South India Trip Chronicles – A Micro-Blog

 

Author: Hasmukh Sapnawala

Date completed: 6 Nov. 2015

Participants on the South India Trip.

I’m really privileged, honored and humbled to have some exquisite company on the South India Trip to visit Experiential Learning and Sustainable Organic Farming sites. They are

Anil Nanavati: He provided the vehicle, the services of his driver Kailash and volunteered to be the chief navigator. For navigation he was reliably aided by Google maps bhabi. Though there were times when it was debated whether Shalini’s “word of mouth” skills in local vernacular was better. Without any doubt Google bhabi was very dependable.

Suma Josson: A journalist, a former feature filmmaker and now a documentary film maker on social causes like seed saving, anti mining movement etc. She gifted a copy of her documentaries to all we visited. She was the speed breaker identifier on the trip.

Rachita Agarwal: She has an interest in organic farming, alternate education and entrepreneurial activities in this area. She was the account keeper for the trip. When it comes to counting money you can’t beat Rachita. You can count on her (No pun intended)

Shalini Bai:.An adventure camp coordinator for kids and corporate, call center trainer and home fruit wine maker. She made some unsuccessful attempts at backseat navigation. She was the documentor for the trip. She is completely oblivious of what she has signed up for. She still thinks her wine will save the day for her. I’m concerned about what documentation with slurred words will look like

Tharanath Gajendra:. He joined us for the Bangalore and Madanapalle legs of the trip. We think he and Anil have something going. That’s all I can disclose for now.

Hasmukh Sapnawala:. The chief cook and bottle washer for the trip. When all else fails call him. He will assign the problem to one of the remaining four(just kidding). Anil and Hasmukh were also lead pranksters on the trip. We laughed our way from start to finish. Blushing was not an option. It was mandatory.

That’s it friends. This is Hasmukh signing off on the micro blog he had promised for the trip. Now it’s time to plan for the next trip. Who wants to join?????

Whew!!!!!! What a relief. The micro blog is done. Good night and

Que suefies con los angelitos (Spanish for “May you dream with angels”)

South India Trip Chronicles Day10 Oct 31.

6:30 am We meet up and head for Madanapalle. After a quick South Indian breakfast stop we finally see the trees of Prakrutivanam, an organic farm and produce seller.

9:30 We reach the farm and start walking around. We see a huge well into water is being put instead of being drawn out. Later on we are told that it is a dry well and the water is being poured into it to make amrit pani for the 80 acre farm. Guna, the farm caretaker, then starts the farm tour in the organic products shop. He explains that peanuts have a yield of 40% when extracting oil using the cold press method. It means that it takes 2.5 kg of peanuts to make one kg of peanut oil. At Rs 100 per kg just the cost of peanuts is Rs 250. Add to that the cost of labor to clean the peanuts, the cold press processing to extract oil, packaging, marketing and transport and the cost for 1 kg off oil adds up to Rs 350. Yet they manage to sell it at Rs. 300 per kg because they sell the peanut cake that comes out of the cold press at Rs. 45 per kg. The question then is how do brand name refined oil manufacturers sell peanut oil at Rs 100 per kg? Because they use waste peanuts, put additives to adulterate and take away the smell. So we buy cheap poor quality products now, which results in poor health later on in life and we spend all our savings and sacrifice our quality of life. This is just one example. Guna shared with us several other examples of why it makes sense to pay more for organic products. He also explained the benefits of rain water harvesting. From the roof of a 800 sq. ft. structure he manages to harvest more than 40,000 ltrs of water. All flour at Prakrutivanam is made in stone grinders. After a wholesome lunch with boiled ragi flour balls and other local delicacies we head to the store to purchase as much as we can carry. Guna is a calm philosopher as well. The discussion on the meaning and purpose of life continues. We finally bid adieu.

2:30 pm We drive down to a local potter who has a manual potter’s wheel. Everybody gets a turn at the wheel and shaping of the clay. We see their simple kilns. This is an out of the world experience. We buy cooking clay pots. I’m looking forward to some mouth watering food cooked in clay pots.

4 pm We reach Rishi Valley school. The children have gone off for Diwali holidays. But by now we have heard enough of Rishi Valley school from people we have met on the trip. The consensus is that their practices are good but that it has turned into an elitist school. We wait to see the punganur cows. They are dwarf cows and amazingly cute to look at. Now it’s time to head back to Bangalore.

10 pm We have a team dinner at Shalini’s place. Everyone gets to taste her home made fruit wine.

11 pm It’s time to head back to rest our bodies. This is officially the end of the travel. Now starts the true memory building activity of documenting everything, capturing the learning and sharing it all out in the public domain.

South India Trip Chronicles Day 9 Oct. 30.

7 am All of us meet up and head to Arohi alternative learning campus, about 70 kms from Bangalore.

10 am After some frustrating encounters with Bangalore traffic, a few cursed road rage phrases we arrive at Arohi O-campus. Ratnesh welcomes us. We immediately start discussing about how to start the day – tea or coffee. We are ravenous and are disappointed to hear that breakfast is still 30 long minutes away. A bystander would surely wonder,”who are the real kids here – us or the little ones hop skipping around”. Ratnesh tells us about the still continuing journey of Arohi from a playschool in a public park in Bangalore to this 9 acre campus outskirts of Bangalore donated by the grandfather of one of the children. There are 15 children in the school in the age group of 7 to 15. They all live like on big happy family. Kids help with the day to day activities-cleaning, cookng, washing etc. Just before breakfast each child lays out a plan for what they want to learn that day. The staff believes that children are able to take decisions and realise that their decisions are not always the best. That is why every evening they have a hour long reflection and review session. It is obliviously timed just before dinner. Based on a discussion I had with Ratnesh 10 days earlier they have already built a geometry dome. We can see that the children are giving it a thorough stress test by climbing all over it. Shalini conducts a few Play-for-Peace activities and we head into the main activity of the day, “How to build a Geodesic dome?” They ask me more questions than can be answered in the time allotted. I skip lunch and still there is not enough time. Ratnesh has finally caught up with the point I was trying to make that there is no substitute to “Learning by Doing.” He promises to visit Sapna Ranch soon and we say our good byes.

