Monday, 28 December 2015

The Winter Gathering

The rationale for hosting a winter gathering was a little vague when it was being planned. I must admit though that, like Shashi, I too had a longing to share our happiness of staying on the farm. I too had a longing to connect with people, who live the life I used to live. Perhaps this longing, rather than a rationale made us host the winter gathering.

Apart from Sandeep, all participants to the gathering were first time visitors to the farm and were strangers to us. Sandeep, apart from being Shashi’s friend since college, is connected with the place and us. First to arrive were Deepti, Vineet and Manavendra. They arrived on the eve prior to the gathering and planned to return on the day after the gathering. That made it possible for them to be on the farm for all 4 days scheduled. A girl in her late twenties, Deepti seemed at ease immediately. As was reinforced in the forthcoming days, Deepti is perhaps absolutely free of prejudices and is able to live the moment fully. The fresh law graduate Vineet was on an adventure trip and did not have any idea of what he should expect in the gathering. He was clearly ready for any surprise that could have sprung – a rare trait these days even in people of his age. Manavendra came all by himself. He’d refused to be picked-up, walked in the dark for 4 km from the highway, enquired with villagers on the way. The spirit of adventure was now abundant. That evening, as 6 of us sat around the fire – the three participants and three hosts (Priyamvada, Shashi and I), there was more energy than what we’d witnessed for some time – and it was to remain so for the next few days and weeks, perhaps.

Other participants arrived the subsequent morning. Binal – a young mother and homemaker from Mumbai, Ritika – Sandeep’s collegue at work and the youngest participant, Charanita and Ikrav – siblings from Delhi. Charanita, a well-being coach in the city, may have found no lack of motivation here and had the freedom to feel and connect with the place and the lifestyle. Ikrav, who was just accompanying his elder sister, might have wondered how people on the farm can be so different from those in the city.

Pradeep and Gulrez arrived on day 2. Gulrez wasn’t aware of the winter gathering, but had scheduled a visit to meet me and evaluate if the farm was appropriate for him to begin his farm life. Participating did not hinder his objective – so he too participated whole-heartedly. Pradeep, a veteran in rural development was a little concerned if he would be a misfit in the gathering of a younger lot, but the younger lot found his energy levels difficult to match after all.

They were fun-filled 4 days - good food, loads of conversations (mostly pokes and jokes), peak winter niceties and full moon nights. An impromptu dance in the morning, group cooking, sitting alone for hours, baring the chilly winds out in the open, uncontrollable laughter while discussing spiritual subjects, were a few highlights.

During the first 3 days, most conversations happened in a larger group. Humor works wonderfully in a group. I was one of the major contributors to it – not with harmless jokes but with nasty comments, cutting people mid-way. It wasn’t apparent that I offended anyone, but it was acknowledged that I was the bad guy. It worked well for me. I didn’t need restrain. At times, I felt sorry for being so harsh on the defenseless. But I did nothing about it.

I was watching myself as intently as I watched others. I found myself constantly measuring the proceedings against the objectives. I noted all points when it missed the mark. I could feel my scorn – scorn at these urban victims. Why do they continue to be in the mess when they realize that they are in it? How much more cushioning do they require to take their chances? When the solution is staring at them, why do they want to window-shop anymore? Then I realized – they don’t think of themselves as victims. They may not comprehend or even acknowledge that there is any mess. They may not even be looking at any solution. For all I know, they may be looking at us as people in need of some help. My scorn subsided. I participated in the conversations actively. Some conversations were serious but most were light.

The night of day 3 was the last night everyone was together. Charanita and Ikrav decided to skip the conversation. The next day most of them were to leave. I again made some nasty observations – this time, they were not humorous. They’d come here to experience farm life, but most of them eagerly went on a visit to the river and a trek, spending almost entire 2 days. If this was to be a regular vacation, why would we host it? Though what I said was very polite, complete with rationale and blameless, I could sense I’d caused them to feel guilty. Again I felt sorry. But not unjustified! So again I did nothing about it.   
The night of day 4, when most of them had left, Shashi and I were at the same question – should we have a winter gathering next year? This time, even Shashi did not find a good enough rationale. But both of us continue to long to share our happiness, we long to meet these strangers, but loved ones. We long to feel good about what we’re doing. The big outcome was that Priyamvada enjoyed herself during the gathering. She witnessed people who respected her husband’s decision to lead this way of life. She would have felt pride for Shashi. That alone is good enough a reason to host the next winter gathering. Or is it?

If all goes as we anticipate, Gulrez might come more often. He may move to the farm sooner than later. But that is not because we had a winter gathering.

Both Shashi and I are convinced that Deepti should move to the farm. It makes perfect sense for her and for us. Both of us are convinced that Sandeep should move to the farm. If not, at least come more often. He needs it as much as we do. The law is, “If it’s logical and likely to happen, it won’t happen.”  This is logical, but not likely to happen – at least not very soon. They’re unwilling to commit, to even talk about it. They aren’t sure we’ll understand their compulsions and variables in the equation. They may not even trust our competency to evaluate their situation. They may not like an invasion in their space. They may want to defer till they’re compelled to.

Whatever be their reason, why am I getting so impacted? I know that whatever has to happen will happen. I have to let go of the illusion of control. I must focus on doing what I should for those who ask me for. I’m eager to share my joy, to get others to also experience the joy. But if that is not to happen, should my joy get replaced by sorrow?

Day 1 post gathering – let me get back to my fulfilling, blissfull daily schedule, remember the fun I had during the winter gathering, continue to love those who were strangers once and remind myself that hope lives on, whatever happens. 

1 comment:

  1. Very well captured and expressed Shantanu. Thank you Shashi for the beautiful photographs capturing all expressions.
    I have no words to express the gratitude and respect for both the families, who have dared to live the life not lived earlier. Everyone says, but only few do. It seems more difficult for the city bred mortals, who feel the need for more unlearning than learning. Unlearning the city like living, coming out of the so-called "Comfort zones", and realising the comfort of sitting in nature's lap. I personally feel at bliss living with nature, and that is why volunteered to join the pre-planned trek, not knowing that it would lead us away from the intended objectives of your winter gathering. Apologies for hurting your feelings, although not intentionally.
    There was a stage in my life too, when I had thought of taking the step you have taken. But, I decided to use my productive period to alleviate the distressed of their troubles, and at the same time sensitise my family enough to understand and appreciate the positivities of both the urban and rural lives. Now, that they have taken their own paths in that direction, I am ready to live the life you live. So very soon you will find me too frequenting your farm, and living with you guys for longer periods.