Saturday, 21 November 2015

A Transcendental Indian Adventure: (1) Biodynamic Greencare in Mysore

Although it doesn’t look far on the map of India, and we aimed to leave Bangalore at 7.30 to get to Vivek and Juli’s farm by lunchtime, it turned out to be a good deal less straightforward. We didn’t quite get our act together to be on the road by 7.30 - which gave time for a lot of motorbikes, and cars, and dogs chasing the cars, and scooters, and buses, and tractors, and herds of goats, and lorries, and autorickshaws, and cows, and dogs chasing cows to get ahead of us. Beep beep beep beeeep said the chaotic assemblage of flesh and metal – but Anando took the immersive chaos as a challenge, and showed remarkable dignity, respect and restraint - and barely muttered a single peep of frustration all the way to Kracadawna.

After spending in an extra hour escaping the city, the first stop was for breakfast, at a tribal art and culture centre  - then another two hours of humans, animals, vehicles and villages getting to Mysore. Which we went round 3 times. The first revolution was for an ATM and a bank, the second was searching for a wine shop amongst the lime green and candy-floss-pink houses of the back streets – including a few dead ends and diversions to get over the railway track, and the third for a loo, which turned into a coffee shop stop. And we didn’t even see the palace once.

As we got further and further from the city, the roads got narrower and narrower - although still with the added interest of swarms of motor bikes, very slow buses, occasional cows and tiny villages with big temples. Overtaking motor bikes usually involved an excursion into the opposite ditch, while oncoming traffic often landed us in our own ditch. Getting past wheezing buses was even more exciting. After about an hour and a half, we turned off into a long and winding – and deeply rutted – track across fields and farms, until we arrived at the kitchen, a separate building which is the hub of life at Kracadawna. Here's the link to see it on Google Maps, earth view:

Kracadawna landscape
Kracadawna is a 25 acre organic farm run by the Cariappa family, who – over thirty years - have turned it from a bare patch of land into the sort of eco-paradise loved by ageing hippies like Jan – and the new breed of ecowarriors like Anando and Shama. Our safety assessment had to include various contingencies unknown to the NHS risk police: marauding elephants whose transit corridor goes through the middle of the farm, and a man-eating tiger who has already eaten eleven villagers who can clear the 10-foot electric fence designed to deter the elephants, with eight foot to spare. Also a group of wild boars recently had a rave in the cornfield, and trampled it to the ground. They may be back for more, at any time! And then there were the mega-bugs, snakes, rats the size of cats, chattering monkeys and poisonous spiders.
Thirty years on...

However, despite the self-evident unacceptability of such a place for patient-safety-conscious mental health endeavours, it is not quite as life-threatening as the risk assessment might suggest. Nobody from the farm, either family or staff, has ever been hurt by the local wildlife, and the ecological management of the site means that it is becoming a ‘biodiversity hotspot’, and might become recognised and registered as such if the family commissions a formal survey. It is also a seen as a radical social structure, as they are separate from the local village community, use organic production methods unfamiliar to local people, and the farm employs people who could not work elsewhere. Juli explains how people employed here talk to her about their open and egalitarian style leads to a level of trust that allows the local village women to talk about things they would not say to anybody else. And the village men were suspicious of their organic neighbours for many years – for flouting the conventions of social hierarchy and acting in a fair and equal way to everybody; but once they got used to it, they too could establish a new and almost unknown level of trust with other men outside their immediate socio-economic circles.
Sandra, Kabir & Angeli,Anando, Azad, Juli, Rex, Vivek, Shama and Jan around the kitchen table at Kracadawna

Although it is not yet a fully functioning greencare TC programme, we were told a story of a weekend visit here by some Bangalore TC members, including an autistic boy and a couple of other members - which made more difference to how they relate to people around them and their enjoyment of life than years of special schooling, and rigorous programmes of behaviour management: though it wasn't without ruffling a few feathers back at home!

Meanwhile we got to work - and had several hours of detailed, honest and frank discussion of how Anando and Shama can make the TC model work in India, under the auspices of their 18-month old charitable organisation, Hank Nunn Institute, HNI. Although I have some antibodies to management concepts like these - a lot was about good governance, time management and focus. Interestingly, the charity laws in India seem even more strict than they are in the UK: with rigid rules about trustee board membership, and even more draconian procedures for handling money. What emerged from discussions, site visits and more discussions were some fairly stark choices: urban or rural? From whom can HNI accept funding? Who will be the members they seek?
Where to from here, Anando?

No comments:

Post a Comment