This post was authored by Manuj Goyal, on Co-op in India. Evolution is a fundamental aspect of life on Earth and I believe a key principle in the road to success. Having the ability to adapt, to think on one’s feet, and to find opportunities when all plans you have fall apart is even more essential in the country of India where chaos seems to be the driving factor of all life. In a place with such a long history, a place where so much innovation and discovery has and does occur, a place where so many people coexist harmoniously, it is sometimes difficult to fathom how things happen smoothly considering the seemingly haphazard and chaotic progression of events in any situation.
Earlier in my coop journey in India, I traveled the state of Rajasthan in collaboration with the Department of Information Technology and Communication as well as the Department of Planning. Learning about and analyzing rural conditions, farming techniques, and common mindsets, I gained clarity on the direction my product development and my overall project. I began to narrow down and define the exact area of the agricultural and farming process which I wanted to make more efficient and easier and began creating a plan with goals to develop this product.
Before diving deep into product development though, I decided to head to a small farm where volunteers from all around the world came to learn about permaculture, and agricultural technique based on the mindful usage of resources and careful integration of the environment with agricultural processes. Permaculture has been used throughout the world and due to its foundation in basic principles of agriculture rather than specific techniques, it is effective in a variety of environments. This institute and center of innovation and learning was an ideal place for me to refine my design parameters and gauge the possibilities of success of a technical product in a rural agricultural setting. The farm also offered a unique setting with limited access and resources as it is three kilometers, about 2 miles, up a mountain from the nearest town, a town with only tea shops and limited supplies. The closest major town is more than thirty minutes by a local bus and so the environment and setting was ideal for planning and analyzing the development of a product.
Things sound too good to be true, don’t they? A few days before I was meant to head to the farm from Rajasthan, riots and civil unrest broke out near New Delhi, the city I had to connect through in order to get to the farm. The government shut down all road and railway travel entering Delhi from the Rajasthan direction and cornered me into staying put where I was. So my options became to either change my plans or take a 400 dollar flight to a city approximately nine hours by bus from the farm or take an 800 dollar, 24 hour travel time flight to a city approximately two hours from the farm. I decided that it might be best to postpone my trip to the farm but with no way of knowing when the unrest would end or if it would spread to other parts of the country, my project teetered on a precarious edge of collapsing completely.
But using the resources I had available to me, I reconnected with my collaborators, advisors, and mentors and quickly came up with a Plan Z since Plan A and Plan B and pretty much every other plan had fallen apart. Instead of forcing my way to the farm and potentially endangering my project further, I spent some time in Rajasthan looking further into the infrastructure and agricultural difficulties within the state. After this it was time to head to Delhi in March where 3.5 million people were meeting up to celebrate all cultures, diversity, and spiritual living at the Art of Living’s World Culture Festival. Together we meditated and celebrated for three days while discussing leadership and innovation at the Global Youth Leadership Forum. After a silent retreat in Bangalore with thousands of leaders from around the world and a week-long service project in a village in Orissa, I finally got the ability to travel to the farm.
I write this blog post from a small farm on the side of a mountain, three kilometers from the nearest town. The food is prepared on a fire stove, the water comes from a river a kilometer away, clothes are washed by hand, running water works because of gravity, electricity comes from the sun. Rural life can seem fantastical, picturesque, otherworldly, and simple. The fact of the matter is that getting into the rural mindset, living the rural life, farming at a rural scale on the side of a mountain is not easy. In the west and in urban areas throughout the world, electricity, food, water, clean housing, and many other faculties are often taken for granted. I work here in India to bring these same faculties to the people who support the rest of the world by feeding us and taking care of the natural world that allows us to be alive and enjoy life on Earth. My hope is that through the technical skills I have and through the lessons I’ve learned in India, I can inspire others to also give back and find ways to celebrate the simple things in life. I hope that my posts inspire you to join this celebration, to speak up for nature, to give back in whatever way you can.