Rendezvous with Roy

Today I went on a little trip to Wayanad, to meet a man called Roy Jacob. I first read about him many months back, in an issue of the magazine Swapathgami.Roy, 34 years old now, grew up in the US, and worked there as an IT consultant for many years. Being an admirer of Gandhi’s principles and philosophy, he was sort of discontent with corporate life in the US, both outwardly and inwardly. And when the US went on war in Iraq, he decided he couldn’t take it any longer. He walked out of his career and embarked on an inspiring journey that continues today.

I left college early in the morning- 6.30 am, to be precise. I boarded a Mananthavady bus from Kunnamangalam at 7. Roy’s farm was in Cheengode, near Nadavayal, a few kms south east of Panamaram. I enjoyed the fresh morning air striking against my face. It became distinctly colder as the bus climbed the Thamarassery pass. I reached Panamaram at a quarter past nine. I had planned to have my breakfast at Panamaram, but the town seemed not to have woken up yet. So I continued my journey and caught the Panamaram-Bathery bus which would take me to Cheengode.

Roy came to the bus stop to receive me. I could easily recognize him from the photo in the article. We greeted each other and started walking towards his house. On the way, I enquired about many things like how he came to live in Wayanad, how long he had been there and such things. It didn’t cease to amaze me that the person walking beside me had lived a very different life until just five years ago. One of urban affluence, rush and business. Besides, he spoke really good authentic Malayalam, though with a slight accent.

In a few minutes, we reached a small house which, Roy told me, belonged to a friend who was out of station. We went inside, and there I met Nirali, a Gujrati friend of his who was on a visit. We sat on the mud floor and talked for a while. Then we had a breakfast of uppumavu and steamed bananas. We talked a lot- I wanted to know about his life, his farm and his farming. He owns 20 cents of paddy field, and carries out his farming (organic, of course) experiments there.

They asked me how I came to be interested in alternative living. I replied how, back in Twelfth standard, when I was preparing for the entrance exams, I began to feel that life was becoming artificial and unnecessarily complicated, and how I wished to make it simple. Also having grown up in a town, how I had had almost no direct contact or relation with nature, and how badly I longed for it. For a change, it was really pleasant to see someone nod their head understandingly, rather than exclaim that I was being idealistic and dreaming.

After a while, Roy took me to see his paddy field. He had planted different varieties in his piece of land. Not only that, he is trying different methods on each, drawing from some of the ideas of Fukuoka as well as experimenting on his own. His field is right on the banks of Narasipuzha, a tributary of the river Kabini. Beyond the river, are dense evergreen forests. The paddy fields, with little hills on the other side, form a breathtaking scenery.

Next to his field, Roy has built a beautiful little hut, with his own hands, out of bamboo. He proudly showed it to me, and told me how building it awakened the creative spirit within him. And that it was indeed an inspiring and enriching experience to live in a house built with one’s own hands. He had the same glow about him when he talked about his paddy farming. Think of eating the food you harvested yourself from your own field. How nice is that?

After visiting the field, we had lunch. Roy cooked rice from his previous harvest, complete with bran. The rice was a delightful pink coulour. Also drank its nourishing pink gruel. He talked about how nutritious the bran was (which is no secret, really), and how we are actually throwing away the best part when we use polished rice. Talked for a while more, talked about inspiring books and authors- Fukuoka, Daniel Quinn, E.F.Schumacher… Then it was time for me to leave.

Both Roy and Nirali accompanied me to the bus stop, and saw me off. The return journey was not as comfortable, since I had to wait for a long time at the Kalpetta bus stand, but luckily I got a seat. I was soon lost in my thoughts about a special day in my life. Yes, it was a special journey. Perhaps the very first in my life which was not endorsed by anyone else. And I got to meet some special people.

Many may brand these people as run-aways from the realities of life, dreamers, whatever. The truth is that they are the ones who are truly “alive”, heeding life’s call each and every moment of their lives. There’s a lot I learnt from my visit. Not all are explicable, but one thing about them that stood out, was contentment. And the sense of wonder, trust and liveliness that arises from contentment. Fear is not one of their attributes. They are able to be fearless because they have surrendered to a power which they absolutely trust. Trust in people. Trust in nature, its bounty and abundance, and its power to renew and rejuvenate. Yes, they are the ones who are truly alive.

