A true story as told by Nagesh Battula.
“It’s okay you can jump”, as I said this to my 7 year old, his eyes lit up.
Swimming in an unexplored pond with weeds and some exotic looking water lilies, frogs jumping, while the birds are swooping around to get lucky with some early morning prey. It was a perfect let out for his adventurous, mischievous mind.
He was elated with joy.
As I looked at him sloshing and whooping around water, a little corner of me was feeling the much needed gratification of realising my dream.
Gratification that was long, hard and laborious in the process of creating the Naandi Rurban Commune. This part, little part of being able to give my son the authentic rural Indian experience which connects with nature at every step of the way was why the idea and working of Naandi came into effect.
I am a rural person who grew up in a village. Activities like walking in fields in the pouring rain, running after chickens, stealing eggs, chasing calves, holding just born lambs and goats, tying dragon flies to a thread and flying them around like a kite – oh, now that I think back I was extremely torturous to those little creatures. But, it made me understand that destroying flowering mango trees can give us less harvest, stealing eggs of chicken can cause trauma to its mother – all the realities of a simple life only by being mischievous – ahem, by being an explorer. This was my indulgence, it was my luxury. I had a similar philosophy as a kid as Calvin said here in this comic caption :
“As I started chasing progress – or as we call it ‘success’ – these days, I slowly moved away from my rural roots. As a person from a small village heading towards the achievement milestones I had set for myself, my goals, my aspirations and my struggles were countless. Yet, I never wavered. With the kind of explorer spirit I had, I never had any inhibitions in the path I chose. After more than twenty years I now have what we conventionally call ‘the full life’; the security of a well-established enterprise, a ground to build higher and higher over its base, a loving family with two sons. I am successful – I had arrived.”
But like every other parent, I wanted to connect my children to the kind of life I had while I was growing up. I believe that I created the base on which I built my explorative and unrelenting self that I am today.
I bought a small piece of land close to my city home in the suburbs. It was located between the lushest green fields that there can be and had a great view of the lake. I wanted a farm house to spend more time there, a home that had breath taking views from every corner, a court yard which could breathe fresh air, a home with my own private swimming pool. So this was perfect!
I drew up the plans and started work on constructing it. Though being well connected to the construction industry, it was difficult to find a competent contractor who would come there, from the suburbs, to do a project as relatively small as this. Once the contractor was set, the biggest hurdle in the way was the water and energy connections in such a remote place. The energy crisis that we are living in right now, the government-supplied power is very irregular in the suburbs. Digging up a bore well with a generator, getting the right horticulture expert and day to day labour for the farm, and the basic staff set-up in place.
By the time I had some trees planted in strategic positions of the farm, being a new territory for me, I had been taken for a ride twice.
It took me more than a year to get these basics in place and the construction process to get started. With robbery of construction material, wild boars invading the farm and wrecking the place, labour quitting for months on end when elections are on, changing of the labour gangs too many times – the kind of unimaginable issues cropping up even for someone like me who belonged to this industry! It took me twice the amount of time and much more money to finish my dream farm house. By the time the house was completed, it also had an extended two portion servant quarters as a watchman and maintenance personnel was a must.
The farm house was finally ready to move in. Just a 25 minutes’ drive from my city home. I then had to convince a family to live there.
My kids were elated! My family had a new destination to unwind over the weekends. It was with wonder they had watched when they saw dragon flies and sunsets over the lake. The private pool swims, guavas from our own backyard trees, coffee by our own pool, watching the birds flock after arduous back-breaking work in the farm with soiled hands and legs, finishing the day with a swim in the pool. So perfect.
My kids invited their friends over for some weekends to show off; I threw some really fine parties with outdoor pool side barbecues and total tranquillity. There were now many moments that I could stop and think back about. Life seemed longer than before, my experiences were absolute – finally my dream realized!
Then reality kicked in.
After the first few weekends spent in the farm it dawned on us that not always were the kids able convince their friends to come along, and they started missing their urban homes with their social groups. We bought them some pets as company, but it was not enough. Spending nights without any other family over was proving to be difficult with simple noises of stray dogs barking sounding exaggeratedly like hounds. Security of the space also became an issue as we heard some incidents of robbery in nearby farm houses.
With all this, the visits to the farm house became sparse. But as we started spending lesser time at the farm, the issues started increasing – servants squandering around, motors breaking down and some petty maintenance issues were not being taken care off. All these came along with the high costs for diesel powered energy, maintenance and salaries for the caretakers. The diesel generators that were being used to power the home not only were coming with high monetary costs but also with a pollution cost on nature around and host to many maintenance issues. The farm home started becoming a drain on my fund and the nature around. How could we afford water and power to be bought at such high rates?
A simple dream of connecting my children back to their roots and my wish for serenity and farming was back to square one.
This only made me more relentless!
Thus was born Naandi – the idea of a community farm.
How can one enjoy a farming lifestyle without the burdens of issues that come along with it? The answer was quite simple actually: pool in many families along with you to share the load of issues. Experts could be employed to work on the farm as the farm now would be a much larger one and the food from our own farm also could be planned comprehensively with such expertise and size. The group of people coming together would also give the family their social connect to be entertained. Energy and water crisis could also be solved, as now the size of the farm would be much larger, the community as a whole could invest in better infrastructure.
Naandi – a community farm – the beginning of realizing a dream.