Urban farmer, influencer, Worm Rani—the many faces of Vani Murthy
One will usually find Vani Murthy, popularly known by her Instagram handle Worm Rani, busy pottering about her flourishing terrace garden at her home in Malleshwaram, Bengaluru. Her garden thrives with plants and herbs of all kinds, including brahmi, rosemary, basil, curry leaves, and more. There are also vegetables and fruits–brinjal, lemon, tomatoes, beans etc. Alongside these greens, composting pots–both big and small–are neatly stacked away from direct sunlight or harsh winds.
Vani’s terrace garden is not entirely barricaded, and it’s not unusual to find monkeys, squirrels, crows, and other birds there. So, how does she deal with the monkey menace?
“I don’t see them as a menace–if they want to come and eat something off my garden, they are welcome. It doesn’t matter whether I consume the vegetables or the monkeys eat them, as long as someone is benefitting from that plant!” quips Vani in a conversation with HerStory.
Vani’s passion for the environment is perceptible through the videos and reels she uploads on social media about composting–utilising every bit of wet waste generated from the kitchen. She calls earthworms her “pets,” and delights in running her bare hands through vermicompost bins. Her confident style of presenting and informative reels have turned her into an internet sensation, with over 200,000 followers on Instagram.
Homebound to households
However, looking back, she could not have imagined being under the spotlight.
“I was always an introvert and I just loved being home. Being a part of a joint family left me with no time to do anything else,” says Vani, who recently turned 61.
Sometime in her mid-40s, she ventured out to volunteer at a local civic body, and one thing led to another. “I met so many women who were making a difference; I got drawn into it slowly. I wanted to learn more and understand where I would fit,” says Vani, adding that she counts Dr Meenakshi Bharat, a veteran gynaecologist and solid waste management expert in Bengaluru, as a mentor who had a profound impact on her.
“Eventually, the universe aligned and other people who were working in the waste management sector came together, and we formed a team. There’s been no looking back since,” she says.
The idea that one needs to have an education or a qualification to know about something well is just not true, she adds.
“You just have to be passionate and you’ll automatically learn so much.”
Vani is a social media expert, and experiments with different forms of media–an experience she honed during the lockdowns. “I had only about 2000 followers at the start of the pandemic, and a few posts later, it just shot up. My niece then educated me about the blue tick,” she laughs.
Playing to the strengths
Vani enjoys her role as a social media influencer. “My kids have grown up, and I have fewer responsibilities. I’m able to now dedicate my time to things I’m passionate about,” she says.
Social media and internet fame–it’s a dog-eat-dog world. So, how does Vani cope with all the pressures?
“One thing I’ve realised is that every one of us has our own strengths. All my life, I thought I was not good enough, but there came a time when I started accepting myself for who I am. From that point onwards, it became easier. However, It was a gradual process, and I overcame it because I have so much to do in my own space that I don’t have to be like anyone else,” she explains.
A self-professed shy girl who was happiest being a homebody for a long time, Vani took years of learning and unlearning to get here.
She advises women to take it slow and breathe amid the cut-throat rat race. “The rat race is taking its toll with stress-related issues like hormonal imbalances, metabolic issues, and mental health problems. Stress is a killer. I would tell women to take things in their stride and centre themselves.”
She adds, “What has given me the ability to stay calm even amidst all the hustle is my involvement with nature. I choose to put good food into my body; I’ve opted to be in sync with the natural world–and that has helped me immensely. Eat well, have a good night’s sleep, and give your body that rest!”
Over a year ago, one of Vani’s impromptu videos of a hungry caterpillar, shot on her terrace, became so popular that she received thousands of messages with requests to save it as a post. The overwhelming sentiment was that of children enjoying the video.
“Children are amazing; they are so mouldable at that age. If a city girl like me, who never ever grew a single plant, can find a hidden farmer within me after all these years, and start growing vegetables, anyone can. Now, just imagine if a child is shown how to grow a vegetable in their formative years, if they are made to touch the soil and connect with the earth, what a difference it would make to our planet,” Vani signs off.
Edited by Kanishk Singh