The Grampari Affair Part I

I never wanted to get involved in this Grampari affair…. I had decided with full affirmation, to stop chasing the butterflies and take up a job in an architecture office, straight from morning ten to six in the evening, every day of the year….

***

I knew Renie since the Ecological Society Course. He worked somewhere in Panchgani. I got a chance to wander around with this geologist friend, while carrying out ecological surveys for Oikos. That is when I started inquiring more about his actual work.

He was working on Spring shed management project at Grampari, MRA in Panchgani. Of course this made no sense to me. So it was inevitable that, after resigning from Oikos, I should grab a bus straight to panchgani to visit this project.

It was absolutely casual visit. I anyway did not want to get involved with this Grampari affair….

The campus was abuzz with International Women’s Day event. Women Sarpanch and men assistant surpanch (Now, that’s exciting, isn’t it?!) had gathered there. Women’s participation in village administration has not improved merely by providing them reserved designations in Panchayat system. But here at Grampari these women public representatives got a chance to know the intricate laws, discuss their rights and responsibilities with legal experts and experienced social workers. With such exposure, I noticed, they were much more assertive and confident in their bearing.

Renie got me introduced to everyone at Grampari. I was already admiring ever smiling Jayashree Aunty, Dr Jared and Soumya. Who knew they were directors of Grampari?!

Some unknown people from another corner of the world come and stay in a village, helping my people to know, understand and conserve our environment, health and sanitation… that was invoking natural curiosity in my mind…

All sorts of crazy questions were shooting out, unrestrained by my usually recluse nature. In conclusion, that absolutely normal day ended with Jared offering me a job with Grampari. I was hastily nodding in agreement while refusing verbally!

Next week I was in panchgani to see the spring shed project being executed in the neighboring village of Godavli. (We’ll write another post on it!) There was no harm in just visiting…

I was anyway not getting involved in this Grampari affair!

We decided my work hours, time schedule and other such details that day. In next week I had signed a short term contract with Grampari. It is a two month contract with a clever clause of extension possible at the end of the term! I am going to refuse…

I am NOT going get involved in this Grampari affair!

This is how I started working from home. Helping with the documentation of Spring shed Protection Program is my primary task. With the help of ample visuals, sketches and drawings we are making a spring shed management handbook to be used in the Western Ghats or comparable ecosystems. Naturally, first I had to become watershed-literate!

That is how my Pune-Panchgani trips started. Now MSRTC is my second home. I know almost every conductor on Pune-Mahabaleshwar semi luxury bus route! Besides, I can write another whole post about my crazy co-passengers!

Every time I get down from the bus, I take a deep breath….. Inhaling entire Western Ghats, the forest, every eagle hovering over the valley, every stepped rice field and the wild crazy wind…

And I know, that it makes no sense hence forth to not get involved in this affair….

It is impossible to not smile when I walk up to the MRA campus. As if some chirpy, mad bird possesses me! I never know if I walk or fly up there!

Then follow endless discussions, work reviews, planning what to sketch next….  Sometimes we go off on a site inspection all day long. Although, calling it an inspection is nowhere near the actual experience! I carry cement bags on my head, dig with a pickaxe along with Jared and his assistant, “Ashok bhau”. Carrying batches of freshly mixed concrete, cleaning old stone built water tanks are as much part of my job description as sketching by the lily pond or providing a running translation between my boss and the villagers.

On another day I translated to and from English so much that by the end of the day I was speaking native Marathi with the boss and English with the villagers.  The whole village laughed at me… and then Tukaram Aba, one of the village elders called for a tea break!

***

Food and boarding facilities are excellent at MRA, so much that at times I find myself too pampered. Not having to cook is another bonus for me! Meal times are very special proceedings here. Initially I was too baffled to dine with so many strangers. Where to sit? What to eat? Who to talk with?

Basically understanding this institution and explaining it in a single blog post is impossible for me! But slowly the mealtimes became my greatest learning sessions. Strangers are not scary; they are just an unexplored opportunity to learn! I eat at a different table every day. Sometimes I dine with the interns who work at MRA, sometimes it is my bosses, MRA officials, guests, well-wishers, resident staff or volunteers….. a multicolor collage of people from across the world… people with different expertise, different backgrounds, different motivations…. All so different!

I started firing everyone with my endless questions. I remember once, the secretary of MRA sat with me, answering my rapid-fire, while his plate almost dried out. (Maybe that is why he avoided my table since then!)

With hundred or so dining at every mealtime, imagine the number of plates and cutlery to be washed! Hence, everyday one department of MRA helps in wash-up. I started to groove into this tradition of washing plates with songs and laughter as accompaniments! As a kid I always dreamed of washing dishes when I grew up…or at least grew up enough to reach over the sink! Who thought childhood aspirations could come true in such way!

Yona, one of the African interns hugged me for helping the interns with their wash up, on a specifically rush day… After a baffled moment, I too decided to wrap my soap sodden arms around her!