4 pm. We arrive at Bhoomi College. Narsanna Kopulla is concluding his permaculture workshop there. We have a short discussion with him. Then Seetha patiently answers our questions on the origins of Prakriya school and Bhoomi College. The school that started with 20 children 16 years ago now has over 550 children. Bhoomi College was started 5 years ago. She just wants to provide exploratory environments for children of all ages. She explains to us the challenges posed by RTE – How a kid arrives in a BMW but is using the free tuition seat provided by RTE. She shares her philosophy behind the schools which I will cover in the detailed blog. She laments about how the ICSE and IGCSE certifications are limiting the amount of creativity they can expose the children to. At 8 pm Narasana joins our discussion.

8:30 It’s Hasta Maniana time.

10:30 pm We reach our respective nostalgia head quarters. It’s dinner, shower, more catch up talk and head to bed wishing there were more hours in a day.

South India Trip Chronicles Day 8 Oct. 29

6 am. Wake up and head for Ramana Maharishi Ashram in Tiruvanamalai. We visit his shrine, mediation hall, nirvana home, the two caves (1.5 km uphill) where he lived for over 23 years, their biogas plants. After breakfast at a tourist trap restaurant we head back to Biju’s home. The discussion on eco friendly housing continues. After lunch there is still more to discuss but our next appointment beckons us to move on.

1 pm We arrive at Marudam school. Their goal is to provide a happy and joyous environment for children. They have a climbing wall which they find is therapeutic for children that need to be challenged in order for them to come to terms with their self worth. Children get to learn martial arts, gymnastics, theatre, drawing, sculpture, dance etc. They believe at least 50% of a child’s learning in a day should be arts and creativity related. There are about 80 children in the school. We ask Arun (one of the founders) the top 3 challenges he faced. His response:

  1. Managing the govt. Bureaucracy for setting up of trust, income tax exemption number, FCRA (Foreign Currency Regulation Act) etc.
  2. Working with people and community.
  3. Balancing the needs and wants of the children and their parents.

The discussion continues. Even a strong downpour can’t hold us back. The dry patch moves with the gusts of wind and so do we. Finally we reluctantly say adios.

5 pm Head for Bangalore.

10 pm Arrive in Bangalore. We head to our respective friends residences. It’s time to catch-up with nostalgia, euphoria and walks down memory lane as we head into the inevitable slumber-land of dreams.

South India Trip Chronicles. Day 7 Oct. 28

6:30 am We have an early breakfast and start for Sholai School.

8:30 am We reach Sholai/CLOAAT. Mr. Ramèsh takes us around. This is an experiential learning school. One of the students tells us that she is helping with the restoration of a1942 Austin 7 car. We see their biogas plants, the micro Hydel, Solar power. Water filtration process, carpentry shed.

Two kids Omprakash and Sugandha take us around the campusl. The entire premises is off the grid. The premises is green. The kids seem to be having a good time. We see their cooking chulha. We don’t have time to see the hydro ram. Guess we will have to make one more trip.😊

3 pm We leave for Tiruvanamalai.

10:30 pm We arrive at Biju Bhaskar’s home. He is the master mind behind the Thanal project. He lives in an eco friendly house that he has designed himself. The house is also aesthetically pleasing.

11 pm We have dinner and start discussing eco friendly housing with Biju. The poor fellow is tired and sleepy but our questions are so interesting that he is encouraged and energised to answer us. It would be debatable to wonder who is more tired – he or us.

12:30 am Time to get into the dreamland of eco friendly homes.

South India Trip Chronicles Day 6 Oct.27.

7 am Go for a walk at Isha Yoga Center in Coimbatore. Sujata and Laxman take us around the Isha home school campus. They have preschool to 12th grade. It’s a residential school. Fees Rs 3L per annum. About 20 children per home. Up to grade 4 children are in vertical age groups and are taught at the home level. 5th to 7th is another group. 8th onwards they have separate classrooms.

They also have a sanskriti shala where they are taught the yogi lifestyle. On addition they have schools in villages that offer alternative schooling options to village children.

We then spend some time in the Dhyanalinga, a100ft diameter brick dome with a huge Shiva Linga in the middle.

2 pm We arrive at Nisha and Raghu’s place

Their 9 year old son Omnath is home schooled. Their house had a Laurie Baker design. Raghu takes around their 11 acre farm. When they bought it, it was just barren land. Now the main portion is a forest. Namalwar helped in the design of their forest. If Fukuoka promoted “Do nothing”, Raghu wants to promote “No thinking” farming. We then leave for Kodaikanal.

10 pm Arrive at the lodge in Kodai, have dinner, get the fireplace going. Shower and sleep.

outh India Trip Chronicles. Day 5 Oct 26.

6:30 an We go for a leisurely walk through the tea estates, watch and listen to the birds, soak in the hilly landscape, the mist in the air, the taste of freshly plucked pink guava. It’s a perfect beginning after a hectic previous day.

9 am At breakfast we taste the various cheese available at the farm. We then go for a tour of the 22 acre organic farm. Did you know that it takes 10 liters of milk to make one kg of cheese. We see the cattle shed and the biogas plants.

