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.