Thursday, September 15, 2005

Navadarshanam - The Concept

When Ananthu and Jyothi stood there having made their way through the muddy, foot wide roads and lush green paddy fields, what lay before them was a vast expanse of land that once housed a teeming forest but was now barren but for a handful of trees, lying as a standing proof of gluttony (on the part of the cattle) and human apathy.
That was close to decade ago.

Standing on the portico of one of his cottages situated amidst lush green wilderness, he pauses to watch the afternoon sun disappear under an inkling of a dark cloud and tells me that all he did was to build a fence around the land to stop the goats from grazing the lands again. And trees of all shapes, types and sizes sway once more along with the early evening breeze, emphasizing the wisdom of the decision – trees spanning acres and acres of land leaving rocks and trodden paths as the only evidence of the earth below.

Ananthu uncle likes to call Navadarshanam as a “public charitable trust devoted to investigation to the modern way of living and thinking, keeping in mind ecological and spiritual perspectives”. And the doors of the place are open for “those wishing to experience an eco-friendly environment, simple living facilities and wholesome food”. What all this translates to is a small self-sufficient village that sustains itself satisfying any need that may arise. A tall claim you might say – Not when you know that they grow their own vegetables, maintain their own cows for milk, generate their own (solar and gobar) electricity, have their own charcoal plant and avoid anything canned, tinned, plastic, that will even remotely affect the environment, except perhaps for a Tata indica that stands outside their doors (which probably runs on organic petrol, you never know!).

Walking with him as he explains his different endeavors is like going through your high school science text book – controlled combustion, renewable energy, nutritional cycle, adulteration – just that these 2 mark questions have been translated to real life working models that sustain the population there. The whole place is a standing proof of how man, nature and science can actually co-exist comfortably rather than work at each other’s cost.

Thanks to CDMA, he has a functional phone connection; regularly checks his emails and has a house in Whitefield that he bought “when one had to walk a mile to get a cup of tea or see a fellow human being”. Apart from that, his life is completely oblivious to the vagaries of the city that’s crumbling in its own weight. His world comprises of Jyothi aunty, and those working inside Navadarshanam taking up responsibilities in the kitchen, animal shed and future construction. Every once in a while, people come to stay for a day or two – most of them old acquaintances, or people like me who accidentally heard about it through word of mouth and he spends his days making sure our stay is comfortable regaling everyone during dinner with stories from his days in IIT, and reading books out of CV Raman’s book case that proudly adorns his reading room.

The cottages themselves are a work of art. They are open, spacious and are well-lit by sunlight throughout the day. Standing on the portico, one gets a view of the whole forest, the lake beyond and a skyline untouched by the human hand. In the nights, when you drift to sleep after being assured that the electric fence will indeed keep the wild elephants away, listening to the buzzing bees, hissing snakes, the mildly irritating mosquitoes that nag right into your ears about their day’s work, and the swaying wind chimes that don’t sleep for a moment, you realize that it’s been ages since you listened to these sounds, that barking stray dogs is the only natural sound that one gets to hear in a whole day, that our senses have become numb to so many sights, smells and sounds. Back in the 60s, on a summer morning in the US consulate in New York, the lady behind the glass pane asked Ananthu uncle whether he knew what he was doing for she couldn’t understand why a Stanford graduate with a wonderful job and a handsome salary, just months away from getting a green card would want to leave the United States. She should probably come down to Navadarshanam and she’ll realize all that ‘sacrifice’ was worth so much more.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds heavenly. Would like to visit this place sometime. Where exactly is this?

4:31 PM  
Blogger Kumari said...

Is Nirvana the absence of want or the realization that this is all i want?

7:50 PM  
Blogger Anirudh said...

Am i hallucinating or is that really Yuva in one of the pics? The place looks like Utopia, but we have such a symbiotic relationship with citylife, i wonder if such brave decisions will be emulated by many others. Its inspirational and the same time disheartening, makes one feel so small in comparison.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"standing proof of how man, nature and science can actually co-exist comfortably rather than work at each other’s cost"
very well said!
Awesome post man! This is what I wanted :-)

9:18 AM  
Blogger Rathish said...

@Anonymous - It's 20 kms from Electronic city just after you cross the TN border. Will post the directions (or a copy of the map soon)

@Anirudh - No, but it's a very close life like replica I should tell you ;) I had the same discussions with Ananthu uncle - whether this can be extended to a whole city. But I realized, with time we will only reinvent the wheel and start industrialization once again. How it is now is extremely controlled and regulatedd where one man makes the policy decisions. Problems arise when things become big enough that you bring in a middle management which usually becomes too process oriented and forgets the ends!

@Kumari - Nirvana is not about want. Nirvana is about peace, about coexistence - with yourself, your wants and the world inside and outside.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Rathish said...

@P - thanks man! guruji, shall soon send you the snaps that I took - do let me know your expert comments :)

9:21 AM  
Blogger KoPoS said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:58 AM  
Blogger KoPoS said...


Instead of extending it to the city, why not divide the city into smaller coexisting, self-sufficient colonies? Why try tame a beast at all?
But yeah trying to replicate such things is not practical atleast not with the urban greed thats everywhere, gas guzzlers, huge amounts of water being wasted. It needs not the effort of an individual but a change in the mindset of a population which sadly is a very difficult thing to achieve.

This seems to be a second person ive got a first hand account of after another person with almost the same history/ambitions, a NGO called BCT which has been making a quite revolution in the remote parts of Vizag!

Had to delete the same comment earlier, coz they were too many typos.

12:02 PM  

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