I was born in a remote village in Uttarpradesh. Both my parents were first generation learners. They had wonderful and responsible childhoods and were happy people. After my father got through the bank interview he came to Mumbai to work in the Reserve Bank of India. My mother and I followed around 9 months later.
In a couple of years, my dad took a loan to buy a house in the RBI housing society in Ghatkopar. So that was where I grew up and have memories of. There was no pretence in our their lives. We lived a very frugal life because my father wanted to payoff his loans. We got one dress for our birthday and one for Diwali festival. Food was very delicious and very simple. My mother being a wonderful homemaker, she stitched our clothes, made all the snacks and pickles, and kept herself busy with some creative activity or the other like knitting, crochet, embroidery, baking, and cooking wonderful food with simple ingredients!
The most wonderful thing that my parents did was that they did not dream our lives for us. They wanted us to be responsible and trustworthy human beings but apart from that they allowed us to be children. They did not compare us with other children and did not expect us to get too many marks. He only said, “Make sure you pass because other wise you will end up spending one more year in school”. So there was no performance pressure. We were allowed to climb trees, play till we were dead tired and sleep early so that we could go to school on time. Even our school timings were conducive to having a lot of time to play. We went to school at 6.00 am and were back home by 2.00 pm for lunch. We had to help out in the chores but other wise we were free to play! We were free to think! We were free to question what we observed and we were free to share our thoughts with our parents!
Since I had so much time to sit up in the tree and meditate or observe the lives of the poor and the labourers, I had a lot of questions about the disparity and poverty. Often I asked my father why poor people had no house, why we did not have a TV, why he never took us to eat in restaurants or for movies, why we worshipped gods… etc and each time I got a patient and well thought out reply. I was never too young to understand. He took time to explain and I felt respected and knew that my feelings and thoughts were valued. At home we were taught to clean up our plates and no food waste was allowed. Both my parents were farmers and knew the labour involved in growing food. So when I saw food being wasted in weddings and parties, I got very upset and asked my dad why they were wasting food, and my father said that we could only change ourselves and it was no use criticising the actions of others over which we can exercise no control. And that has been the mantra of my existence.
By the time I was finishing Architecture school, I was convinced that I did not want a life in the city. I felt that I was controlled by too many outside forces in the city. I felt that it was my duty to give my body good food, clean water and fresh air. And I decided to shift to a rural location. I moved to Auroville and worked there for one year but felt that the social problems there were the same there too! So after meeting my husband in 1989, we were looking for land to settle down on.
In 1992, we found our land and settled down at Dharmapuri. Since then it has been a journey to understand the processes in nature and to imitate them to make life as harmonious as possible with the processes of life. All this was an intuitive process. The process of conscious consumerism began with my childhood experience of living a frugal life in the face of limited resources.
As a young person I remember becoming completely hopeless and wondering what the purpose of life was. I wondered how humans had managed to create a society where jealousy and hatred were nurtured and tolerance and compassion were considered weaknesses.
This course is designed to help understand that we cannot have a sustainable way of life without being sensitive to the environment and the social disparity. The five aspects of life - Philosophical, Psychological, Environmental, Economic and Physical cannot be separated just life the five elements - Fire, Earth, Water, Air and Space. The five elements come together to create everything living and non living in our world while the five aspects of life come together to bring harmony into that world.
Education should help us understand these five aspects of life. Instead of being taught different subjects we should be allowed to learn how our life values define our philosophy, how our relationships can become more stable when we understand psychology, how our environment needs to be supported so that it can support us, how economics that do not take into consideration the health of the society and the forest is not going to last and how to change our physical reality using our bodies to create rather and destroy the resources of mother nature.
Hope is a good thing, Perhaps the best of things! Hope is what young people need to be able to live a meaningful life. And only understanding the processes in nature give us hope.
This course is designed to help us to discover our place in nature and design our lives to become meaningful and sustainable. It is designed to help us overcome our fears that we cannot do anything to stop the total destruction of the planet into a positive force that is strong and can influence more and more individuals to arrive at the simple understanding that change is inevitable and that we can change our responses and our habits to change our lives and perhaps the events on the planet too!