12 pm We head for Coimbatore. We stop by at Sreedevi and Ramesh’s place. We also meet Sujata and Laxman there who tell us that they were house parents at the Isha Homeschool located inside Isha Yoga Center (ishahomeschool.org). Sreedevi runs the local organic home store. They have a lovely home made of hollow bricks. The house doesn’t need to be painted. Their colour is esthetically pleasing.

7:15 pm We arrive at Isha Yoga Center. We have dinner on the 7:45 pm batch. Check this place out on the web.

11 pm Shower followed by sweet dreams.

South India Trip Day 4 Oct. 25.

4:00 am Alarm wakes us all up. We say our fond good byes to Raghava and family.

2:15 pm Arrive at Vivek and Julie Cariappa’s 30 year old Krac-a-dawna organic farm. They combine technology with organic farming. Their farm is fully sustainable. We ask them what should we do to be successful organic farmers? Vivek’s response, “Just go out there and start growing. Each terrain has its unique qualities. Start growing and the land will tell you what to grow. Listen, learn and evolve.”

5 pm We drive through the Nilgiris. We are a bit concerned about encountering elephants along the way.

9:30 We arrive at Acres Wild in Coonor. The cottage we booked is lovely. We forget the aches of a long day on the road. Have dinner, a refreshing hot shower and then it’s nod off to fairy land.

South India Trip Update. Day 3 Oct. 24.

7 am in Sirsi at Vinish Gupta’s place The meaning of life discussion continues. Karuna has baked organic bread. We finally get to taste the elusive Mango-ginger jam made by Rachita. After a wholesome breakfast we leave for Davangere.

12:30 pm Arrive at Rahhava’s house in Davangere. He has done away with TV. When asked why, his 9 year old home schooled daughter Visista replies, “On TV you have to watch what they show you. On computer you can watch and read what you want.” 👍👍👍😊😊🔔🔔

3:00 pm After an organic lunch we head for his farm. The results of natural farming are mesmerising. We move around like ‘kids in a candy store’ soaking in the greenery of purera creepers, there are fallen coconuts everywhere (there isn’t enough people power to collect them). We see the largest Laxmanfal we have seen only to be told by Raghava that it is not fully grown yet. The discussion on Natural farming continues. We learn that of the 250,000 farmer suicides not a single one is an organic farmer.

8:30 pm We have dinner and discuss the EBHLE project. As we retire for the night we are told that, “we must answer nature’s call in nature itself😟😜😃“.

South India Trip Day 2 Oct 23.

7:30 Start from Dharwad after soaking in the great hospitality extended by Suresh and Geeta.

11:30 Reached Vinish and Karuna’s place. Had discussions about life, its purpose, its meaning, what makes a community, where are we headed, what can we do and how. Moral: Contemplate, learn, share, and most importantly “Just live it.”

5:30 pm Go for a walk and see their 1 acre land.

7:30 Another healthy wholesome meal. The discussion on life continues.

9:30 We go to a 100 year local temple for the Dasera puja.

11:30 pm Good night. Happy life dreams.

South India Trip Update

Day 1 Oct 22nd

7:45 am Left Goa

11:30 Reached Suresh & Geeta’s 19.5 farm in Dharwad. Plucked and ate Guava. They have dug trenches for water conservation, put a barbed wire fence augmented by live Gliricidia with an inner lining of teak trees, accepting animals by letting monkeys taste some of the fruit, have done extensive drip irrigation and planted a variety of food forest trees.

2:30 Lunch with rice and vegetables from their farm.

3:30 Visited Sanjeev Kulkarni’s 17 acre farm bought in 1997. It was barren then. But now it has thick food forest growth with several water bodies. There are a variety of fruits trees, vegetable plants, wild plants. He has Ramfhal, Sitafhal, Laxmanfhal, woodapple, Australian lime, Barbados cherries and several other trees and plants.

7:30 Discussion on EBHLE and Sustainable Organic Farming.

10:00 Dinner with rice and vegetables from Suresh and Geeta’s farm.

11:00 Sweet Dreams, Green Dreams

Update on the South India Trip.

Day -1 Oct 20.

7 am Started from Mumbai.

Stopped at Aakar Pot Art in Indapur. Got a tour of this lovely pottery studio. Did some hands on pottery. Had lunch at Sapna Ranch. Stopped at Hot Water Springs near Ratnagiri. Saw an amazing old temple ruins there. Reached Anil’s hangout in Vagator, Goa. This place is better than a 5 star hotel.

Day 0 Oct 21. Visited Clea’s farm. She is doing an amazing job of creating a food forest. Her farm manager Alex took showed us around. He is an eco philosopher himself. Saw permaculture based soil preparation, live Gliricidia fence, compost toilets, eco friendly homes and common spaces, multi culture based planting.

Day 1 begins today. Will try to provide daily updates from now on.

Let me know if this is of interest to all of you.

 

South India Trip Chronicles – A Micro-Blog

 

Author: Hasmukh Sapnawala

Date completed: 6 Nov. 2015

Participants on the South India Trip.

I’m really privileged, honored and humbled to have some exquisite company on the South India Trip to visit Experiential Learning and Sustainable Organic Farming sites. They are

Anil Nanavati: He provided the vehicle, the services of his driver Kailash and volunteered to be the chief navigator. For navigation he was reliably aided by Google maps bhabi. Though there were times when it was debated whether Shalini’s “word of mouth” skills in local vernacular was better. Without any doubt Google bhabi was very dependable.

Suma Josson: A journalist, a former feature filmmaker and now a documentary film maker on social causes like seed saving, anti mining movement etc. She gifted a copy of her documentaries to all we visited. She was the speed breaker identifier on the trip.

