Sowing the seeds of life

Updated: Sep 26 2003, 05:30am hrs
Life may have begun in the Garden of Eden, but for Shivaji Dam, the 46 year-old managing director of Om Kotak Mahindra Life Insurance Company, his garden at Alibaug stands for renaissance. Today, Mr Dam revels in pleasures otherwise unknown to Mumbaikars like him such as enjoying the smell of freshly cooked vegetables, experiencing a mud bath, and the joy of teaching his son to fly kites all thanks to his own private patch of green.

Cut to 1997, a year when Mr Dam hadnt quite immersed himself into Kotaks insurance venture. He, along with a few of his colleagues at Kotak Mahindra, were lured into picking up plots in Alibaug, a weekend getaway near Mumbai.

While most of my colleagues purchased the property as an investment option, financial gains were not at the heart of my decision. I wanted to make good use of it, Mr Dam says. After some brain-storming, he decided to convert this barren piece of land into a garden and soon, the family, including Mr Dams wife and aged father, got down to getting their hands dirty, quite literally physically working on the land, digging out mud with axes and then, planting seeds and saplings.

Overnight, he became a subject of curiosity. Friends and colleagues suddenly discovered him passionately discussing seasons, seeds, species and sowing, instead of money, markets, merchant banking and mutual funds. It had become quite an obsession, admits Mr Dam sheepishly. After 18 months of sweat and toil on the two acre garden (over time, he acquired adjacent plots to add to the original 6,000 sq feet), it now has 300-odd trees and beds of roses, hibiscus, jasmines etc. The 50 mango trees yielded around 1,000 mangoes last season, says the visibly proud

insurance pro.

So, how tough was it for the rookie gardener to notch up these successes Gardening requires a lot of water most of it in the form of perspiration, Mr Dam quips. But I have gone to great lengths to discover all about drip irrigation, and how to maintain plants, clean roots etc. I also did a lot of research on various species of fruit trees and what kind of space and depth each one of them required. And boy, is that knowledge evident when he starts to talk on the TD variety of coconut tree. This tree starts to bear fruit 12 years on, compared to the Singaporean variety that fruits in 5 years, he informs BB, with the same elan evident when he discusses comparative merits and demerits of endowment and term policies!

Now that Mr Dam has relatively less time to sow the seeds of life hes busy strategising on selling life insurance he depends on professional help to maintain his cherished trees. But none can take away the credit due to him, for his successful blossoming into Mr Green Fingers from Mr Grey Suit.