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13 Experiments with Simple & Sustainable Living: Stories from Swaraj University

Experiments with Simple & Sustainable Living: A story from Swaraj University by Rahul Hasija


Khojis at the lake-side behind campus

When I see small ants, hundreds of them, crawling in my mud house every day, when I hear the Nilgaay (Blue bull) jumping in my backyard garden in middle of the night in search for food, when I see stars, planets and meteorsand the faint milky way in the night sky, when I see the grass growing wild in the rains and vanish in the summers, when I hear people sharing deepest of their stories, music and dance, when I see birds and bees do what they are best at, and when I see people playing with mud & manure in the fields for the foods & fruits they mother for us, I realize something is alive – it is thriving and it is breathing with me. For last 6 years, I have been experiencing this aliveness with my community at Swaraj University, Udaipur.

Swaraj University is a university without classrooms, teachers, pre-defined syllabus and degrees. Intertwined in the form of a 2-year program, it has also been a space for many learnersfor the last 6 years to pursue their hearts’ calling,healthily question their lifestyles, their notions of the world, self and society and a space to be comfortable with themselves – a space where they can feel accepted.This space also came into being with the aim to challenge the institutionalization of education, health, food, entertainment and lifestyle and to give youth an opportunity to reclaim all of them in their lives.

Khojis(that’s what we call the learners, a Hindi word for ‘Seekers’) from the previous batches have explored and worked in more than 75 different fields; some of them are eco-architecture, farming, theatre, design, healing, technology, facilitation/teaching, writing, film making, storytelling, alternative education, ‘kabaad se jugaad’, event-management, healthy cooking, and even living simply in an intentional community.


Surrounding hills around the campus of Swaraj University

Located 15kms from Udaipur city amidst the fatherly Aravalli hills range, we reside in a place called Tapovan Ashram, which was started 25 years back by a retired couple, who bought this as a barren land, reforested it and turned it into an ecological heaven. It is home for many species of birds, insects, reptiles and predators, and living on the campus itself has been a healing process for many of us.

Having been part of this space from the beginning, as a Khoji, then interning for a year and then as a facilitator and having experienced living on the campus from last 6 years, I intend to share about experiments we have begun with and how they are helping us transit to an ecological community.

‘Ecological Sustainability’ has been an important pillar of the program at Swaraj as we believe learning cannot happen in isolation and in separation from Nature. The more we sense the interconnectedness, the more in-tuned we are with self. In all these years, there have been various experiments and practices tried, some intentionally, some just came to be, at head, heart and hands level to understand the impact of our current lifestyles, assess it and slowly shift to ecologically sustainable ways (Here, Sustainability means living in harmony and inter-dependence with other beings – living and non-living, that doesn’t risk their present or potential future lives)

Some of them are:

 1. Hands-on work at the campus

All the learners and faculty on the campus are actively involved in cooking, cleaning and maintaining the community spaces. Our continuous involvement with our hands has helped us reduce the weightage today’s youth gives to head work and it has helped us understand the potential our bodies hold. A lot of youth I meet and interact with have a distorted vision oftheir physical bodies because of the persistent pressure from media and society to have the perfect body, face, colour, shape, size(I was one of them few years back). This bombardment has made us lose respect for our bodies and has made us uncomfortable within it. Doing regular hands-on work releases some of that pressure as it has made us feel and connect to our body. Hands-on involvement is not limited to cooking, cleaning and farm-work, experiences like theatre, dance movement therapy, cooperative games, and meditations of different kinds collectively helps in healing our notions of our bodies and self. I remember,by the end of my 2 years at Swaraj University, I realized I had become so comfortable with my body that it didn’t matter what kind of clothes I wear and how I look. As I observed around me, I have seen people consuming more and more, and shopping for the outer beauty because there is an uncomfortable relation with inner being. The moment I became comfortable with my body, I realized I needn’t buy new clothes or accessories, in a way reducing my consumption.

It was also intentional from the beginning to have no maids, servants or workers on the campus as it gives us the opportunity to move away from the parasitic relationships we have on people and often communities of certain backgrounds, for the work we are capable and responsible for.

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 2. Re-think Development

What are the places we consider ‘developed’ in India?Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, would be a common answer. Paradoxically, these so-called ‘developed’ places have no pure air, pure water and pure food. Then what is so ‘developed’ about them? If a man sits under the shade of a tree to relax and experiences contentment, it adds nothing to the GDP, but when the same man cuts the tree and sells it into the market, it adds to the national growth. So, are peace and contentment contradictory to nation’s growth? More of such mind-boggling and intense processes are part of this workshop that has been transformative for many. It takes us through a journey of questioning our lifestyles, our consumption patterns, our standards to measure success, happiness and of course ourselves and aims to understand the whole idea of Development through the different lenses.