Rachita Agarwal: She has an interest in organic farming, alternate education and entrepreneurial activities in this area. She was the account keeper for the trip. When it comes to counting money you can’t beat Rachita. You can count on her (No pun intended)

Shalini Bai:.An adventure camp coordinator for kids and corporate, call center trainer and home fruit wine maker. She made some unsuccessful attempts at backseat navigation. She was the documentor for the trip. She is completely oblivious of what she has signed up for. She still thinks her wine will save the day for her. I’m concerned about what documentation with slurred words will look like

Tharanath Gajendra:. He joined us for the Bangalore and Madanapalle legs of the trip. We think he and Anil have something going. That’s all I can disclose for now.

Hasmukh Sapnawala:. The chief cook and bottle washer for the trip. When all else fails call him. He will assign the problem to one of the remaining four(just kidding). Anil and Hasmukh were also lead pranksters on the trip. We laughed our way from start to finish. Blushing was not an option. It was mandatory.

That’s it friends. This is Hasmukh signing off on the micro blog he had promised for the trip. Now it’s time to plan for the next trip. Who wants to join?????

Whew!!!!!! What a relief. The micro blog is done. Good night and

Que suefies con los angelitos (Spanish for “May you dream with angels”)

South India Trip Chronicles Day10 Oct 31.

6:30 am We meet up and head for Madanapalle. After a quick South Indian breakfast stop we finally see the trees of Prakrutivanam, an organic farm and produce seller.

9:30 We reach the farm and start walking around. We see a huge well into water is being put instead of being drawn out. Later on we are told that it is a dry well and the water is being poured into it to make amrit pani for the 80 acre farm. Guna, the farm caretaker, then starts the farm tour in the organic products shop. He explains that peanuts have a yield of 40% when extracting oil using the cold press method. It means that it takes 2.5 kg of peanuts to make one kg of peanut oil. At Rs 100 per kg just the cost of peanuts is Rs 250. Add to that the cost of labor to clean the peanuts, the cold press processing to extract oil, packaging, marketing and transport and the cost for 1 kg off oil adds up to Rs 350. Yet they manage to sell it at Rs. 300 per kg because they sell the peanut cake that comes out of the cold press at Rs. 45 per kg. The question then is how do brand name refined oil manufacturers sell peanut oil at Rs 100 per kg? Because they use waste peanuts, put additives to adulterate and take away the smell. So we buy cheap poor quality products now, which results in poor health later on in life and we spend all our savings and sacrifice our quality of life. This is just one example. Guna shared with us several other examples of why it makes sense to pay more for organic products. He also explained the benefits of rain water harvesting. From the roof of a 800 sq. ft. structure he manages to harvest more than 40,000 ltrs of water. All flour at Prakrutivanam is made in stone grinders. After a wholesome lunch with boiled ragi flour balls and other local delicacies we head to the store to purchase as much as we can carry. Guna is a calm philosopher as well. The discussion on the meaning and purpose of life continues. We finally bid adieu.

2:30 pm We drive down to a local potter who has a manual potter’s wheel. Everybody gets a turn at the wheel and shaping of the clay. We see their simple kilns. This is an out of the world experience. We buy cooking clay pots. I’m looking forward to some mouth watering food cooked in clay pots.

4 pm We reach Rishi Valley school. The children have gone off for Diwali holidays. But by now we have heard enough of Rishi Valley school from people we have met on the trip. The consensus is that their practices are good but that it has turned into an elitist school. We wait to see the punganur cows. They are dwarf cows and amazingly cute to look at. Now it’s time to head back to Bangalore.

10 pm We have a team dinner at Shalini’s place. Everyone gets to taste her home made fruit wine.

11 pm It’s time to head back to rest our bodies. This is officially the end of the travel. Now starts the true memory building activity of documenting everything, capturing the learning and sharing it all out in the public domain.

South India Trip Chronicles Day 9 Oct. 30.

7 am All of us meet up and head to Arohi alternative learning campus, about 70 kms from Bangalore.

10 am After some frustrating encounters with Bangalore traffic, a few cursed road rage phrases we arrive at Arohi O-campus. Ratnesh welcomes us. We immediately start discussing about how to start the day – tea or coffee. We are ravenous and are disappointed to hear that breakfast is still 30 long minutes away. A bystander would surely wonder,”who are the real kids here – us or the little ones hop skipping around”. Ratnesh tells us about the still continuing journey of Arohi from a playschool in a public park in Bangalore to this 9 acre campus outskirts of Bangalore donated by the grandfather of one of the children. There are 15 children in the school in the age group of 7 to 15. They all live like on big happy family. Kids help with the day to day activities-cleaning, cookng, washing etc. Just before breakfast each child lays out a plan for what they want to learn that day. The staff believes that children are able to take decisions and realise that their decisions are not always the best. That is why every evening they have a hour long reflection and review session. It is obliviously timed just before dinner. Based on a discussion I had with Ratnesh 10 days earlier they have already built a geometry dome. We can see that the children are giving it a thorough stress test by climbing all over it. Shalini conducts a few Play-for-Peace activities and we head into the main activity of the day, “How to build a Geodesic dome?” They ask me more questions than can be answered in the time allotted. I skip lunch and still there is not enough time. Ratnesh has finally caught up with the point I was trying to make that there is no substitute to “Learning by Doing.” He promises to visit Sapna Ranch soon and we say our good byes.

4 pm. We arrive at Bhoomi College. Narsanna Kopulla is concluding his permaculture workshop there. We have a short discussion with him. Then Seetha patiently answers our questions on the origins of Prakriya school and Bhoomi College. The school that started with 20 children 16 years ago now has over 550 children. Bhoomi College was started 5 years ago. She just wants to provide exploratory environments for children of all ages. She explains to us the challenges posed by RTE – How a kid arrives in a BMW but is using the free tuition seat provided by RTE. She shares her philosophy behind the schools which I will cover in the detailed blog. She laments about how the ICSE and IGCSE certifications are limiting the amount of creativity they can expose the children to. At 8 pm Narasana joins our discussion.

