Penned by Board Member Alo Pal

She breaks stereotypes with not only the work she does but the strength of conviction with which she does it. In charge of Gloria Land, a hundred-acre organic dairy farm with a 140-strong cattle herd of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Glory, since childhood, took keen interest on farming activities that her father, Manindra Pal managed. The love of the land and respect for all living beings that Manindra lived by was his guiding force in making Gloria Land a pioneer in sustainable agriculture in India. Glory has been working in the farm for over 30 years and as manager since 2005. It was therefore our privilege to invite Glory for a question-and-answer session with our women beneficiaries in Angalakuppam who have received loans from Sharana to buy a cow, under our Social Entrepreneurship Program.

This was the third direct interaction the women had with Glory. The first was a few months back when she went house to house to speak to the beneficiaries in person and make an on-the-spot physical assessment of the health of the animals, learnt in detail the ingredients of cattle feed and the methods and facilities in place for medical access. The second was when a group of these women were taken to Gloria Land so they could see for themselves the work done there. Just that itself is a source of inspiration. The Q&A session was followed by the screening of an interview Glory had given to a Tamil YouTube channel of on dairy maintenance with a special focus on cows and cow health. And what emerged from the programme was the dependence on doctors for every intervention and the drain on their purse that it entailed.

At Gloria, right from the time of Manindra, every practice adopted, every theory expounded has always been based on actual experience on the ground and one of the high points of the human resources invested in at the dairy today is that a series of vital and routine healthcare checkups and interventions are performed by a few trained workers themselves. You may immediately wonder how a village is to obtain a trained person, but the Gloria model demonstrates that experience of the field can enable a worker, a farm hand, to not only perform Artificial Inseminations, but also Intra Uterine checkups, Intravenous and Intra muscular injections, as well as intra Mammary interventions. Training can also enable those with skin in the game to handle complicated deliveries including tying of fetus legs by ropes and pulling. While it is true that during epidemics government health workers do go from village to village administering vaccines etc, the fact is that organization at the village level can also galvanize to take proactive measure to safeguard herds.

You may wonder how such a resource person(s) is to be found, surely, she/he must have some rudimentary training and basic knowledge in theory on the subject. But in Gloria today such a resource person is in fact unlettered. When you have a woman who leads the pack you also have women break barriers and again in the dairy Glory has trained a woman to administer medication and vaccines. Given the traditional village setup where there is an inherent system of mutual assistance and cohabitation it is perfectly plausible that such trained from experience personnel emerge from within. This will not only cut costs for everyone but will also ensure timely intervention when maladies and deficiencies are spotted. For example, timely detection and intervention of a cow with milk fever is between a cow dying or literally springing back to its feet. This is the area that Sharana needs to look into.

As I stood at a distance listening to Glory speak to the women, I heard her conclude the session urging the women not to treat their herd as a business, “love your animals” she said, “with love with come health and productivity” and that was really the key to Manindra’s philosophy of dairy farming and philosophy of life itself. To quote his own words:

“Love is the code of everything. If you don’t love your plants, if you don’t love your animals, if you don’t love your birds, obviously they depart. And where love exists, where the fellow feeling exists, everything survives. Everything blossoms. This is the language of the soul.”

That Manindra Pal is my father and Glory my sister is a detail I add that fills me with joy as I sign off….