The lockdown has been the perfect time for Tollywood stars to introspect and find out who they are outside their profession of being an actor or an actress. While some began to get back to their first love – music for Shruti Hasaan, others like Pranitha Subhash turned to help others during these tough times through various initiatives. Samantha Akkineni too found her calling – gardening and growing her own produce. She said, “I finally found something I am passionate about that is not part of my job. I was starting to get tired of answering people when they asked me, ‘What is your hobby?’ and my only reply was, ‘Acting’. Their counterargument was, ‘But that’s your job. What is your hobby ?’”
The Oh! Baby actress began her journey with her first harvest of cabbage microgreens during the lockdown. In her post on Insta, she explained how one doesn’t need a large lawn or a backyard for gardening – it is all about using the space available at your home. Initially, she used the window sill in her bedroom to grow the microgreens. She said, “For those of you interested in growing your own … all you need is a tray, cocopeat, seeds and a cool room (I used my bedroom ) that has a window that lets sunlight partially in. “ She also gave a step-by-step guide to her fans on how long it takes for the seeds to sprout, the number of days the tray needs to be covered and how to use a lamp in case one doesn’t have enough sunlight in their room.
So, what inspired this Tollywood diva to take up gardening in the first place? It was the pandemic and the fear of not being able to feed oneself as we are restricted to our houses. She said, “So often we hear ‘Eat Healthy’ but ‘Grow Healthy’ is even more simpler. All it takes is a little time and effort. And since 2020 needs us to ‘Stay home and stay safe‘, I think we can manage. Let’s grow together and feed ourselves. And god forbid if there is ever another lockdown we will not be the ones running to the store panic buying.”
Gradually, her love for growing grew and led to the origination of #GrowWithMe challenge where people share their stories and experience of growing fresh vegetables and fruits at home. To start things along, the Dookudu actress nominated Lakshmi Manchu and Rakul Preet Singh. The actor-producer Lakshmi Manchu with her daughter Nivi planted seeds in a leading brand’s home kit. While the daughter couldn’t contain her excitement or curiosity to learn more about how organic fertilisers work, the mother was happy to join the initiative. She said, “This pandemic has taught us a great deal about healthy living and eating food that nourishes our bodies. I feel extremely proud to be able to grow my own food.” Rakul Preet Singh, who is growing spinach, amaranth, coriander, basil, etc., is excited about the chance to grow her own food. She said, “Its such a lovely experience to watch these seeds pop out and then grow into food for our nourishment.” Other than celebs, a lot of Samantha’s fans too, some as young as three-year-old took up the challenge.
Once she started growing her own vegetables like carrots, spinach, parsley, basil, lettuce, tomatoes, baby arugula, baby bok choy, cucumbers and celery, she started taking a keen interest in cooking too. In quite a few of her Insta stories, the Majili actress can be seen learning the basics of cooking from a professional Sridevi Jasti, who is also a friend. She started with basics like taalimpu, smoothies, chia pudding and went on to create complete meals like tom yum soup with tofu, brown rice noodles and amaranth, curry with green beans and zucchini and kale wrap. She said, “I am slowly starting to understand just how much it takes to put one meal on the table.”
Our Tollywood diva turned green warrior didn’t stop there. She encourages everyone to eat clean and fresh, makes her own bio enzyme at home, and has a compost corner with a twin drum composter to reuse and recycle waste. She even gave out tips on how to use waste like banana peels effectively to make compost.