Former India football captain Gouramangi Singh has discovered a new passion for organic farming, which is keeping the ex-defender physically and mentally fresh during the COVID-19 enforced lockdown.
Currently with his family in Imphal due to the prevailing coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown, Gouramangi has spent the break from football expanding his kitchen garden by growing different varieties of vegetables with his siblings.
"We have a small patch of land, less than an acre. It is some walking distance from our house.
"We had a kitchen garden there for the last two years and over the lockdown period, my siblings and I have tried to expand it and grow different varieties of vegetables -- such as chillies, turmeric, ginger, squash, corn, karela (bitter gourd), pumpkin, lauki (bottle guard)," Gouramangi told www.the-aiff.com.
The former defender, who is currently the head coach of Hero 2nd Division League side FC Bengaluru United, added the experience has benefitted him to make good use of the newly-found free time.
"It has been a really positive experience and I have enjoyed it a lot. Working on the garden is always fun. We try to spend a few hours there every day.
Laying the beds, planting the seeds, watering the plants and plucking the vegetables -- it is all so satisfying, especially when our hard work bears fruit," he said.
"It is a nice way to stay fresh -- both physically and mentally. It also ensures that we are eating healthy and also allows us to spend quality time with family," he added.
While it was during this lockdown period that he developed an interest in organic farming, Gouramangi expressed his desire to explore this passion in the future.
"I posted a picture of my garden on social media and my family and friends started messaging me -- asking for their share," Gouramangi joked.
"On a serious note though I would love to explore more in the future. Some of my friends have been doing it and I've also been speaking to them. I'm very happy with the kitchen garden as of now.
"I want to take one step as a time. In the next couple of years, if there is an opportunity to take it to the next level -- I would certainly be up for it," he said.
Gouramangi is one of the most decorated players in Indian football in recent times -- having won the National Football League, Federation Cup and Hero I-League titles, along with the AIFF Player of the Year award in 2010.
He was also a part of India's campaign in the AFC Asian Cup Doha 2011, when he scored India's opener against Bahrain.
"My work with the club (FC Bengaluru United) and my academy has been keeping me busy during the lockdown. Apart from the kitchen gardening, I do basic workouts daily to keep myself in shape -- such as core exercises and some ball work. At times, I go running as well.
"I'm also trying to read as much as possible and develop a habit. With more time on my hands, another positive has been connecting with people who I had not spoken to for a long time," he added.