Bhumi in Hindi means the earth. Bhumi is the starting point of every life force; it is the unabashed giver of food, fruits, flowers and everything else that sustains life on this planet. Bhumi also happens to be my 34 year old cousin who was born deaf and dumb in Tamil Nadu, India and now works as a gardener in the UAE.
True to his name Bhumi belongs to the soil he walks upon. He is in sync with the flora and fauna that surrounds him. Anybody who knows Bhumi is aware of the fact that his interactions with human beings are not half as intense as the conversation he has with the plants he grows and the animals he protects. Being born deaf and dumb in a low income family resulted in Bhumi not having a proper education. He went to school with his siblings but soon realised that teachers were not willing to go the extra mile and help him learn despite his disability. Early on in life Bhumi dropped out from school. While Bhumi missed out on learning within the four walls of a classroom, he picked up essential life lessons from nature and his life experiences. Lessons of compassion and kindness to other fellow beings, fortitude in the midst of life’s everyday struggle and continuing to be a warm comforting presence for family, friends and strangers define Bhumi.
A large part of his childhood was spent doing odd chores at home or running errands for his parents. When other kids were at school, Bhumi spent time planting saplings of fruit trees, flowering bushes and vegetables. Bhumi was the unofficial guardian for stray dogs and cats in the area where his family lived. He would happily spend long hours tending to his plants and watching over the strays he had rescued. 12 years ago Bhumi realised that he could not spend the rest of his life depending on others for his survival. He flew the nest and headed to the UAE.
I am Karthik, Bhumi’s cousin and both of us live and work together in the UAE. Bhumi came to the UAE as his elder brother already worked here. His first job was in a small hotel where he did a few odd jobs. After gaining some work experience, Bhumi started working in a landscaping company in Dubai. He is blessed with a magical green thumb. The UAE being a desert land it is a challenge to grow flowers, fruits and vegetables or any other plants with great success. However plants that are tended to by Bhumi always bear fruit. The soil and climactic conditions of the UAE are not the most conducive to build and sustain a green patch. However, Bhumi has a high success rate with his plants. Everything he grows flourishes, blooms, bears fruit and holds its own season after season. His green thumb is beyond blessed when it comes to gardening.
Bhumi may be deaf and dumb but he is fiercely independent, driven by an innate love for life and a zest to explore his surroundings. Contrary to what people would believe Bhumi has a large set of friends in India and the UAE. Most of his friends have familiarised themselves with the sign language so that they can understand Bhumi better. He goes about life with a sense of fearlessness and inquisitiveness. He takes the bus or Dubai metro to visit new attractions in the country. Strangely whenever my friends and I plan to go somewhere on weekends, Bhumi is our resident city guide as he is well versed with places in and around Dubai. On weekends Bhumi spends time cooking comfort food from home or scrolling through Facebook endlessly. Like most movie buffs in Tamil Nadu, Bhumi is a huge fan of the Tamilian actor Vijay. He makes it a point to watch a Vijay film in the theatre whenever it releases.
Bhumi says that he likes living in the UAE. Working here has helped him flourish into his own. Today he earns enough to support his family back home in India and provide for his wife and one month old child. Summer months in the UAE are a little rough for Bhumi as sometimes he is unable to communicate his discomfort or illness. Once he fainted on the street while commuting from one place to the other as he was unwell and dehydrated. Bhumi’s challenges are many but it is commendable how he remains placid in his approach to life. He is hardly ruffled by hardships. Bhumi works hard to stay within his limited means yet seek the good things life has to offer. He does not ponder about the opportunities he lost due to his disability rather he focuses on counting his blessings and doing the best he can every single day. Bhumi is a source of joy to anybody whose life he has touched – be it the plants and animals he protects or his family and friends.