The Organic Cycle Journey
In all the madness that happens around you, it is amazing how life wants to create some more madness with you being in the center of it all. Now that I recall some beautiful moments that occurred on a beautiful journey to understand organic farming, one’s conviction to align to the madness or a better word ‘follow your heart’ certainly gets a boost. Never before did that realization strike that life is so finely and intricately woven to teach you some important lessons in life and as one wise friend staying in Coimbatore said “you have to tune into nature for that realization to come through”. Feeling so grateful for all the beautiful experiences and learning that has happened in this journey from Pune to Rajkot on a bicycle meeting organic farmers and peeping a little closely on their tuning with nature and alignment with a purpose much higher that just farming.
While there are a lot of details and many interesting conversations there are a few that have the highest recall from my heart. Tejas is an interesting young farmer based in Nashik. The first impression one gets is of him being arrogant, self absorbed, non-conformist, etc but as we got into layers of what he was saying I realized that he was warm, hard working, sharp and experienced. I could almost relate him to a coconut with hard exterior but extremely soft and sweet inside. Our conversation lasted for almost 3 hours but these few lines stay imprinted in my heart for ever. He said ‘There are thousands of experts in every field and I salute all of them for what they have offered to the world and none of them are wrong. However, it’s up to you to connect with your land, nature, environment at your own farm and only then the answers will be revealed to you. All your solutions are right here. One has to tune into what’s brewing at your farm and allow nature to do its things while you align yourself to that. There are no mistakes only experiments to make you more humble and surrender to the unknown, that one understands very little of”. Phew! Almost sounded like a farming dhamma talk. Some of the questions that I started asking myself were, ‘What is my nature?, How do I align to that nature and tune into that which is all pervading?, ‘How do I develop the faculty to be able to understand some of the unknown and learn from it?One particular morning I felt physically drained and woke up to a painful physical state with knees and back hurting a lot but the commitment to meet the farmers group in the village ahead was something I didn’t want to break. I started cycling and a few kilometres on the roads I remembered a noble friends advice ‘Sit like a mountain and let everything flow through you’. That one statement kept me going and in no time I felt my body loosening up, pain started reducing and I was almost cycling at the speed of a bike. After a few hours I suddenly felt the urge to stop and sit as my heart was saying something. I parked aside and sat on the pavement and this is what my heart told me, ‘if you stick to the pain, it’s like holding on to the mountains in your mind about how heavy the body is and how impossible it is to go ahead but if you endure just a little, the body starts making way like a river through the mountains and after sometime the mountains just disappear and all that remains is a flow which is guided by nature’. For the first time I could clearly see two separate components – heart and mind talking to each other while I was merely observing and overtime I realized that in this journey cycle was just a tool for such a discussion to happen. Being the Po that I am, I started joking to myself – Be it cycling or meditation you need to have a strong butt and I was laughing to myself to ease the situation in my mind and the journey ahead felt easy.
What was interesting is when I met a few farmers in Gujarat, I started asking questions like ‘Why are you organic’ and the instantaneous reply would be ‘Dharti (Earth, soil or land) is our mother and there is never what we can do to repay her, so the least we can do is to at least not harm her more’. That coming from experienced but completely uneducated farmers was truly amazing. One farmer moved me to tears by saying ‘How can I feed poison to my mother’, While a few others had interesting responses. This is the 6th generation or 4th generation that we are organic and we just don’t know or want to know any other way. We are all dharti putras (son of soil) and it is our duty to protect mother earth. Being the auditor mind that I have, I thought maybe some of the answers are too farfetched, or they want to give me politically correct answers and so on but as I dug a little deeper a whole new world started opening in front of my eyes. It is interesting to note that each of these farmers who have been organic for decades have been influenced by one or the other spiritual teachers or their teachings. One such person is ‘Shri. Pandurang Athavale’ also known as Pandurang Shastri and known for organizing a global community called ‘Swadhyay’ and between Valsad and Surat almost all villages following organic practices lived these practices in their lives. I almost cried when I sat with one elder in whose house Athavale-ji had himself stayed for a week said, “We are satvik, that is why we are organic and we only want to feed our brother ad sisters with what is offered with purity by nature. We know that there is a huge market and we can earn multiples of what we are earning but that is secondary. The question is can people in my and nearby villages start eating good food and live healthily. That is the key for our social structure to remain intact”. Where does so much wisdom come from? How does this man sitting in one small village think with so much love about people around him? Against all odds with untimely rains, hail storms, pest attacks, etc how does he completely surrender to the process and accept everything with so much humility.
It is a treat to watch the farmer’s family early in the morning. The family gets up at 5.30 and without any discussion, everyone knows what to do. The father starts milking the cow, the mother starts the fire for hot water and cooking, cleans the compound of the house while their children sleepily watch their parents and wait for the sun to rise completely. Once that is done the children take their tools and vessels to pick up all the cow dung created in the night. Once they clean it, they untie the cattle for them to stroll a little around the segregated area around the house. Meanwhile, the father is ready after bath and the mother has already cooked morning breakfast which usually is Roti with hot chai. As soon as that is done the father leaves for his farm while the mother cooks for lunch and the kids are ready to take the cattle for grazing. All this is done by 7am. What I loved most was their seamless integration with nature and effortless execution. On data front, it is interesting to note that most farmers with less than 5 acres of land can survive only if they have cattle integrated farming. Which essentially means that he gets milk from the cow for his family and the rest he delivers it to the dairy, he uses the cow dung for his bio gas plant whereby getting the cooking gas for home and the resultant slurry from the bio gas plant as a key ingredient to be mixed with soil, cow dung and some kitchen waste. This soil is extremely potent and automatically invites earth worms to feed and create manure. The same manure is used in the farm to create food for the family and market needs. One truly organic and amazing farmer - Samat bhai wears only those clothes made from organic cotton grown in his farm. I have never seen a more humble and knowledgeable farmer like this man. The day I reached his house little did I know that he already had 20 guests who had come with a marriage proposal for Samat bhai’s daughter. This is a huge thing in India and usually it’s all within the family. But for him it was extremely effortless to introduce me as his younger brother from Pune and shared all about my journey with the guests. That was not all. When the guests left they made sure that I take the route via their village and said now that we are all family, you should come. When I landed there the next day there were 40 people waiting for me at the village entrance to welcome me. Unbelievable! The humility, simplicity, the expression of oneness and the effortless alignment with nature was an eye opener. What if each day I lived with so much simplicity yet discipline? What if each day was as new like the shining eyes of the kids laughing and joking with each other on how smelly the poop was compared to yesterday yet effortlessly picking up all and cleaning it? I think I experienced for the first time what it means to truly hold space by learning from the soil. The soil completely gives way for the seed to grow, provides all the nutrients, nourishes and provides warmth, goes through changes itself each day and letting all the micro organisms, bacteria, minerals, earth worms do their needful in creating within its womb for the seed to grow and still as soft and humble that the roots go deeper and still completely invisible in their role.
During the entire journey I learnt of so many organic practices, methods, organic manures, organic pesticides, vermicompost, seed collection, distribution system, market, exports, etc but what I most learnt was to stay true to the nature, completely surrendering to the natural process and tune into what you most align with and learn selfless giving with love. What it means to truly hold space and how to be humble and being invisible in the process of transformation. As I keep mulching over what had just happened and process everything it will be clearer on what lies ahead on this path of creating a community of organic farmers and what it means to be truly organic.