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Gramya Manthan Story #5 Natural Rhythm and the Sacred

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Gramya Manthan has been happening for 8 years in the same village cluster in Kanpur Dehat and we have been sitting in the shade of this banyan tree since then. Only this year, we began calling it Dadimaa Bargat (Grandmother Banyan). Gramya Manthan invites people to reflect on one’s days - how would it be to draw from a witness of 300 years, was a sense we tried to hold. Grandmother Banyan has seen several storms, monsoons, changes in her lifetime.

One of the work that has happened to us and through us is to reclaim the sacred in nature. Looking at nature not just as a material resource but as a spirit. And not just nature outside - what would it be to not just look at our own bodies as a material resource?

Another aspect to this has been experiencing a different rhythm of life than the rhythm most urbanites are used to - clock-time, weekday-weekend etc. Experiencing seasons, experiencing daylight and nightsky, experiencing birds chirping or trees shedding leaves.

We would start the day e…

Gramya Manthan Story #4 Capacity to Suffer

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A mentor of ours, Aseem described passion as capacity to suffer. One of the reasons why Gramya Manthan happens in peak summers in Uttar Pradesh is inviting people from all over the country to experience the rigour of the place that shows up in the heat. Within the team, we have discussed this several times on the need to do it in summers. It also acts as an auto self filter for non-serious candidates. Summers in rural can be hard in Northern India especially for young people from urban areas.
In the middle of the program, we have been experimenting with creating a simulated experience around Food inequity - where people get divided into different economic classes and based on that they get their food through the day. A poor will get a roti and onion for instance and a rich may get delicacies complete with desert. Its a disruptive experience even for the holders of the experiment - the cohort surprises us each time.
This time immediately after breakfast, unrest built up and the whole …

Gramya Manthan Story#3 Wilderness in the village

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One of the participants, Aarti shared in one of her reflections, that it was difficult for her mother to let her go beyond 300 metres alone as a child. While as she visited a family in the village - Kaki asked a kid, Anjali from the neighbouring home to accompany her to show around the village. And Anjali walked with Arti the whole day around the village. Two things struck with her, the sense of freedom and comfort that Anjali had with the whole village and the idea of ‘home’. Kaki felt comfortable asking a neighbouring kid take a guest around and the kid accompanied her all along. ‘Home’ felt somewhat expanded to Aarti in the village.
Environmental Wilderness obviously is endangered in our world, with forests being butchered and snow caps melting. However, the wilderness of the human heart is also endangered. Kids today are growing up in enclosed rooms with enclosed minds. Sedentary lifestyle is the order of the day. Trust in human relationships is encroached upon by transactional b…

Story #2: Learning about Culture in Gramya Manthan

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Seeing villages as a cultural reality and not just an infrastructural setup is the foundation of Gramya Manthan.
The first thing most participants notice is the ‘lack’ - lack of toilets, lack of roads, lack of hygiene. Only gradually the abundance seeps in - richness of culture in the village.
When the participants interacted with the culture of the villages, they by default connected with their own culture. 3 of the participants shared that while they served friends from the village during Daawat, they remembered how they organised and served at community events in Kerela or in Gurudwara in Punjab. Yash, one of the participants remembered how he missed the sparrows in his balcony in Delhi. Every participant came back feeling warmth and love from the way they were hosted in the villages - more than the discomfort of lack of facilities. The question we held was - ‘Will I be able to host the friends from the village in the city, in the same way they hosted me?’ With dismantling of comm…

Gramya Manthan Story #1 - Systems Awareness in the Village

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I have come to believe that one can learn way more about systems thinking from the village than from any book or any modern facility. Its visible in daily actions. Take, food. Crops harvested from fields, stored for household use, cooked and eaten or eaten uncooked. The inedible remains (like vegetable peels) go to the cattle as their food. That food from cattle becomes poop, which in turn is made into manure for the fields. To let more food grow. Take water ponds. Most villages have had a tradition of maintaining ponds. Annually they desilt it, using the top layer of soil for repairing their mudhouses. Water and housing system, interact with each other. Local awareness, limited resources unleashed deep systems thinking and doing in the village.

It has taken a great deal of schooling and ‘working’ to take local systems awareness away from us. The other reason has been tyranny of convenience. We have traded awareness with comfort.

In the Systems Thinking session in Gramya Manthan, parti…

A Lifetime Pass

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In me, a museum of experiences, of thoughts, of feelings
In you, a visitor, may be a seer
You can come in, but only with my permission
To have a look at the stills, or the movings
The dormants or the actives
The painfuls or the joyfuls
The hurts and the heals
But only at certain times, visiting hours
For at other times, I might be seeing it for myself
Or my museum might be under maintainence, recovering from visitor shocks
And while you visit it, be sure that your imprint shall be left hanging in one of the corners of my museum
May be for others to see
You are important to me
Oh now, that I confessed to you that you are important to me  Let me invite you in an inner chamber

I want to be calling it भव
You see English is a limited language
Anyway, I will say inner world
I wonder what's this separation

I want to be giving you a lifetime pass to my inner world. I hope you won't hurt it, consciously

You are welcome, home.

Oiling up and Motherhood

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One of the things I love and also miss is getting oiled up by my mother. 
As an infant oiling up is considered very important to develop strength in the body - for me my Dadi took that job (I think). 
As a child, oiling up is considered important to moisturise the body to have a more resilient skin, to let toxins go away. 
As a teenage, oiling up is considered important to develop shiny features :p and become attractive. My mother didn't leave an oil unturned. Our favorite then was 'Hair & Care'. :) 
As a young adult, oiling up is considered important to continue to nourish sweat pores as an outlet to toxins, energy and become more physically agile. At this time for me, those fancy moisturisers and deo's came into my life and reduced my sweat pore capacity and skin agility.
As an adult, oiling up is considered important these days to not lose hair on the head. I miss my mum, and her oiling up and therefore hair density on my head is reducing. 
{On the side, One impo…