Since 1986, P Abdul Kareem lives inside a 32-acre forest, which is host to hundreds of bee-hives, snake pits and nests. Point out any wild tree to him and he comes out with its local and botanical name instantly. Of course, it’s not something one needs to be surprised about. For, Kareem is not just the owner of the forest but also its creator.
Kerala's Forest Research Institute sends scientists to study the trees planted by him and the state’s textbook committee has introduced a chapter on this 'man-made forest' in the sixth standard textbook.
Green Paradise: The forest is a dream come true for Abdul Kareem
Agricultural scientist, M S Swaminathan, who once stopped by, has been a frequent visitor ever since. And Kareem was one of the 20 persons honoured in 2009 by Limca Book of Records as "People of the Year".
In 2005, Indian Oil Corporation released a full-page newspaper ad in its 'India Inspired' series, extolling Kareem's efforts, and followed it up by gifting him a fuel station to sustain his conservation efforts. However, behind Kareem’s success lies a strong will and years of hard work, propelled by a dream.
When Kareem first set his eyes on the lateritic hillside during his weekend getaways at his wife’s house in Puliyankulam, the entire stretch was barren. In 1977, he bought five acres of land with an almost non-functional well for Rs 3,750.
Next year, he planted mature saplings of wild trees, but all of them withered soon. The second attempt too was unsuccessful. However, in the third attempt, several saplings survived and started growing.
In those days, Kareem used to fetch water in cans on his motorbike from a source a kilometre away - several times a day. He cared for passing birds too. He put small water-filled pots around the land to attract them. They brought in more diversity to his land, discharging varied seeds through droppings.
He planted 800 species of forest trees and 300 medicinal plants. He has never weeded his land, never cut a tree, never swept or set on fire the leaves ever since. “The most important revelation for me was the impact of humus on the hard rock.
The fallen leaves form a thick layer on the rocky surface and get decomposed over the years. This accelerated the disintegration of laterite into small gravel and slowly to fine soil which in turn helps seeds spread by the insects and birds to grow roots and germinate,” he says.
He kept away all fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. He dug rainwater catch pits and raised walls with boulders across the slopes in order to capture soil carried by run-off water.
Soon, the ground water rose to a comfortable level. He stepped up his efforts. Weeds grew amidst the rare herbs and medicinal plants – many not chosen by Kareem. In 1982, he bought another 27 acres of rocky land and today, “you dig five metres and you'll get water here,” says Kareem.
With hare, fowl and other small game appearing in the forests and sack-sized beehives emerging, Kareem built his house inside the forest in 1986. From a tank in the forest, he can now pump 100,000 litres at one go and the level will bounce back in a few minutes.
Today, Kareem supplies drinking water to the 100-odd families from the two wells and four ponds in his forest, situated in Puliyankulam.
The son of a poor sweet shop owner, Chandra Shekhar Ghosh today sweetens the lives of women in poverty stricken homes with loans. G Singh traces the incredibly phenomenal rise of the founder of Bandhan Bank that has Rs.12,500 crore deposit now
A love for dosas led to two friends in college fabricate an automatic dosa maker that is making waves by enabling chefs roast the crispy dosas that they were earlier not able to make outside Tamil Nadu. Usha Prasad has the interesting story
After experiencing the trials and tribulations of people from small towns and villages in seeking medical facilities, Dinesh Batra vowed to take specialised health care to smaller places. Today he is living his dreams, says Narendra Kaushik
From a poor fruit vendor’s son, who grew up eating jack fruit for snacks in an obscure Karnataka village, to owning a Rs 108 crore company making fruit flavoured ice creams in Mumbai, Srinivas Kamath has come a long way, says Somma Banerjjee
When there is an eatery at every nook and cranny, why do people travel as far as 200 km for lunch in an obscure village near Erode? Usha Prasad brings the flavour of UBM Namma Veetu Saapaadu, served in a plantain leaf for the whole family
From selling samosas on Chennai streets to setting up his own pakora shop to owning a Rs 1.5 crore company supplying delicacies to five star hotels, J Haja Funyamin has come a long way. P C Vinoj Kumar captures the flavour of a success story
Bhungroo in Gujarati means a hollow pipe. But Biplab Ketan Paul gave the word a new meaning by an innovation that has led to water availability, soil improvement and women empowerment, thus helping 14,000 farmers, says Kavita Kanan Chandra
Two friends in Kolkata, keen on turning their culinary delight into business, rejected job offers in a campus interview to start a momo kiosk. Eight years on, their venture started with Rs.30,000 has grown into a Rs.100 Cr entity, says G Singh
In a region known for farmer suicides and parched fields, Gudivada Nagaratnam Naidu returned to his roots, giving up a job, and went on to create a farm revolution. S Sainath visited Naidu’s farm near Hyderabad that’s even got an apple tree
Aasife Biriyani, popular among Chennai’s foodies and sold through nine outlets, was dispensed from a pushcart 18 years ago. Founder Aasife Ahmed made it a Rs 70 crore turnover chain by just not compromising on quality, says P C Vinoj Kumar