8:30 It’s Hasta Maniana time.

10:30 pm We reach our respective nostalgia head quarters. It’s dinner, shower, more catch up talk and head to bed wishing there were more hours in a day.

South India Trip Chronicles Day 8 Oct. 29

6 am. Wake up and head for Ramana Maharishi Ashram in Tiruvanamalai. We visit his shrine, mediation hall, nirvana home, the two caves (1.5 km uphill) where he lived for over 23 years, their biogas plants. After breakfast at a tourist trap restaurant we head back to Biju’s home. The discussion on eco friendly housing continues. After lunch there is still more to discuss but our next appointment beckons us to move on.

1 pm We arrive at Marudam school. Their goal is to provide a happy and joyous environment for children. They have a climbing wall which they find is therapeutic for children that need to be challenged in order for them to come to terms with their self worth. Children get to learn martial arts, gymnastics, theatre, drawing, sculpture, dance etc. They believe at least 50% of a child’s learning in a day should be arts and creativity related. There are about 80 children in the school. We ask Arun (one of the founders) the top 3 challenges he faced. His response:

  1. Managing the govt. Bureaucracy for setting up of trust, income tax exemption number, FCRA (Foreign Currency Regulation Act) etc.
  2. Working with people and community.
  3. Balancing the needs and wants of the children and their parents.

The discussion continues. Even a strong downpour can’t hold us back. The dry patch moves with the gusts of wind and so do we. Finally we reluctantly say adios.

5 pm Head for Bangalore.

10 pm Arrive in Bangalore. We head to our respective friends residences. It’s time to catch-up with nostalgia, euphoria and walks down memory lane as we head into the inevitable slumber-land of dreams.

South India Trip Chronicles. Day 7 Oct. 28

6:30 am We have an early breakfast and start for Sholai School.

8:30 am We reach Sholai/CLOAAT. Mr. Ramèsh takes us around. This is an experiential learning school. One of the students tells us that she is helping with the restoration of a1942 Austin 7 car. We see their biogas plants, the micro Hydel, Solar power. Water filtration process, carpentry shed.

Two kids Omprakash and Sugandha take us around the campusl. The entire premises is off the grid. The premises is green. The kids seem to be having a good time. We see their cooking chulha. We don’t have time to see the hydro ram. Guess we will have to make one more trip.😊

3 pm We leave for Tiruvanamalai.

10:30 pm We arrive at Biju Bhaskar’s home. He is the master mind behind the Thanal project. He lives in an eco friendly house that he has designed himself. The house is also aesthetically pleasing.

11 pm We have dinner and start discussing eco friendly housing with Biju. The poor fellow is tired and sleepy but our questions are so interesting that he is encouraged and energised to answer us. It would be debatable to wonder who is more tired – he or us.

12:30 am Time to get into the dreamland of eco friendly homes.

South India Trip Chronicles Day 6 Oct.27.

7 am Go for a walk at Isha Yoga Center in Coimbatore. Sujata and Laxman take us around the Isha home school campus. They have preschool to 12th grade. It’s a residential school. Fees Rs 3L per annum. About 20 children per home. Up to grade 4 children are in vertical age groups and are taught at the home level. 5th to 7th is another group. 8th onwards they have separate classrooms.

They also have a sanskriti shala where they are taught the yogi lifestyle. On addition they have schools in villages that offer alternative schooling options to village children.

We then spend some time in the Dhyanalinga, a100ft diameter brick dome with a huge Shiva Linga in the middle.

2 pm We arrive at Nisha and Raghu’s place

Their 9 year old son Omnath is home schooled. Their house had a Laurie Baker design. Raghu takes around their 11 acre farm. When they bought it, it was just barren land. Now the main portion is a forest. Namalwar helped in the design of their forest. If Fukuoka promoted “Do nothing”, Raghu wants to promote “No thinking” farming. We then leave for Kodaikanal.

10 pm Arrive at the lodge in Kodai, have dinner, get the fireplace going. Shower and sleep.

outh India Trip Chronicles. Day 5 Oct 26.

6:30 an We go for a leisurely walk through the tea estates, watch and listen to the birds, soak in the hilly landscape, the mist in the air, the taste of freshly plucked pink guava. It’s a perfect beginning after a hectic previous day.

9 am At breakfast we taste the various cheese available at the farm. We then go for a tour of the 22 acre organic farm. Did you know that it takes 10 liters of milk to make one kg of cheese. We see the cattle shed and the biogas plants.

12 pm We head for Coimbatore. We stop by at Sreedevi and Ramesh’s place. We also meet Sujata and Laxman there who tell us that they were house parents at the Isha Homeschool located inside Isha Yoga Center (ishahomeschool.org). Sreedevi runs the local organic home store. They have a lovely home made of hollow bricks. The house doesn’t need to be painted. Their colour is esthetically pleasing.

7:15 pm We arrive at Isha Yoga Center. We have dinner on the 7:45 pm batch. Check this place out on the web.

11 pm Shower followed by sweet dreams.

South India Trip Day 4 Oct. 25.

4:00 am Alarm wakes us all up. We say our fond good byes to Raghava and family.

2:15 pm Arrive at Vivek and Julie Cariappa’s 30 year old Krac-a-dawna organic farm. They combine technology with organic farming. Their farm is fully sustainable. We ask them what should we do to be successful organic farmers? Vivek’s response, “Just go out there and start growing. Each terrain has its unique qualities. Start growing and the land will tell you what to grow. Listen, learn and evolve.”

