake was brimming with water. There was lush greenery everywhere.