Co-facilitated by me and two other facilitators Reva & Sameer Dandage, this workshop,with the help of stories, film screenings, sharing of personal experiences, participative discussions and visits to mine & dumping yards, brings out hard-hitting stories of people, places and communities that are struggling to exist from the devastating impacts of ‘development’. One of the most impactful story for me has been the story of Congo and Coltan – of kids of Congo being sent to dangerous mines at gun-point and thousands of women being raped just for a metal used in our cell phones and other gadgets. I was moved to make a decision that I won’t buy a phone in my lifetime as it is causing nothing but sorrow to fellow beings. And indeed, it was not just my decision, people who have attended it have brought about many amendments in their lifestyle. The workshop helps us to understand the mainstream model of development – extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal – to aspects we are many a times unaware of. It becomes very clear by the end of it that we have turned to the tendency of using finite sources infinitely (minerals, fuel, trees, etc.) and infinite sources (such as time) finitely. Another independent workshop aligned to Re-thinking development is Jeevan Vidya, which brings to us sets of proposals towards our lives, relations, world and spirituality, all of which bringing a new and different outlook towards life.


3. Interconnectedness and being one with Nature:

The pre-extension of re-thinking development is re-connecting with nature. It was clear to us that facts and information won’t alone make an impact on us as we are already numb with bombardment of information we receive from media, society and education system. Rekindling our once lost connection with nature is as much important. How can I fight for the lakes, mountains and forests if I haven’t been to one or haven’t experienced the stillness that comes within their presence?In the contemporary world, there are two prominent relations we have with nature – first, we see it as something to be fearful of, and secondly we see it as a resource to be used. At Swaraj University, we try to dismantle both these attitudes as and when the learners arrive on the campus. Some of the exercises we do are spending a couple of hours observing a living organism (other than humans and other large mammals such as dogs, cows), spending time on the mountains with no agenda – just being there like any other piece of rock, walking across the stream of river barefoot and experiencing water and the wisdom it carries; One of our resource persons Sureshtook us through a startling journey of observing nature and its creatures(sun, sky, birds, flowers, bees, insects, sounds, and self) from morning 4am to night 11pm and it was amazing to see how day and night unfolds and how every moment there are parallel lives living and sustaining the world.

We also do some rituals to understand the elements of nature, shake our beliefs and experience the mountains, lakes, trees, and rivers as our relatives rather than resources. One of the most shocking and humbling experience I have come across which changed my relation with nature was when I realized and understood that the villagers never go on trekking on the mountains and hills. They only sometimes walk on these hills to graze their livestock, and that too, they seek permission from the mountains to do so. Conquering Everest or crossing English Channel became meaningless as our relatives are not be conquered on. We have also had a Shaman (traditional healer) come and share shamanic practices they practice in their tribe that re-align and heal our relationship with nature.


4. Slowing down

We have tried to inculcate the element of ‘slowness’ into our program as Slowness in today’s World is therapeutic. Reconnecting with nature adds to our experience of slowness. Another beautiful gift we have received staying at Tapovan Ashram is the ‘slow internet connection& phone receptivity’on campus that has been a great healer for a lot of us as it gives us more time to connect to ourselves, our close ones, mother nature and to what is present.In a well-known documentary ‘Ancient Futures’, a local Ladakhi lady talks of her relative who bought appliances like refrigerator, washing machine, mixer, to save time. Sometime later, when this lady wishes to visit her relative, the relative says she has no time. Indeed there is a need we felt to actually slow down our pace rather than holding time (which is indeed not in our hands) Thus, we have chosen not to install or use wi-fi routers, LAN systems, T.V., or any other modes of modern-day entertainment. It is part of the program to start reclaiming our modes of entertainment. Learners do it with their own style designing and holding different kind of get-togethers, musical evenings, drum circles, star-gazing nights and much more.

 5. Experiments with gift culture

When I had just joined Swaraj, the same week we, in groups of two, were sent towards a village without any money or gadgets and were given a challenge of building relationships with locals and have dinner with them before coming back. It was my first time to a village. Within three hours of my time in the village, I realized a stark difference from a city. With their limited means but unlimited heart space, we were served food and lots of love and it was so easy to get into people’s house. And that is when I realized the potential of gifts they carry – the gift of abundance. At Swaraj we are constantly striving (failing, falling, getting up, trying again) to imagine and create a space for being the gift – which means slowly cultivating inside us and around us a wholesome state of giving and receiving. As a part of this we are experimenting with gift culture practices like moving from transaction to trust, contracting to connecting, scarcity to abundance, private ownership to commons, extracting from relationships to nourishing each other. These are big words and yet they hold meaning for us in small acts.Mentors, resource persons and well-wishers of Swaraj Uni. have abundantly showered on us gifts of their time, energy and resources and there have never really been any ‘transaction’ with them. Khojis too, have been spreading these gifts wherever they go thereby keeping the gifts in a flow.