5 pm We drive through the Nilgiris. We are a bit concerned about encountering elephants along the way.

9:30 We arrive at Acres Wild in Coonor. The cottage we booked is lovely. We forget the aches of a long day on the road. Have dinner, a refreshing hot shower and then it’s nod off to fairy land.

South India Trip Update. Day 3 Oct. 24.

7 am in Sirsi at Vinish Gupta’s place The meaning of life discussion continues. Karuna has baked organic bread. We finally get to taste the elusive Mango-ginger jam made by Rachita. After a wholesome breakfast we leave for Davangere.

12:30 pm Arrive at Rahhava’s house in Davangere. He has done away with TV. When asked why, his 9 year old home schooled daughter Visista replies, “On TV you have to watch what they show you. On computer you can watch and read what you want.” 👍👍👍😊😊🔔🔔

3:00 pm After an organic lunch we head for his farm. The results of natural farming are mesmerising. We move around like ‘kids in a candy store’ soaking in the greenery of purera creepers, there are fallen coconuts everywhere (there isn’t enough people power to collect them). We see the largest Laxmanfal we have seen only to be told by Raghava that it is not fully grown yet. The discussion on Natural farming continues. We learn that of the 250,000 farmer suicides not a single one is an organic farmer.

8:30 pm We have dinner and discuss the EBHLE project. As we retire for the night we are told that, “we must answer nature’s call in nature itself😟😜😃“.

South India Trip Day 2 Oct 23.

7:30 Start from Dharwad after soaking in the great hospitality extended by Suresh and Geeta.

11:30 Reached Vinish and Karuna’s place. Had discussions about life, its purpose, its meaning, what makes a community, where are we headed, what can we do and how. Moral: Contemplate, learn, share, and most importantly “Just live it.”

5:30 pm Go for a walk and see their 1 acre land.

7:30 Another healthy wholesome meal. The discussion on life continues.

9:30 We go to a 100 year local temple for the Dasera puja.

11:30 pm Good night. Happy life dreams.

South India Trip Update

Day 1 Oct 22nd

7:45 am Left Goa

11:30 Reached Suresh & Geeta’s 19.5 farm in Dharwad. Plucked and ate Guava. They have dug trenches for water conservation, put a barbed wire fence augmented by live Gliricidia with an inner lining of teak trees, accepting animals by letting monkeys taste some of the fruit, have done extensive drip irrigation and planted a variety of food forest trees.

2:30 Lunch with rice and vegetables from their farm.

3:30 Visited Sanjeev Kulkarni’s 17 acre farm bought in 1997. It was barren then. But now it has thick food forest growth with several water bodies. There are a variety of fruits trees, vegetable plants, wild plants. He has Ramfhal, Sitafhal, Laxmanfhal, woodapple, Australian lime, Barbados cherries and several other trees and plants.

7:30 Discussion on EBHLE and Sustainable Organic Farming.

10:00 Dinner with rice and vegetables from Suresh and Geeta’s farm.

11:00 Sweet Dreams, Green Dreams

Update on the South India Trip.

Day -1 Oct 20.

7 am Started from Mumbai.

Stopped at Aakar Pot Art in Indapur. Got a tour of this lovely pottery studio. Did some hands on pottery. Had lunch at Sapna Ranch. Stopped at Hot Water Springs near Ratnagiri. Saw an amazing old temple ruins there. Reached Anil’s hangout in Vagator, Goa. This place is better than a 5 star hotel.

Day 0 Oct 21. Visited Clea’s farm. She is doing an amazing job of creating a food forest. Her farm manager Alex took showed us around. He is an eco philosopher himself. Saw permaculture based soil preparation, live Gliricidia fence, compost toilets, eco friendly homes and common spaces, multi culture based planting.

Day 1 begins today. Will try to provide daily updates from now on.

Let me know if this is of interest to all of you.

Acres Wild

Visitors:

Hasmukh, Shalini, Rachita, Kailash, Soma and Anil

Visited:

25th October 2015 overnight

Website:

http://www.acres-wild.com/

Address:

572, Upper Meanjee Estate, Kannimariamman Kovil Street, Coonoor, Tamil Nadu 643101

Telephone:

094432 32621

Google Coordinates:

https://goo.gl/maps/gJuid3RVNLJ2

Farmer

Mansoor Khan – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mansoor_Khan

Resources

Ted Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vY_o2KR5lu0

Mansoor’s Website: http://mansoorkhan.net/

Book: The Third Curve published in 2008.

Acres Wild is really about Mansoor Khan the “Farmer”. The Farm (Acres Wild) is a consequence of his ideology and a reflection of it. We were unable to meet Mansoor but did have an opportunity to meet his Manager, Munna who took us around the farm.

MANSOOR

Mansoor is from Hyderabad and is trained in Engineering. He tried but dropped out of all the colleges including IIT, Cornell and  MIT to become a Bollywood Director. His Dad is Nasir Hussain who was a very successful movie producer. His first film Qayamat se Qayamat Tak (1988) was a hit and launched the career of his cousin Aamir Khan. He made a couple three more .. all of which were hits but his developing ideology brought him to Conoor with his wife Tina and 2 kids to build Acres Wild. The precipitating factor was the financial crash of 2008 when he published his book – The Third Curve and moved to Acres Wild in 2003. He has no plans to make any more films.

