When I first heard of Dr. Janak Palta McGilligan in Indore, I was keen to visit her organic farm where she grows wheat, corn, six types of dal, and many different vegetables and fruit. I had heard that she needed to buy nothing but tea and sugar from the market! I finally got a chance to visit her , and I was overwhelmed by her friendliness and enthusiasm for the work she has been doing for the poor rural women of the region.
Janak's mantra has been 'Sustainable Development', where conservation and development of natural resources plays a crucial point. Janak practices what she preaches- her household is run by solar power and wind energy. Her solar cookers built by her husband Jimmy McGilligan, can cook a feast for a hundred people. The windmill erected in her yard powers eighteen street lights in the village.
Janak's husband, Jimmy McGilligan was a genius who used ordinary things to make extraordinary machines. By using old bicycle parts, he made a contraption which could turn the huge solar cooker towards the sun throughout the day. He invented a machine which turns old newspapers into brickets to be used as cooking fuel on rainy days. In fact, the delicious Aloo Paratha which she served, was cooked in a stove using these brickets. Jimmy had been awarded the Order of the British Empire for his pioneering work with the rural women while Janak was honoured with a Padmashree by the President of India.
A cancer survivor, and a heart attack survivor, Janak was devastated by the death of her husband in a car accident a few years ago. She has not let her grief overcome her enthusiasm. Their home which Jimmy had built with his own hands is now Jimmy McGilligan Centre for sustainable Development which trains people , and is open to the public throughout the year.
In Janak's own words, "We don't have a choice of how we die, but we can choose how we live".
These wildflowers are now on all the hedges and fences. The white variety of Shankha pushpa is rarer than the dark blue one. Both have medicinal value. The roots and flowers are used to make a tonic to improve memory.