Our idea of ‘money’ and its utility also changes as one this journey we also see world from a different lens. Major focus of our education system is to prepare us for livelihood and the whole economics is based on scarcity. We, at Swaraj, are trying to strive for a world where youth also focuses on living life. Livelihood is just a part of it. Even for most people working in Swaraj University, money is not the prime driver for being there.

One of the beautiful experiments we do at Swaraj is of ‘Dariya-dil dukaan’ – Shop of the open hearted, a space we create for some time where people can share their gifts (it could be clothes, gadgets, recipes, skills, time, invitation to home, etc.) and people who need it can receive it. I have been hosting Dariya-dil dukaan from last few years and every time I do it, I feel enriched by the sharing experience which takes place. It multiplies the power of sharing and challenges our attachment to stuff, thus making a small dent in our consumerism. I have seen many-many people shifting from regular buyers of stuff to hand-me down users of stuff. I recently got a kitchen added to the place I stay and I got all the necessary cooking and eating utensils as hand-me-downs.

These practices of gift-culture (economics of abundance) bring to us a possibility of a world where we see, give and receive everything as gifts – river, water, air, food, skills, everything.When we see everything as gifts, there is a deepening of feelings of gratitude that really can help us come out of consumer culture. “When anybody is in gratitude, every perception is different and every response to a situation is different. It colours your whole world. And the things that we try so hard to achieve become either irrelevant or effortless.” – Charles Eisenstein


6. Cycle yatra

Every year, with a new group, we go on a sacred cycle yatra –ajourney to connect with each other, to the Earth, to communities we meet, to the forests, land, water, air, and self, and all that without the safety netsof money, clothes, food, medicines and gadgets. It is not a rally or a race, and there is no message or measurement. For 7 days, we move along the village side, without pre-deciding the route or the village, randomly chose a village, go and join the villagers in whatever work they are up to (farming, cow-shed cleaning, grazing, construction, etc.) And let me tell you, I have been on such yatras for four times, but never has the day passed when we have slept hungry.

It has been a transformative journey every time we set on it as it pushes us beyond our comfort zones, puts us in extreme vulnerability as we are without any safety nets, helps us move beyond the parasitic relationship we have in city and helps us surrender to the Earth and its people.

7. Jaso Ann, Vaso Mann (You are what you eat)

At Swaraj University, a lot of thought goes into preparation of food, selecting what is cooked and how it is cooked as we believe it is the aliveness of food which makes us alive. We try to include lots of millets in ourpreparations, get as much as organic grains as possible and use minimum of processed oil in our foods here. Michael Pollan, a well-known researcher of food once said “At home I serve the kind of food I know the story behind”. Knowing the story behind our food is also encouraged as we invite resource persons who with the use of films, visit to various food industries, discussions and actual preparation of food bring to us what we eat. One of our resource person, Purvi Vyas, who is also an organic farmer in Gujarat takes this fascinating subject of the ‘Geography of food’ and brings us face to face with the dangers of pesticide farming, chemical used in food, GM food, farmer suicides, factory farming and much more.

Khojis are also encouraged to participate in the kitchen, know more about food, interact with the kitchen staff, try different recipes, and bring traditional recipes from their parents and grandparents. One of our key nourisher has been Sumi Chandresh, an artist, unschooler parent and a great cook,who for last many years has experimented on food and brought variety of food recipes and ingredients to the Swaraj University kitchen.

Reva Dandage, the co-founder of Swaraj University, and I have been trying to grow our own food from last couple of years in the campus area itself. Both of us stay on the campus for most of the year and farm for at least two seasons. We often share our produce with each other and other members of the community and it is indeed a pleasure and learning experience for both of us to observe and see our tiny little seeds grow into a mature plant.

8. Participating in ecological movements

Khojis participating in the Jan Satyagrah yatra by Ekta Parishad – Jal Jangal Jameen andolan


Khojis participating in people’s movement against the Nirma Cement factory in Mahuva, Gujarat.