 

IDEOLOGY

My reading of his ideology is that it evolves from a fundamental human frailty – Greed. This is reflected in everything we do. Once we have “it”, we want twice more and consider it our right to assault the planet to get it and we use our technology to do so. This is reflected in our economy …. also called the “magic of compounding” by the financial world. It is a given that a Fixed Deposit will compound at a ROR forever. Our economy is based on the exponential growth of consumption of everything. He however, demonstrates this, with the example of Energy. Fossil fuel is the basis of our technological achievements. Energy is a small component of it. Fossil fuel is the foundation of most of what we use. And our demand for it exponentially increases while the reserves are finite. This is not sustainable. It is the ideology of a cancer cell. His conclusion is that our consumption and needs must reconcile with the rhythm of nature. The sun rises and falls daily .. the seasons cycle annually and so on with the solar system and galaxies. He tries to live in this fashion at Acres Wild.

 

BOOK – THE THIRD CURVE

The book argues the case using “curves”. Our idea (concept) and expectation of “infinite exponential” growth is symbolized by the exponential curve (First Curve). Nature’s reality as a result of this consumption is expressed as a Bell curve (Second Curve). This means that nature will provide up to a maximum point (peak) and then resources will start to diminish as consumption accelerates to a level of zero. Resources are not being replenished as fast as they are being consumed. His suggestion is to operate on the Third Curve – a gentle sinusoid that matches the rhythm of life and sustains. There are nature’s periods of more and periods of less and our consumption needs to match this rhythm for us to be sustainable.

 

THE FARM/FARMSTAY – ACRES WILD

We did not meet Mansoor but I will try to connect the dots to answer as many of the questions as we had wanted answers to. I was not diligent about taking notes when Munna took us around and also was more taken up with the joy of the experience than the rigor of documenting, so forgive any and all misrepresentations.

 

Acres Wild is first, a 22 acre organic farm that is self supporting and local. I did not see any boundaries so that wildlife moved in and out of the farm and I was told that there were some leopard sightings. The Farm loses animals to predators on a regular basis. Mansoor does nothing aggressive about this. The Farm also has some dozen cows whose milk is used by Tina to make a variety of cheeses that are sold locally. I had called Mansoor to see if he would deliver to Mumbai and he politely declined. There were a variety of crops including, of course, coffee.

Acres Wild has its own water source and is built along a hillside. Mansoor designed around the water flow to create a pond that serves as a reservoir and a swimming pool.

The cow dung, urine and kitchen waste provide raw materials for a biogas plant which serves as the cooking gas for the farm and guests. The effluent from the biogas plant is distributed as fertiliser. Hot water is provided for by Solar Cells with electricity as backup.

Mansoor also has 3 charming cottages for visitors to experience farm life. The cottages are charming and the views exhilarating. I am happy to report that ice is available for your scotch and cigar smoking is not looked down upon.

My guess is that Mansoor had the resources to buy the land. His family is sole owner. He lives there and it appears that between distribution of his excess crops, cheese sales and cottage guests he is self sustaining. He has a crew of about 6 workers led by Munna who has his own farm but since he has 2 able brothers to handle his own farm, he works for Mansoor for additional income. He mentioned that farm hands can do all work so that absenteeism does not disrupt daily routine. Farm hands are swappable. Since Mansoor is away lecturing often it appears that his organisation is mature, self sufficient and reliable. Munna has been with him since 2003.

 

I have chatted with Mansoor on the phone and he has the grounded confidence of other IIT folk I have met. There are exceptions, of course, but that is fodder for another forum. So it is unlikely that his family offered much resistance to his move to Conoor. It appeared from Munna’s conversation that he did not start with the vision of what Acres Wild is today … but that it developed as he went along. I have noticed this journey throughout my trip with other farmers.

 

I wish I could have met him to know his future plans and some of the obstacles that he overcame. However I am certain that if I had had the opportunity to ask him about how to start, his response would be – “with you, and not with the land”.

Ramana Maharishi Ashram

 

Visitors:

Hasmukh, Shalini, Rachita, Kailash, Soma and Anil

Visited:

26th October 2015 overnight

Website:

http://www.sriramanamaharshi.org/

Address:

Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu 606603, India

Telephone:

+91 – 9244937292

Google Coordinates:

https://goo.gl/maps/9md231jyEFn

Rishi

Shri Ramana Maharishi – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Ramana_Ashram

Resources

The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharishi – Ramana Maharishi

Talks with Ramana Maharishi – Ramana Maharishi

Amar Chitra Katha – Ramana Maharishi

You tube Videos

The Ashram is at the foot of Arunachala Hill in Tiruvannamalai.

RAMANA MAHARISHI

Ramana Maharishi was born in 1879 on the day that Lord Siva is supposed to manifest himself in Tiruchuzi. At the age of 16 he is supposed to have achieved enlightenment and was drawn to the Arunachal hill in Tiruvannamalai. He left home and meditated at the temple at the foot of the hill. Apparently he meditated for so long that his legs were eaten by bugs and the locals took him in and tended him back to health. He then moved to a cave on the hill and over time drew devotees that would feed him. After staying in 3 caves at different times he moved to the bottom of the hill where the ashram now stands. The ashram was built over time by donations and a myriad of visitors from all over the world.

He was always available to any visitor from any walk of life and did not differentiate between them nor between humans and animals. It is believed that a cow (Laxmi) who lived in the ashram along with many other animals also achieved realisation. He is known to have had “conversations” with all animals in the area …. snakes, leopards monkeys et al. And it is said that when he talked to them they responded intelligently. He was the inspiration of most of the well known philosophers of that time and now.

Although he had discourses (in what is now called the old hall) his belief was that Silence was the true teacher. There were many devotees who sat with him in silence and found peace within themselves.

He died of cancer in April 1950. On the day of his death when he could hardly hold his head up he was adamant that all who wanted to see him must be able to do so.

