The beginning or the end?
(Let’s just say, it’s somewhere out there in the complicated circle of life!)
It is a popular saying that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Herculean it may be, but start it must, somewhere; sometime; somehow. 1000 is a daunting number, as anyone who knows the sanskrit word, ‘Sahasram’, will tell you. For it connotes limits and thresholds, for better or for worse.
Just to set things clear from the outset – this IS NOT your average ‘how I turned over a new leaf’, or ‘how I became an environment conscious individual’, or even your ‘I have transformed and sold my “possessions” and moved to the country’ types! This is about an honest struggle full of heart to walk a path of compassion and coexistence. You can trust me on that. Yes, absolutely! 🙂
Art by yours truly; tutorial credit: Sheshina @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Puhi5j5Zf0&t=631s
Part 1 – Confessions, of the petty kind
I loved nature, from childhood. As Lord Byron is supposed to have said, ‘I love not man the less, but nature more’. And so there was always this yearning to stay close, to the natural ecosystem. Yearnings only go so far, before the practical life takes over; and walks over it and bends it backwards. More on that long backstory of a journey in another post. Long story short, I took the conventional route of being a common woman and a decent family provider. ‘Coz it had to be done. The unsettled nagging continued, nevertheless; a lack of connect – with people or places; except for the superficial. It took a very many years, a very many attempts, a very many hardships, to steer life in the direction I was hoping would ground me; root me; and complete me. Finally, yes, finally, we have reached that turn on the road; Will it see us through? Is there a possibility of fruition – of a living that is more close to nature, respectful of natural resources and serves our role on this planet – to conserve rather than deplete it. To live, and feel that it has been of some purpose, besides the obvious self-serving one. This then, is that journey – a humble attempt at a sustainable and ecologically respectful living.
Walk with us, follow this post, if you would like to join our exploration – of the self, its strengths and weaknesses and where it takes us; and support us with your encouragement if you find it worthy of your support.
Art by yours truly; tutorial credit: Tanoy@ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fhw5Nq4M6A
Part 2 – Of societal qualms
Only when you have truly experienced the sense of not ‘being at home’ or ‘feeling at home’ in a place/ environment/ situation, can you possibly fathom the sense of restlessness of someone struggling to ‘fit in’. Growing up without adequate security is often a harsh reality for many, in the lower social strata. And some of the primary elements of that security stems from identity and support – a place to call ‘home’, a roof over your head, a societal support system that begins with the family and extends into the larger community of friends and fellow kinsfolk. In the absence of all or many of the above, one is often found wandering, within the spaces of time and the mind – constantly rooting and uprooting oneself. It’s not a stable system and needs constant calibration to maintain sanity. From the primal human needs, this then extends to the larger conformist cliches of society – be it related to age, gender, ‘academic’ qualification, ambition, all of which can easily bypass/ sideline (and usually do) skill, ‘knowledgable’ qualification, passion, integrity. It’s through such ‘society’ that some of us trudge through, to literally ‘make’ ourselves. And ‘living’ becomes a space where reality and illusion blurs, into one composite.
An uphill task (November 2022)
It’s been a mammoth uphill task (in the plains! :)) to move along on this – both on the digital media (to get to this paragraph) and in the real field of action! Some countries can be notorious for their bureaucracy that can hamper more than further forward movement of files or activities! And so it inches slowly on ground. Land is a difficult resource to come by, let alone own, when you are one without roots. There’s a common saying in Tamizh that loosely translates to ‘build a house and see’ – to indicate that it is an undertaking not to be taken lightly and cannot be completed easily! I should know! Our search for land began way back and while the inclination was there, the means were not. And so, we ended up looking endlessly, for something that would fit in our budget and vision of what we set out to do – a place to practice a sustainable lifestyle, to support nature through our own living. Finally, we ended up down south with a piece of degraded uncared for land, waiting to be restored, revived, relived – by itself and by us. Here it begins – a story of talking and listening to the land. The land can speak in very many hues and senses; what does it whisper? what does it roar? what does it yearn? will we learn to understand its language? and respond accordingly? I sure am at it, I know. And with time, I will grow; into the land until we become one, and the same. For we are but ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust‘.
A green earth, red tape, and people politics (December 4, 2022)
Let the ends with your means, is an oft stated wise saying. After years of searching, hitting roadblocks at every juncture, we finally managed to get a degraded piece of the earth that we sought to restore, rejuvenate within our limited means and abilities. Limited financial resources means that prime real estate is hard to come by and so one settles for difficult landscapes. This one was near to the forest, but last farmed over 40 years back and then left to degrade, for lack of interest in anything other than looking at land as an ‘investment’. When left on its own, growing wild is the best defense/ offsense for the land to survive. So, the land is covered with thorny hardy plants that ensure their survival at the hands of an enormous amount of grazing, and during the brief rainy season, lush vegetation sprouts which is promptly chomped down by the time the summer is done. Access is another huge issue in most rural areas and if you choose to move away from prominent roads, disentangling the access dialogue can be as bad as a prime time TV reporting that leads to nowhere but goes in circles! This, coupled with vague land acts that leave a lot of interpretation and speculation means that departmental processes are slow to resolve aspects and so it drags on with an endless red tape.
Garett Hardin’s ‘tragedy of commons’ also applies to abandoned private lands which may not be commons, but for lack of ownership discipline falls into all kinds of use/ abuse. This was also an unfolding feature in this land, as left with no voice, anyone and everyone around, claimed a use of it – some for access, some for grazing, some for extraction, some for plain destruction – all intent in using the land and none intent in nurturing it. Nature will regenerate if left to its own means and ends; however, when continually interfered with, by man, it cannot bounce back and needs the same human interference in the form of informed management and conscientious conservation.
And so it is where it stands now – to resolve these dialogues while beginning to nurture the land for what its worth (can/ should be, truly). A land, distressed, but full of potential.
Inching ahead, slow and steady (December 14, 2022)
The rains have been less than normal this year. That was a bit of a disappointment but you take what you get and run with it; that is life. So, that’s what we have been at. A lot of land preparation work was the first order of the day, not to mention getting some semblance of road access so we can physically reach the land. Encroachments, intimidation, money plays have all been part of this game, for better or for worse. And a valuable lesson in human degeneracy. Despite all that, progress has been made, with time; persistence and time heals, as they say. The road is still paved with slippery ups and downs (literally! ;)) but there is some road now; a lot of thorny and invasive shrubbery had to go to make way for other planting. I spoke about how the land has a tendency to get wild left to its own measures in a harsh unfriendly setup; the thorny and invasive shrubs were a manifest of that condition of the land. While there is miles to go, some of it has been cleared and the land is getting ready for some love and care – in the form of green manure planting. A bunch of percolation pits were dug too, to allow a better retention of water within rather than move as surface runoff taking the soil with it. The land had been washed off in this manner in the past making it poor. Now the journey begins to enrich it, back to health. While it gets easily summed up in a short paragraph, it has taken a few months of keeping at it, tirelessly, working with people, weather, process, finances to get this small para worth of work, done. 🙂
Interestingly, the whole time of working on the land, also got us to observe it closely, at the soil level; for instance, how it varies from one place to another – from sandy to clay. Interesting on how I found many residents of the land – from the numerous butterflies, beetles, birds, ants, worms to scorpions, boars and peacocks! It’s the hope that we will live alongside, without loss of home. So the long drawn journey has been great, in this regard – allowing me to absorb all this, while work chugs along.