In her demise, Doon will miss iconic Mona Schwartz
By RAJ KANWAR |
Sun, 05 -Jan, 2014
Most people call me Mona but my middle name is ‘Organic’. So my full name is Mona Organic Schwartz
A goodly number of friends, admirers and organic farmers today bid a final adieu to Mona Schwartz at her Inder Baba Marg home where she died on 2nd January. She had taken ill on 6th November and had fought for nearly two months a brave but unsuccessful battle against death. She was 78. She was born in America but made India her home some 32 years ago, Mona had made hundreds of converts to the macrobiotic dietary way of living not only in Dehra Dun but all across the country. In a way, she was a pacesetter par excellence in as much as she was one of the first in India to introduce the concept of Sunday Bazaars for selling organic produce Over all these years, she must have held hundreds of Sunday Bazaars at her home selling organic food, vegetables, brown rice and several varieties of homemade namkeens, pickles, jams etc that attracted a large number of lovers of macrobiotic diet; these bazaars enabled vegetable and fruit growers from Rishikesh, Vikasnagar, Saklana valley and elsewhere to sell their produce at a decent price. Bhagchand Ramola of village Majhgaon in the Saklana valley is one such farmer who prospered by adapting this innovative approach to growing of vegetables. Before his conversion to organic farming, Bhagchand was practicing chemical farming with the result that both his crop and income declined year by year. From 2012, Bhagchand started bringing his produce to Mona’s Sunday Bazaar where his vegetables were sold in no time and at attractive price. I too visited her Sunday Bazaar on a couple of occasions and briefly conversed with her. But my first real chat with her occurred in early 2013 at a luncheon hosted by a common friend, Sati Puri of village Sinola. She sat alone a little away from other guests, smoking a cigarette; I pulled a chair and introduced myself. “Yes, I know you very well; you are Mr. Raj Kanwar and I regularly read all of your beautiful pieces in Garhwal Post.” There I learned more about her and felt an empathy of sorts with her. I greatly admired her grit and passionate belief in organic food. The Sunday Bazaar was not her business and she hardly ever made any money out of it. Her role was that of a facilitator; she made available her lawn at no cost to the farmers and others, and provided them with trestle tables of sorts to display their products. Was I destined to write her obituary? A few months later, I met her again at a lunch hosted by our friends Padma and Prem Sibal of Old Mussoorie Road. I chose to sit next to her and we indulged in a bit of idle gossip. Suddenly, it struck me that she would make an interesting subject for an interview. She had lived almost a lifetime in India, so far away from her own country, her son and daughter. I thought that it would be fascinating to know about her life and experiences. But, to my surprise, she politely declined saying that there was nothing much to write about her; she looked somewhat thoughtful and lost. Then she pulled out a cigarette and like a chivalrous gentleman I took the lighter and lit it. After a puff or two, she looked at me and said, “I know Mr. Kanwar that your interviews and profiles are beautiful but I would rather not have anything written about me at this point. Perhaps, sometime later. Then suddenly after a few moments, she said, “you also write very touching obituaries.” And then again she appeared lost. Affectionately, I took her hand and softly held it for a while. Yesterday I was in Mussoorie on a family errand when Ira Chauhan phoned me to give the sad news of Mona’s passing away a day before and pointedly asked if I would write her obituary for Garhwal Post. All that conversation of a few months ago came rushing back to my mind. I wondered why did Mona not want me to do her interview a few months earlier; did she had a premonition that she would not live long enough and thus earmark me to do her obituary. The year 2012 had begun inauspiciously when I wrote Rajni Goel’s obituary on its very first day. Fifteen of my friends, some older and other younger, breathed their last that year and left me to write their obituaries. Thankfully, the year just gone by was merciful. SN Talukdar, formerly of ONGC, and KL Khanna of Scholars Home were the only two whose obituaries I wrote. I have no stamina now to write more obituaries and I pray to the God Almighty not to take away any of my friends and I am sure that good Lord will listen to the sincerest of my prayers. Mona has left behind a legion of sad friends and admirers; her daughter Beth and son Arthur are naturally heartbroken but there are many, many more here that will mourn her death and will remember her many acts of kindness and benevolence. Ira Chauhan has been virtually like a companion for the past three years. The young Naveen Nautiyal had learned from her far more recipes of continental cuisine than any other chef of his age. There are so many of them such like Sunita Sangwal, Namita Sharma, Ruby and Anil Sawhney, Anchal Sodhi of Welham Girls’ School, Mrs. Mann of EBD, Manorma and Col Taneja, the ace camera wizard Atul Gupta and last but not least Padma Sibal, a long time friend of hers besides of course a host of others.