Let me sign off with a quote from Thoreau… “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.”

P.S. My only regret is that I didn’t take my camera along, as I could have substantiated this post with a few snaps, especially of Roy’s farm and farmhut.

17 thoughts on “Rendezvous with Roy

  1. Wow, that should have been really nice.

    You know Kishore, I do get a feeling of immense gloom as I read your post. The whole idea of alternative living gives one an impression that it is the defeated who go for that. This really is not true, it just shows how incapable in imagination one is. The attitude is because we think happiness comes from doing better than others, defeating them….

    Also, people require newness in their lives. It is what makes it enjoyable. Because the majority thinks so, everyone is searching for newness in parties, in restaurants, in pubs, thinking something new will happen, someone new will come. They don’t realize the hollowness in basing ones’s happiness on something outside one’s realm of control. To be contented in nature and her beauty, one just needs an attunement. And of course, this might involve giving up some things considered valuable by the majority, like in Roy’s case. Giving up something is frightening and most people don’t have that courage.

    Here’s a nice poem by Pope. He wrote it before he was twelve!
    http://www.shortpoems.org/poem/2008/07/13/ode-on-solitude/

    Anyway, when I saw you in August, I was glad that you were really happy, laughing a lot, enjoying jokes, and not become the stereotype thinker. 🙂

    1. Moulik, what is the source of your gloom- my post or the idea of alternative living? 😉 Yeah, I understand that there is an impression that it is the defeated who go for alternative living. I had written about it once, too- http://kishoreathrasseri.wordpress.com/2009/04/04/walking-out-and-walking-on/

      You hit the nail right on the head when you talk about the need for newness. And yes, the thought of giving up is frightening, but actually it’s giving up something you really don’t need, for something better that you badly want. But yes, people are terrified by the notion of change.

      I loved the poem by A.Pope!

  2. “Perhaps the very first in my life which was not endorsed by anyone else”

    i admire your language more than your ideas!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    keep goin…………..

  3. >> They are able to be fearless because they have surrendered to a power which they absolutely trust.

    Thats an amazing statement with a lot of truth in it.

    Love,
    Gopu.

    1. Yes. We are brought up to believe that we live off the society, its enterprises, and their products and services. And since the distribution of wealth and money is so skewed and perverted, and the rat race for it is so ruthless, we live in a sort of perpetual insecurity, even though we may not actually acknowledge it consciously.

      Besides, we tend to believe that everything we need to live, is obtained as a fruit of human work and intelligence. For example, we believe that food is best produced through mechanized agriculture by pumping fertilizers and pesticides. We believe that drinking water is obtained from dams and reservoirs, and health can be maintained by swallowing a few chemicals.

      But what is the true source of life? Undoubtedly it has to be nature. It’s the soil which provides food for us, and when we pump fertilizers for higher yield, we deplete the soil in a single generation. It’s the rain, and rivers and the water cycle that gives us our water, and in building dams we actually destroy river systems.

      As smart as we humans are, how can we be fooled to think that we, with our limited scientific knowledge, know better than nature, which has been made perfect through billions of years of natural selection? For some reason, we do not trust the way the natural world works, and are under the delusion that the best thing to be done is to take matters into our own hands. I think, to live in harmony with nature would be to let go of this fear.

      1. >> For some reason, we do not trust the way the natural world works, and are under the delusion that the best thing to be done is to take matters into our own hands.

        Thinking about it differently, the reason humans try to take matters into our own hands might be because of that “Intellectual boredom” which you would agree human beings encounter in varying degrees. So the same “intellectual boredom” is responsible in parts to a lot of the “advances” and the good and bad things those advances brought about. So assume that slowly over time people start realising that the “modern” lifestyles are not what suits us best and we go back to the more natural lifestyles (which I think will happen not so far in time, maybe like within a 100 yrs, starting with the most “advanced” countries). And whenever that happens, what will be the answer to the “intellectual boredom” that people will encounter ? What can keep people from not applying their brains and trying to come up with more “advances” ?

        So it sounds like the path of a pendulum – we “advance”, then figure out that we went too far, then go back again, but then again there will be a set of dissatisfied people who will again come up with advances, and the cycle just continues. The optimal solution of course is to strike some middle ground, but the question is how ? How can we ensure that a generation of kids will grow up without using their brains “too much” 🙂 ?

