Dear parents, relatives, and friends,

 

    Adam and I have come back to India for the purpose of learning HOW to live in a traditional and natural way. We both share the desire of living in the lap of mother nature. Our journey, up to this point, has already been full of valuable learning experiences. This next chapter, however, is the beginning of the practical aspect of our life’s mission. Our spiritual guide, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada requested his disciples to “produce only what you need, use only what you produce, save time, chant Hare Krishna and be happy.”

 

Our good friend, Pavithra, who was a yoga student with Adam and me in Mysore grew up in the village Punyalkate in which we are currently staying. His parents still live here and are teaching us traditional farming (and living) techniques.

 

As a side note, Pavitra was the person who initially advised Adam to come to Mysore (back in 2013) to practice Ashtanga yoga at the world renowned Pattabhi Jois Institue. It was there that Adam and I met. The Krishna mural that I painted, which some of you may be knowing, was commissioned by Pavitra to decorate his organic food shop.

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{Mural in Mysore}

Pavithra has helped us yet again by hosting us at his parents’ village home. His parents are providing us with comfortable accommodation, sumptuous meals and more importantly, their practical knowledge of traditional farming practices.
We hope you enjoy reading about our experiences.

 

14th of October:
Our crash course in rural living has officially begun. We’ve only been in the village for two weeks, but the practical knowledge we have gained is immense. Everyday Pavithra’s parents give us nuggets of wisdom acquired from either personal experience, generational tradition, or scriptural injunction. Being in the village and learning these traditional skills feels like the proper way to begin our journey to a simple and rural life.

 
Today, Pavitra’s father took us to the neighbouring field where village workers were harvesting rice paddy. To our surprise, the labourerswere all women. We recognised a few of the ladies as they also work at Pavitra’s parents’ house. One of the ladies has just recently taught us how to make coconut leaf mats (or walls or roofing depending on what you need.)

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{Mat made from leaf of a coconut tree}

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{Weave of coconut leaf mat}

Today we learned the technique of cutting the paddy crops and tying them in bundles. Needless to say, it is a simple procedure but requires some dexterity to do it quickly. Everything that we have learned, from medicine to rope making has a simple yet specific procedure or technique that would be very difficult to develop simply by trial and error or by reading a book.

 

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{Local villagers harvesting rice paddy}

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{Adam helping}

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{Bundle of rice paddy}

 
The most important aspect of harvesting is having the proper katti (knife.) This particular knife is similar to the semi-circular sickle that is used to cut open coconuts except that the blade is not as thick and is serrated towards the tip. This helps to cut through the stalk of the rice paddy. Once the paddy has grown sufficiently, the whole plant is cut about 5 inches from the ground, bunched together with 20-30 other pieces, and carried on the labourers’ heads back to the house.

 

Tomorrow we will help them as they beat out the bunches to separate the paddy from the grass. By beating out, I mean literally whacking it on a table. Not rocket science, but an essential step in producing one’s own food.

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{Beating out the rice paddy; unhusked rice kernel falls through cracks in table onto the ground}

Pavitra’s mother told us a story about Lord Buddha. One day, Lord Buddha met a king and a poor farmer. Both the king and the farmer pleaded for Lord Buddha to be a dinner guest in their respective houses. When Lord Buddha accepted the request of the poor farmer and refused the offer of the king, the king was surprised. He questioned, “Why wouldn’t you come to my palace where I could feed you so many delicious food stuffs? This poor farmer can only give you a little rice!” Buddha replied that the poor farmer’s preparations, however small and simple they may be, were made of ingredients acquired by the sweat of his own brow and were therefore more pure and satisfying to eat.

Similarly, the rice paddy that we helped harvest today was acquired by the sweat from the brow of the local villagers. There was no use of a tractor, no noise pollution, no air pollution, no water pollution, no soil degradation and no middle-eastern blood-shed. I’m sure it will taste wonderful.

 
Daily living is simple here. Rural life is very regulated. Adam and I wake up every morning around 5 am to the roosters crowing; it is the most gentle alarm clock. Pavitra’s father wakes up at about 4:30 to clean out the cow shed and give the cows a little breakfast (fresh leaves from their plantation.) He then lights a fire to heat the water for a (bucket) bath.

