It may seem a contradiction in terms but change, in itself formless, is the stuff that brings change to all animate and inanimate forms. Be it materials, products, systems, institutions, processes, thoughts, relationships or emotions, change manifests itself as a state of affairs at different points in time. From Heraclitus to Einstein, an enquiry into change has revealed diverse perspectives with each insight reaffirming the inevitability of change, as much a reality as a point of view. In modern times, however, change as a point of view has helped trigger possibilities of restructuring one’s life so as ‘to be the change that one may want to be’.
For techie Venkat Iyer, change has meant a planned shift from a self-imposed fast-paced stressful urban existence to a more relaxed rural setting where time remains at your beck and call to usher in a nuanced meaning to life. The resolve for seeking peace in a space that he could call his own has grown in the last fourteen years, since he moved to another world just hundred kilometers from the dream city called Mumbai. Convinced that a transition alone can help throw the city out of him, the young software engineer set out on an arduous journey to nestle himself in the lap of nature. Since farming nowhere generated equivalent of the monthly pay cheque he was used to, transformation to a non-consumptive lifestyle became his compelling daily reality.
The story is insightful and reflective; shedding light on how personal resolve can answer the question of responsibility that comes tagged along with change. The responsibility towards self, society and surroundings can be as intense as it can get, generating as much empathy towards the two legged species as for the slithering reptiles. It soon became clear that the organic way of life was bringing back a lot of creatures to the farm. Even the colorful rooster did not need an official invite to join the flock of hens. Nature was in awe of itself, celebrating each new arrival.
One might wonder if such romanticism can last long, and whether ascetic living could be the new normal. With no dearth of courage and an unending conviction, Venkat relocated himself with ease despite the daily ordeal of battling people, and their prejudices. Once he got the better of it, he became part of the social milieu – taking support and extending cooperation to local people. The transition from managing microchips to cultivating moong was promising; harvesting 300 kgs of the common lentil as the first crop was a major morale booster.
Moong Over Microchips is full of incidents and encounters, each adding a new dimension to learning human behaviour amidst challenging adversities. Curiously, the spectre of an economic imperialism that phrases everything in economic terms is yet to hit the countryside, where goodwill can still be the mode of intangible transaction. The old lady in the tribal hamlet of Boripada bartered the near-extinct Kasbai rice seeds for a pittance, unaware of the immense contribution she is making towards preserving country’s biodiversity. Unspoilt by progress, such humble contributions will eventually count in the progress of the country.
Such experiences notwithstanding, it was clear from the beginning that farm harvest alone cannot make Venkat laugh all the way to the bank. But what made him smile was the joy of seeing the seed he planted push out of the soil, and that he could grow most of his daily needs on the farm was a satisfying experience. This may sound abstract for those who take the gloom and doom in the city for granted, and pay a heavy price for it. That there is value in living under the open sky, amidst undisturbed nature, with friendly pets, and consuming homegrown vegetables is unlikely to touch a chord with many of them. This is because we have lost out on love and sensitivity in favor of anger and anxiety.
During such times when cultivation has become bedrock of farmers’ suicide, the story of getting back to the roots may seem outwardly romantic and far-fetched. Nowhere does the author make such a suggestion however, his story is more about the quest for transforming stressful lifestyle and the grit required to make it work. That he found in farming a way to salvation is only an indicative possibility. The core message the author delivers through his lived-in experience is that one could easily live without several of those things that are considered ‘essential’ under the influence of the market. A life stuffed with avoidable materials and products can provide value-added return, devoid of any depreciation.
For all those having a hard look at where they are headed, Moong Over Microchips offers a list of pre-requisites before taking the plunge. That another world and another location waiting to be explored for self amelioration are without doubt out there. Much will depend on what happiness means to a person, and what price one is willing to pay for attaining it.
Moong Over MicroChips
by Venkat Iyer
Penguin Viking, New Delhi
Extent: 237, Price: Rs 499
First published in The Hindustan Times dated April 14, 2018.