        So fundamentally, I think the problem is that humans are provided a sophisticated brain which just cant find “happiness/satisfaction” in the basic life cycle that other living organisms follow – eating, sleeping etc.. I always wonder whether more intelligent animals like elephants or dogs ever get “bored” :)), I guess we will never know.

        So what do you think about all this ?

        Love,
        Gopu.

      2. It seems ‘Man’ is the result of a mistake in the evolution process. Quoting a dialog from the film Matrix, Man is similar to a virus, when all other organisms eventually blend with their surroundings, we ,like a typical virus, exhaust and destroy all the resources, and then move onto other pastures to carry on the same exploits. That which taken zillions of years of evolution to reach what it is today in the form of diverse species, Man is going to destroy in the matter of a few decades. Mother earth needs to get rid off this virus, if she would choose to remain a ‘living planet’, we need more tsunamis and earthquakes.

      3. This is a widely held misconception. As Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael says, only one single culture is going on destroying the world. There have been countless tribes of human beings living in harmony with Nature for about 3 million years, and only since the beginning of agriculture 10,000 years ago has “humanity” become destructive.

        So this gives us hope that if we can realize this fact and move on to a saner lifestyle then all’s not lost.. And I don’t think we will be able to destroy *all* of the earth’s biosphere. We don’t realize that we ourselves are an endangered species.

  4. Well, I’m sure there is this “intellectual boredom” in most of us, as you said, in varying degrees. And I guess the people who are the most bored intellectually will be coming up with new technology and stuff in all ages. But just because of that, they don’t have to be mass produced and people don’t have to use all of them in their daily lives.

    The critical element that is missing is a wisdom to know what all things one really needs. The farther we are away from nature, the less wisdom of this kind we have.

    Imagine a society that is in harmony with nature. They realize that some things are better left to nature, and carry out Fukuoka style natural farming (no tilling). Some intellectually bored guy comes up with a new contraption called a tractor, that he claims, will increase productivity. But the farmers of the region know from living with the soil, that nature knows best in these matters. So none of them buys it, and that’s the end of it.

    On the other hand, if some other guy comes up with a contraption called the telephone, which enables you to talk to your friends who are far away, the farmers will be really interested, and I think it’s only good for everyone.

    So, I think ultimately it’s not the people who invent things to be blamed, but the masses who have lost their belief in and touch with their inner selves and nature, and wander about like lost souls.

    As for the question of how to strike this middle ground, well, it’s indeed an intriguing one. I, for one, believe that every child yearns for a communion with nature. One thing we can do is to stop sending children to school and give them an environment where learning is not isolated from living and I’m sure they will find out where the middle path lies.

  5. >> So, I think ultimately it’s not the people who invent things to be blamed, but the masses who have lost their belief in and touch with their inner selves and nature, and wander about like lost souls.

    Exactly. Now for the masses to demonstrate such a self restraint is an extremely difficult proposition (at least not an easy one by any means). Fundamentally, the betterment of all problems lies in all humans searching and finding for an answer to the question “what is happiness, what will make me happy” – and that discussion will lead to more philosophical questions about what is life, what is the purpose of life etc.. etc.. :)). That discussion can never end, maybe we can postpone that for when we meet in person :).

    Love,
    Gopu.

    1. >> Fundamentally, the betterment of all problems lies in all humans searching and finding for an answer to the question “what is happiness, what will make me happy”

      Yeah, I agree with that. I know it’s very difficult to happen, but it is possible, and it is the only way out of the current mess. We can discuss about philosophical questions about life until the end of the world, but I believe it is upto each and every one of us to ask our own selves what it is that really makes us happy, and live accordingly.

    1. Hi Suresh!

      I’ve read your blog post about Roy.

      Great to know that you are that friend… I knew that the friend was called Suresh!

  6. Guys,
    Its great to see all these aspects of mind and psychology in a real perspective.
    Follow ups reveals more important things than the article itself..
    Keep Going, be the revolution…

  7. Kishore,

    It was a nice one… I now follow you as well
    It is good to keep out of rat race.. but it raises bigger questions like what to do for money and all…

    Anoop

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