Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Nai-Talim @ Chaukul: A workshop in positivity

In these days of negativity and so much despair in the media its sometimes very hard for one to imagine that there could be any good left in this country. All over the world heads nod in negativity , there is a lot of hue and cry in Facebook and India is being signed off as a hopeless country where no good can happen. Everyone somehow has an opinion , a declaration to make but somewhere no one is really contributing to any solution.

In such negativity and hopelessness I find myself saying that this cannot be IT. Not that I don't condemn the recent Delhi incident. I do- I have been very angry myself but somewhere again & again I seem to remind myself that each of us is responsible for this. That each of us need to look really deeply within to find a solution. That each of us have to be extremely positive and start building in our own small ways an alternate society .  I find myself lucky to have been among people who walk the talk when it comes to being active member of society. And these people aren't dabbling with solutions on the surface but have reflected very deeply and have changed themselves inside out to bring external change. I can proudly say that there is a lot of good work also happening in this country and it is going to be such "small", dedicated people who believe in what is originally right with this place that are going to get this place somewhere..

I had the opportunity to be with such people for five wonderful days in a beautiful village called Chaukul in Konkan Maharashtra from 14th to 18th Dec, 2012. The occasion was the Nai Talim workshop organised by Sachin & Meenal Desai who run an amazing alternate school called the School Without Walls in Dhamapur, Maharashtra. Nail Talim was about looking at alternate ways of education, farming , sustainable living & thinking in general. We gotto to interact with lots of  people from all over the country. Lots of very interesting , positive people. The five days of being at Chaukul was like drenching yourself in positivism without having an option to complain. . We had all sorts of people there & the specialty of these people ( including the Desais) is that  they have left everything they have known as sensible by mainstream society , be it a job or a way of life or a way of thinking or earning or attitude towards wealth and well-being  to pursue a life that felt true to themselves. I was in the company of courageous people...  There were organic farmers, alternate educators, small time urban farmers, land activists , unschoolers, homeschoolers, environmentalists doing amazing work in the Western Ghats to name a few. We had very interesting discussions about society, country, education, farming, rural society and its importance , issues of urban migration and its effects on our society, ayurveda, ancient Indian society, true economic progress , ourselves..And each discussion urged us to look deep within away from what mainstream society today thinks as valuable.

It was simple stuff and in this simplicity lies so may answers. While the rest of the society is aping the west for  carving a " New India" , these people have gone to the roots for solutions . Indian society is ancient and has researched every aspect of life be it human, animal, environment or anything else. It is the saddest thing that we don't acknowledge this stuff. Whether organic farming or holistic education there is so much to know from our rishis & ancestors . And that's the beauty of people like the Desais- they acknowledge this and have taken every effort possible to apply this age-old knowledge to their everyday lives. Somewhere deep down it all boils to values. What are our values about ourselves, others, the environment or life in general?Where can we seek such values? Is the west an answer to everything? These were some of the Qs that I personally came out with from this workshop.

And another huge thing for me as a take-away was the idea of a community. Every vice that happens today is because of the lack of close knit community. Being hosted in the same house as Manish & Vidhi Jain was simply a stroke of great luck. We go to know more about Shikshantar - an unique, amazing community level experiment in education. How can these guys say no to everything mainstream and build a completely community based, non-selfish initiative is really mind-blowing to me. How can we not hope for the future of this country with folks like the Jains doing their Yagna here? Yes Yagna! We have always thought of Yagna as an activity involving pouring ghee into fire with mantras being read!! No, no no!! Yagna means taking up a vision , a Dhyeya to bring about change, within & outside. According to our Vedic culture the true purpose of marriage in itself is for the couple to do a Yagna- to come together and pursue a life-long vision. Manish and Vidhi Jain are meeting the true purpose of marriage. Our Rishis would be proud of them.

When I came back the first few days went wondering as to how wonderful our society would be if each of us involved ourselves in community building ? Non-monetary, non-selfish. How would our society be if each of us shared our efficiencies with others like the Jains and the Desais breaking barriers of caste, religion, age, economic status or sex? Today's myriad problems are because we keep to ourselves- our friends, our "society". If society can become one big wave of sharing one's passion and positivism then I wonder if problems can persist? During the 5 days of the workshop we stayed with the village folks. We connected deeply throwing away our differences of urban & rural, "educated" & "uneducated". Infact we came out more "educated" than we previously were! We shared chores, stories, recipes and life in general. I personally gotto pick up on a lot of Marathi. The farmers educated us about their village, rituals, farming practices, their present day challenges. On the last day my host commented that he was surprised that here was a urban group ( many foreign returned) that respected the rural life so much...that recognized the value of farming & rural knowledge immensely.

Attending such workshops also makes me extremely glad about being a part of the Swadhyay movement. During the Nai-Talim meet up as well as in the LSU- Learning Societies Conference , March 2011, my convictions about Swadhyay grew stronger. That the Swadhyay movement is the ultimate divinity based , thought based ( vichaar based) community building effort that could ever be! Every time I attend such conferences it amazes me that the solutions that are being searched for have already been thought of by Rev. Pandurang Shastri Athavale  and being implemented for ages now..It is indeed the SILENT SINGING REVOLUTION. That true change can happen only when we acknowledge the divinity within ourselves and others.  Attending such conferences strengthens my own convictions about doing the Swadhyay work..to connect, to build relationships , to share my efficiencies, to become more positive and share such positivism with others purely based on the thought that the Ram who lives in my heart , lives in others' hearts too. That divinity alone can bond us and make us one big family where vices and differences don't exist ( Krushnam Vande Jagadhgurum).

It is truly such a positive trend that more and more intellectual, passionate folks are coming together to meet up and in the process gain more clarity for themselves as well as motivate others. And what's all the more positive is that the younger generation is being involved in every step. I can't but imagine what a big positive, amazing community my girls will have when they are grown up. Friends from all over India hailing from families that have had the guts to question the mainstream and carve their own lives. Wow! This blows away my mind! They are indeed very lucky. To be with those that DARE TO DREAM for a brighter India and a brighter world.

My heartfelt gratitude to the Desais for bringing us all together at Chaukul..

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