One of the cloudy evenings I have spent with this girl, who filled up the glass faced meditation center with her honeyed voice, singing some unknown chants…. It is impossible that God would miss her clear bell like song flowing into the valley…..

***

There is much more to share about this Grampari affair, maybe with pictures next time!

Advertisements

Man, Woman and Love…

About the same old topic…. Topic that mankind has been thinking about since its birth…. Love, man and woman, their mutual coexistence…. And everything else that follows…
For centuries people have thought, written, played and sung about this thing called love…. And yet it remains out of grasp….

The moment there is duality, there has to be strong attraction and repulsion inherent in the system….. Man and woman, being such complicated halves of one whole self that their coexistence would be, without any doubt, a mystery like no other… attraction to become one complete presence and repulsion to retain the individual presences.

They say a man and woman cannot be friends, there enters love to spoil it all….. But is that not ridiculous thing to expect?! There are two contradictions in this one single statement….. One, why is friendship not valued as love? Two, man and woman are dual poles of the same humanity, they are bound to love each other…. Why does that have to spoil anything?

But this is all theoretical discussion of course, inside we all know that here, love refers to a very sexual, reproduction intending, and instinctive animal desire, which is only one tiny aspect of a huge big complex idea of love.

This is like the story of an elephant and the blind men….. We all encounter very unique aspect of that one big huge love and assume it to be the one and only love. Generally speaking, owing to the natural tendencies, men and women see almost opposite aspects of love…. They “expect” accordingly different responses from each other… but actually none of them is right about love. Love is all about overcoming that inherent miscommunication. Love is about learning the whole concept of what really the elephant is!

Woman sees love in every relation… she finds the very imagination of it so very satisfying that she hardly cares to check the reality, which may not be as rosy as she thinks… Of course here I refer to woman as gender expressed in any form. Man does not see love like she does, at least not naturally. For him, it is a sport, a conquest…. There is possession and power involved…. And there is sexual aspect of love so very dominant…..

But it would be unjust to denounce men to the level of an animal. Time and again, men have shown courage and vulnerability of crossing their inbuilt idea of love. They have evolved in so many invisible ways. Maybe it was living in thousands of years of family structure that has started to change men….

They are becoming sensitive like a woman is…. They are starting to feel the other aspects of love…. For a long time human psychology has believed children to be woman’s natural responsibility, that men have no instinctive parental feeling. But years and years of fatherhood seems to have rubbed off on them! Observe closely, there are so many men around us who feel complete with fatherhood. They want it; crave it as much as woman craves motherhood. This was not how nature made them. They picked it up with time….  Man became father…..

Of course, slow as they are by nature, they have taken long time learning it… and still seem to fight with the change more often than they should! This is a good change, guys…. It is okay to be vulnerable to women just as she is vulnerable to you… We are growing up together…see?!

We are not going to have wars anymore, fights anymore, if men learn to be vulnerable, to love… as a father…. Yes, they need not become a copy of motherhood! It will be as sick and shallow as women competing men in fights and smoke….!

And woman is changing too along his side. Woman, who was tied down in centuries of pregnancy, is now free… free to learn, to create, to express herself in ways other than raising children…. She’s learning about the world as men built it for years…. She is raising questions, making changes, taking her part in reshaping the world….

A very beautiful future is ahead of us, though only as one of the many possibilities…. But, my god! Look at the utopia we could build together if man and woman become a bit of each other and overcome the stupid miscommunication….

We call it only one of many possibilities because there is an ugly side of this evolution. By another law of nature, there is resistance wherever there is “change”. We watch women going overboard to claim their freedom and losing womanhood in the process! What are we seeking liberation from?! From our own mental block possibly…. Definitely not from womanhood, since it is the most wonderful thing about existing as a woman! Similarly men too are resisting the change. Sudden violent increases in the rape accounts are nothing but a way to protest against their own evolution! It is not women they are defying…though they are hurting her in the process of it.

Some people claim that this resistance is product of family based social system. Yes it is. But that does not really mean we have to discard the whole thing. We have lived with this system for generations, gotten used to it…and grown with it. Just as we picked up some bad habits, we have also learned a few good things…. Let us not ruin it all. Instead, it is possible to move on with whatever we have in hand….

We do not need revolution when we have evolution possible to us! Let us just behave ourselves…. Be little more aware…little more forgiving…little more complimenting….. Let us get rid of centuries of vengefulness in our instincts… We have moved on, way ahead of savageness of that kind. We can respect friendship, since we feel it so strongly…. We can stop being so authoritarian, so possessive. We can learn about love in more open perspective…. Respect the other gender too. Try to ease their complexes sometimes. Help them to understand too!
Let us not go back…. Because there is such a wonderful world awaiting us! And we all agree, that we are basically very, very wonderful people, aren’t we?!