Dubai: UAE is a land for dreamers to live their dream - and get the recognition for it too.
One such dreamer who dared to live his dream here in the UAE is Indian expat Praveen Kottavathil, 38. His story was featured by Gulf News in May last year to highlight his self-sufficient eco-system in his Al Quoz villa, where he grew everything he needed for daily needs.
Today, he is one of the heroes honoured by the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Kottavathil was picked in the 'Generations' category.
Speaking to Gulf News, a thrilled Kottavathil said the team from Expo 2020 Dubai contacted him to feature him as one of the dreamers for the UAE Pavilion. Centred around the theme ‘Land of Dreamers Who Do’, the UAE Pavilion has unveiled inspiring stories of UAE residents and how they have gone about making a positive difference in the emirates.
The dreamers belong to different cultures and nationalities and have left a lasting impression in the community with their creative and innovative work.
Sharing a picture of his family that is displayed on the massive screens at the UAE Pavilion, Kottavathil said he has been inundated with wishes from friends and family. “I feel grateful for this. The UAE is a country that allowed me to dream and live it to the fullest. I will be indebted forever. In my capacity, if I can inspire others to live their dreams in a sustainable manner, I would feel privileged,” he said.
Kottavathil’s story has touched the hearts of many. During the COVID-19-related movement restrictions last year, Kottavathil created a self-sufficient ecosystem on a 3,000 sq ft plot which fed him and his family all through. “I did not have to shop for any fresh produce at the grocery. That included herbs, vegetables, fish and poultry - all of which came from the kitchen garden in my Al Quoz villa.”
The garden grows ivy gourd, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, mint, curry leaves, coriander leaves, spinach, beans, chillies, watermelons, tapioca and sugarcane.
“Everything is grown pesticide-free,” explained Kottavathil who hails from the Indian state of Kerala.
Kottavathil also has fish tanks and a small poultry farm where he raises chickens that are not genetically modified, which means the eggs produced are organic. Four beehives in his backyard, formed through natural pollination, ensure the family gets home-produced organic honey.
“The whole idea for me has been to be sustainable and I have always desired to eat the most healthy food – one that is pesticide free,” said Kottavathil.
Working as an administrator, he said following the news about his kitchen garden, around 100 families living in the UAE have contacted him seeking his help to create similar eco-systems in their homes. “I will be giving free training and guidance to them. For the first time ever, I will be at a local school also to help students and staff create their very own kitchen garden. The India International School Sharjah has reached out to me. I will be helping them out on a regular basis.”
Kottavathil said most of his produce is consumed by the family and shared with friends. “We have always been self-sufficient in our food produce. But during the national sterilisation drive when we could not step out of the house, we realised the value of our garden space even more. Trust me, we never needed to buy any grocery from the supermarket,” he said.
Kottavathil’s wife, Preeni Sivan, who is also featured in the UAE Pavilion display, is an ophthalmologist by profession. She helps her husband in the garden. Their children, Ayanviraj, 9 and Mithuna, 5, also pitch in.
Noura bint Mohammad Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth and Commissioner General of the UAE Pavilion, said: “Today, we are honoured by all our people on the soil of the UAE, nationals, residents and all those who consider the UAE home. The UAE national pavilion represents a platform from which we can tell stories of the ‘dreamers’. They are the main heroes of our story and a reflection of our values and culture.”