Alternative Lifestyles, Healthy Living, Living, Personal, Travel
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Exploring an alternative lifestyle

I’ve been a regular customer of Navadarshanam’s organic products for a while now. I usually frequent the Mother Earth or Namdhari Fresh stores to stock up on my unpolished rice, pulses, jaggery and spices.

So when I came to know that they are located near Anekal and allow interested visitors, one Sunday my sister and I drove down there for a visit. It was a pleasant drive on Hosur Road with a diversion at Chandapura, towards Anekal. The village is Ganganahally, located after Anekal town. We followed the directions given to us by Nagarajan, our host. At the village, there was a signpost on the main road with the name painted on it and from there it was around a 2-3 kms drive inside.

The community is located in a very small part of the 100+acre land, the rest of which is forest, shrubs etc. Around 10-12 families make their home here and during our visit we get to meet a few of them.

Over a cup of refreshing black tea in his patio, overlooking the woods (and the sound of chirping birds), Nagarajan tells us a little bit about the background of how the concept and this place started off around the 1990s. Its origin can be traced to a Study Circle that used to meet in Gandhi Peace Foundation and the Indian Institute of Technology at Delhi in the 1970s and 1980s. From study and discussions amongst a group of individuals, it was observed how the urban industrial way of life was taking away from the individual, the self and resulting in ecological destruction, poverty and violence.

To get away from this vicious cycle, the group felt the need to explore alternatives to the modern way of living and thinking. To give these ideas practical shape, in 1990-91 they created a Trust and bought 115 acres of land next to a small hamlet about 50 km from Bangalore. Amongst their experiments, the Trust looks at alternative methods in the areas of eco-restoration, natural farming, health and food, energy and housing.

Most of the trees around, Nagarajan tells us are natural species that started growing once they fenced in the property. Earlier, it was just arid land. Now, they experiment and try to grow different crops and plants, though the soil quality is not good enough to support large crops.

The commendable thing that the Trust has done is set up a self help group consisting of women from nearby villages who are involved in the making, packing of different products that are then marketed under the Navadarshanam brand. All profits are ploughed back to the workers. Some of these are largely organic products, while others are kept as natural as possible.

We talk about how food has become such a difficult choice these days with the amount of preservatives, pesticides etc. being used. We’re never really sure of what we’re eating. We buy fruit flavoured products, little knowing that it’s all artificial. We buy rice that has been robbed of all it’s nutrients, honey which contains added sugar syrup and spices which have coloured additives to make it more attractive. We definitely need to be more careful and discerning about our food choices and what we pick up at the supermarket nowadays.

What we really enjoyed was the community kitchen at Navadarshanam. Everyone lends a hand to cook the meals and eats together. The food is simple, but tasty and wholesome. Which is really nice and not something we experience often these days, when meals are often alone or on the run. I even know of folks who boast that they have no time for breakfast and have to snatch food on the go or even give it a miss. If I have to miss my breakfast because of paucity of time, I’d really question what I was doing wrong…

Anyway, back to the property where different activities are going on, while my sister and I take a relaxed walk around and then take it easy for the rest of the day. We don’t have any agenda and it’s pleasant just sitting in the patio of the cottage (our home for a day) and doing nothing.

Their products retail at different stores and we see boxes being packed, marked and sent out for the weekly deliveries. Inside the main working areas, the women are packing laddus made from sprouted wheat today. I pick up some unpolished rice, organic jaggery, peanut butter (which I love!), dalia, non-detergent soap and chilli powder.

These are some of the places in Bangalore where you can buy their products.

Navadarshanam is open for visitors, but they encourage folks who are interested in knowing more about their principles and mission. This is not really a “touristy” weekend. Everything is solar powered. And of course, no televisions 🙂

As the website says: “We would like only those who share an interest in the values and life-style of Navadarshanam to come here, and we welcome such visitors.” They encourage folks to visit for a day or more to get a better understanding of what they are doing.

The numbers to contact:
Nagarajan on 92430-49163 or Gopalan on 92436-15470 or Ananthu on 92436-05053.

An expanse of 110 acres of hilly land bordering the Thally reserve forest, 50 km south of Bangalore along the TN-Karnataka border, provides a serene and inspiring setting for pursuing the aims of the Trust.



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