OB00A1

In quest of a more meaningful life

For the past 3-4 years I have been trying to opt out of the mainstream life and return to nature. With 4 dependents and their diverse and individual fears and needs, the journey has been arduous and only partially successful. I have been documenting some of these in my website www.earth.org.in. Several good souls have visited the site and in particular it has been getting more hits in the past 4-6 weeks. Consequently many have written to me asking for advice(!), opinion and so on, on how one proceeds to quit their current job and return to nature. While I am in no way qualified to guide anyone in his/her quest (the blind leading the blind!), this write-up is intended to moot an idea which may answer at least some of the questions.

We all have families (which means wife, children, elders). Life as we commonly understand it, boils down to sustaining ourselves and our dependents, finding and holding on tenaciously to a job, educating our children, getting our daughters married to good and rich men, buy/build a house with a home loan ( and pay for it with the next 15 - 20 years of our labor), send our children to USA or UK for jobs, take good medical care of our parents, grow old , try to stay as healthy as possible, grow older and then give up the ghost! It is a very hard and insipid life, which would be very comic if it weren't so tragic. There is nothing wrong with this, but nowadays we have to paddle very hard just to stay where we are. It does not require an Einstein to figure out that we are poorer than our forefathers in leisure, health and overall happiness. We are also depleting available resources rapidly so our very existence is seriously threatened.

So I was trying to find an answer to Thoreau's classic question: "How can I earn a livelihood and still have time to live?". The answer was simple and straightforward although by no means easy. "Simplify, simplify, simplify!". That is all fine, but how do I simplify and more importantly what do I simplify?

It occurred to me that to simplify my life's necessaries was a very meaningful thing to do. But to simplify I first needed to identify what our needs are. Ours is a typical middle class Indian family:

Me(44), my wife(35), my son (12) and daughter (7) and grandma (86).

The needs are also typical.

Food

A reasonably safe house to live in

Electricity ( and associated gadgets)

Cosmetics

Cooking Gas

School for my kids

Medical facilities nearby

Neighbours to gossip with and about

Safety in the neighbourhood

and of course the ubiquitous cable TV

If I can provide for these needs myself, then I really wont need to work hard at a job to buy these from the market.

So we bought a farm to try and grow our food. I also built a small concrete house in the farm so we can live in it. We sold off our flat in Chennai and migrated to a small town near the farm where my kids are going to school. The idea is we will aim for as much self-sufficiency as possible, grow organic food, do gardening, have a cow or two, grow trees, use windmills for energy and water pumping, cook with bio-gas, grow herbs for cosmetics & health, research on alternate medicine and over a period of time educate my kids myself and give up TV.

What a wonderful dream! A world of health, beauty, permanence, harmony and even innocence.

But the real problem started when I tried to move my family to the farm!

There are no neighbours and what neighbours there are, are of a completely different wavelength, too rustic for my wife or children to interact with (or so they claim). So they bluntly refused to move to the farm. And here I am, stuck in a township 14 km from my farm, living and fighting for my space in a cluster of 1 ground plots, and now building a concrete house in a ground I bought. I am now in a stalemate and whats called a zugzwang in chess. (whatever move I make will jeopardize the set-up). I may need another 10 years to go to my farm (when my kids are old enough).

So for those of you who want to return to nature, the only meaningful and non-violent way you can do it, is by gathering a few more of like minded families and try and form a small community. A community of 7 to 10 families who wish to live in harmony with nature and who are willing to give up the city life for a more meaningful life.


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