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{Bath room made of mud bricks}

Hot water is made from collecting water from an open brick well, placing it into a large copper vessel (50 L) and lighting a fire underneath. The whole bath room smells like camp fire. The burning fire in the mud brick building makes a very peaceful place to bathe. Much different than the modern day bathroom.

After the day has begun, Adam and I have our morning herbal tea and clean our room thoroughly. Then, we help Pavitra’s parents with a few odd jobs such as maintaining the cow shed. We then practice our asana to the best of our ability. It’s a little unrealistic flying around the world and expecting the body to perform at a “normal” level. Still, even a little bit of asana helps rid the body of diseases, steady the mind by the breath, and kindle digestion.

Pavithra is also committed to the yogic lifestyle so his parents respect and appreciate our morning routine of practicing. After our practice, we cook, take another bath and do our (clothes) washing. Once we’ve eaten and rested afterwards, we help Pavithra’s father with more daily duties and occasionally a villager comes to teach us a special skill.

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{Cow shed}

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{Baby cows – sumar and durga}

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{Weaving a basket from local vines}

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{Finished basket with Gopala, his son Bharatha, and Adam}

Thus far we have learned how to milk a cow; how to identify medicinal herbs by simply walking through the forest; how to make a natural vessel (made from straw) to store grains; how to make a mat, broom, and cow food from the byproducts of a coconut tree; how to harvest rice; how to weave a basket; and how to prepare traditional food items as well as a hot shower without electricity or gas.

It seems that we are going through a list of necessities and cutting the dependence on the modern industrial society. No need to ever buy a broom again. No need for a refrigerator nor a hot water heater. No need to buy milk, ghee, butter, yogurt or buttermilk from outside. The more we learn, the more we feel confident that we can produce what we need on our own. Wal-mart, target and even our beloved Whole Foods Market can take a hike.

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{Black pepper}

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{Brahmi –  herb; brain enhancer (shaped like a brain); also lowers blood pressure}

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{Neki – mesquito repellent}

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{Mura – storage for rice/grains made from straw}

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{Making the rope for the mura}

We plan on staying here in Punyalkate for as long as we can gain knowledge and also be of service to Pavitra’s parents. They seem to be enjoying our company as they once had a full house with three children whereas now they are the classic “empty nesters.”

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{House}

 
It seems that that Pavithra’s parents, along with the local villagers, are becoming inspired that two westerners who come from “lands of plenty” have come to this small village to learn their way of life. While the rest of India is attempting to mimic the materialistic, flashy way of living in America, the roles have been reversed and we are taking the villagers’ glamour shots.

 

We hope to bring to everyone’s attention the necessity for these traditional skills and practices, especially considering the unsustainable nature of modern industrial society. Not only will life be more simple and healthy, but ultimately we will be closer to the way that we were designed to function according to the will of the Supreme Creator.

 
A famous invocation prayer from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states, “Purnam adah; purnam idam; purnat purnam udacyate; purnasya purnam adaya, purnam eva visisyate.” God is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes.

Everything we need has already been provided to us on this earth; we simply need to understand how to utilise it. Varsana Swami (one of Srila Prabhupada’s diciples) described the benefits of farm life in the documentary ‘Following Srila Prabhupada’ as follows:

 

“He [Srila Prabhupada] had an awareness of the importance of an agrarian culture, not just for the sake of having your own food if and when the economy fails, but for the sake of, as he explains, living off nature’s gifts as a matter of relationships where everything and everyone is assisting everyone and everything else in serving Krishna (God.) And that kind of spirit fosters an appreciation for everyone and everything, which also fosters more appreciation of the designer of this whole perfect arrangement. And also seeing food as more than food and water as more than water, but sacraments.[]

“If you are not seeing yourself as dependent on the land and dependent on the oxen, then you’re not going to have the proper appreciation [of nature and God.]”

 

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{Aracanut plantation with natural irrigation (ditches)}

At the Pattabhi Jois yoga shala, we recited the following prayer at the end of each class:

Swasthi prajabhya paripalayantam
Nyayena margena mahim mahisaha
Go Brahmanebhya subhamastu nityam
Lokas samasto sukhino bhavantu

May there be happiness for all people
May the rulers righteously rule the earth
May there be welfare for the cows and priests at all times
May all beings be happy and prosperous

Om santi, santi, santih

Claudia and Adam Cook

 

P.S. We would really appreciate any comments or questions. There is an option below for commenting. Thank you 😀

2 thoughts on “Village Life : Part 1

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