Strawberry farming was never a norm in Uttar Pradesh’s Jhansi until 23-year-old law graduate Gurleen Chawla experimented with it in a successful effort. The coronavirus pandemic and the government-imposed lockdown in March 2020 brought Gurleen back from Pune, Maharashtra, where she had just finished her law graduation. She already had her career set as she had applied for a Master's degree in law in the US. But the home quarantine pushed her to do various things as the world was — one of which was baking.
However, Gurleen struggled to find exotic fruits and berries to get her baking going. Her parents, who are majorly into terrace gardening, showed her that they could grow strawberries in their garden, however, small in size. It was this push that Gurleen required for her to start researching and reading up on strawberry cultivation. She met with consultants over Zoom and sourced strawberry saplings from across the country to start her experiment, and well, this is how Gurleen brought the strawberry revolution in Bundelkhand.
If there is an ultimate inspiring quarantine story from the devastating year of 2020, Gurleen’s story has to be it. With PM Narendra Modi and UP CM Yogi Adityanath praising her efforts and encouraging her to continue with strawberry cultivation, Gurleen went one step ahead and organized a strawberry festival in her city in collaboration with the UP government. While she may have brought the strawberry revolution in Jhansi, Gurleen admits that she has taken a step back from overdosing on strawberry, now that she harvests close to 60-65 kgs of it every day.
(Interviewed and produced by Poorvi Gupta)