IDEOLOGY

Ramana Maharishi’s teachings are identified with the age old philosophy in India – Advaita. The Gita is an exposition of Dvaita where God is to be realised as distinct from you. Advaita is the proposition of no-two. This is distinct from one .. as one still implies other. The implication is that there is nothing other than Self and it is the I-thought that separates man from Self. That which “generates” this I-thought is the Self and may not be “realised” as the mind is needed to realise stuff …. whereas the mind is Self also. The Self generates this I-thought to play hide and seek with itself. Also known as Maya or the Dance of Shiva. It is like the eye trying to see the eye. Although Ramana Maharishi had no quarrel with kriyas, meditative practices and sadhanas .. his encouragement was exclusively towards the relentless line of questioning – “Who am I”.

Advaita is very akin to Taoism and most proponents of Advaita freely mix concepts between Advaita and Taoism.

THE ASHRAM

The Ashram is a simple enough place, but bursting with energy. As you enter past the parking lot you see the New Hall which has Ramana Maharishi’s Mother and his own “Samadhi”. Past this is the Old hall which is where He had his discourses. Meditating there is a moving experience for many. Then there is the dining hall and accommodations along with the Nirvana Room where He died.

Behind the ashram is a gate leading to a trail that takes you all his caves, I had the privilege of seeing only one of them. It was a powerful experience for me.

There is an 8 mile trail around the mountain that Ramana Maharishi used to walk every day. Many devotees consider it a privilege to be able to do the same.

The ashram has a lot of peacocks, monkeys, dogs and cattle. The cattle are in a cordoned area but inside that they have free reign (i.e. they are not tied to anything). Ramana Maharishi loved animals and nature. When he moved there the mountain was barren. Now there are several large trees that populate the area.  

I am not up on how the ashram is run but I do believe there is no dearth of donations keeping it bustling.

 

NOTES

Other than Ramana Maharishi’s own books there are many authors that echo his ideology in some form or other. They all will take pains to doff their hat to Ramana Maharishi. I can offer you my personal favorites for your reading pleasure. Since I think in English and I resonate with western articulation better than Indian these books are mostly western Authors. Ilist them in order of favorites

 

Alan Watts

Wayne Liquorman

Ram Tsu (who is actually Wayne also)

Eckhart Tolle

Ramesh Balseker

Nisargadata Maharaj – I am That

 

I cannot leave Lisa Cairns out this list .. although I prefer her you Tube Videos to her writing.

Aarohi O-Campus, Kelamangalam, Hosur

 

 

Visitors:

Hasmukh, Anil, Suma, Rachita, Kailash, Shalini

Visited:

30th October 2015  – Morning

Website:

http://www.aarohilife.org/

Address:

Survey No 1032/2, Thiyaranadurgam Village, Denkanikottai-Shoolagiri Road, Kelamangalam, Hosur, Tamil Nadu 635113

Telephone:

098450 45833

Google Coordinates:

 
Contact Person

Ratnesh, Aditi, Leela

Resources

 

 

O-Campus is in a village near Kelamangalam town, near Hosur city in Tamil Nadu – located 3km from Kelamangalam village, 16km from Hosur and 55km from the center of Bangalore. Aarohi started in June 2009 in Geniekids Indiranagar center, Bangalore. One year after starting, there was a need for bigger space. Deb uncle (Deb Bhushan Mukherjee, grandfather of one of Aarohi children) in a super generous gesture donated about 5 acres of land – which is now the O campus.

The Aarohi Campus is called Open (O) campus – because it is open to all kinds of learning, all ages of learners, all ways of learning! O campus is open to failure, success, results, process, precision, approximation, conflicts, coexistence, explorations, experimentation, expressions and experiences and everything else you can find wherever the sky and horizon meet!  Ratnesh says the campus development in itself has been (and continues to be) a huge learning opportunity for them.

As we arrived in Aarohi, we were greeted by Ratnesh with a hearty smile and pleasantly surprised to see a prototype of Geometric dome built using bamboo under the able virtual guidance of Hasmukh. Ratnesh says the kids enjoyed building this and it was done in about a week’s time and the kids were already playing in it.  While our breakfast was pre-arranged at the premises and still getting ready, we enjoyed our hot cup of tea, we noticed a young lady Ansari walk by to the kitchen, who is also the daughter of Ratnesh completely involved in baking a cake for birthday kids at the campus. As she stood there to talk to us for a few minutes, Anil was completely blown away to this response.

Anil: what would you like to do when you grow up?

Ansari: I like to cook for others ☺

We then finished a yummy delicious breakfast and Ratnesh took us on a campus tour. The kids and the adults stay in one house, that consists of a master room and other smaller rooms with dormitory bunk beds system. The first floor is a multipurpose room which acts like a library cum presentation room.  I had the opportunity to facilitate some fun games that have been borrowed from Play for Peace in the balcony and the children thoroughly enjoyed it. We now moved indoors to sit through Hasmukh’s presentation, where he showed some geometric bamboo designs and the making of it using online resources. The kids were super excited after watching the making of simple geometric designs using sticks and cycle valve tube. They had the opportunity to try making it themselves and absolutely delighted to see it take shapes.

Our team had spent close to 4 hours in conversation and Ratnesh was as restless as a kid with questions pertaining to building structures using bamboo and it certainly was unlikely to finish in one meeting. Ratnesh and Hasmukh cordially exchanged their contact and promised to keep in touch and share resources via emails.  We even treated ourselves to lunch at the campus and with heavy hearts departed to our next destination post lunch.

Kids age group : 8-17 years old

The kids enjoy making their own time table for the day including chores, games, cooking, cleaning, planting, nurturing animals and having fun !

Please call Ratnesh on 98450-45833 or Aditi on 98867-24518 or at Campus mobile 89037-83892 for further questions regarding your visit. You can visit any day in a week, including weekends (avoid Fridays).