Khojis and team members of Swaraj have been witness to many social resilient movements across the nation. A huge population across India is resisting oppressive forces for their land, water and forest rights and these are the people who have lived, for generations, in forests, close to land and rivers. In a recently held gathering at Swaraj, Rajagopal ji, the man behind many land rights movement said “Aadivasis and their ecological wisdom makes them one of our gurus”Participation in these movements is not just to support them, but also to support ourselves as commons are at stake and we are all going to be impacted. Some of the movements our khojis and team members have been part to or have witnessed are people’s movement against Nirma Cement factory, Mahuva, Gujarat, people’s movement against POSCO in Odisha, Swaraj Beej (seed) Yatra that happened across many states (2 of our khojis were part of the whole yatra), Jan Satyagrah yatra by Ekta Parishad. We have also been involved in Economics of Happiness in Bangalore –a larger movement towards localization.

One of our khojis, Gyan, came to Swaraj with a focussed goal of becoming a mainstream masala film director. When he travelled with the Ekta Parishad yatra video-documenting the social movement, he was literally moved, meeting local people and listening to their stories, so much that he chose to document their lives and stories instead of making a mainstream masala film.

9. Visiting & collaborating with other Ecological communities

As part of our learning journeys and mentorships, we also visit many ecological communities, where people and organizations are trying to shift to ecological ways of living. We visit organic and natural farmers, suppliers of organic food, kabaad se jugaad artists, eco-architects and their work-site, etc. These visits and sometimes mentorships are to learn and meet people who are an inspiration, who are trying to be self-sustained and minimising consumption and destruction. Swaraj University has also co-initiated Eco-versities Network with 50 eco universities around the world.

Visiting Varsha Samuel and her balcony garden in Dharwad


Khojis visiting an organic farm in Pune


10. Understanding Swaraj and Commons

Every year, we play an interesting game of musical chairs that is way different than what we have played in school functions or birthday parties. What do we remember of that game? Running around the chairs, trying to push the one who is ahead and being cautious of being pushed by the one following us, having our ears attentively placed on the music waiting for it to stop and start again, our eyes, like a hawk’s, set on the chair.


New kind of ‘Musical Chair’ – the one we need now to understand the power of Swaraj

Aren’t we playing the same game at a broader social, political and ecological level? Pushing communities and other living beings out of their space and sometimes till extinction, hoarding immense money and power to push others, living with immense insecurity of losing out and maintaining the status quo. The different game we play has just one pre-condition – no one shall lose. And indeed, it is a game changer, as what we see are people dancing around, sitting on each other’s laps as the chairs go down, going around in every direction.Manish Jain, another co-founder of Swaraj, takes us through this process of understanding how these chairs symbolize our commons – air, water, food, and land, and how do we shift to a new story – a story of people living in harmony, reclaiming their lives, inter-dependence, self-reliance and creating healthy and resilient communities, and that is what the idea of Swaraj is, which Gandhi, Vinobha Bhave and many others talked about.

 11. New Eco-construction on the campus


Zomsa Geodome café & Chulha (Zomsa in ladakhi means getting together place for a family)
Bamboo structure bathrooms & grey-water harvesting plant


There has been some eco-construction which has happened on the campus – that is more local style with local materials, where more natural lights flows in.Some of the khojis, who have been interested in pursuing eco-architecture have been part of designing, budgeting and actual construction along with the locals.


New eco-toilet on the campus
OJAS – Mud-plastered & round structured hall







12. Making & using herbal products

We encourage our khojis and other visitors on the campus to make and start using non-chemical self-care products. Some of the products we have made on the campus together are tooth powder, soap, mosquito repellent, lip balm, joints-pain oil, tea, utensils cleaner, etc. The recipes of these products are copy-left (instead of copyright) and anyone can make it.  22.jpg

Applying cow-dung based organic face-pack
Making and presenting herbal products like lip-balm, tooth-powder, foot crack cream and deodorant


13. Alivelihoods

Every year, there are khojis who plan their projects, a stepping stone for deep diving into their own work. These projects are varied – some want to build their own enterprise, some want to work independently on their creative projects, some want to assist already existing organizations with their own inputs. We call it Alive-lihoods projects – where a lot of questioning and helping goes into how these projects are serving people and bringing individuals and communities alive, how is it serving the local ecology and economy and nitty-gritty of economics and our notions of money are challenged to go beyond the mainstream model of economics.

One of the khojis Kamalbir,who began a start-up project of upcycling textile waste into utility bags and then selling it into the market, soon struggled with the idea of scaling up or not – scaling up means more products in the market, which again means more consumption, and more production means the support staff of the team (the production unit, who are Women-folk of a village in Udaipur) that now have enough time at home to work for self, home, farm, poultry, would then have to focus full-time on the production. The rest would suffer. Thus, she decided to continue the work in a way where production of bags remains just one of the work and the team-members can continue to keep other valuable service activities of life in loop.Thus, understanding the ‘abundant economics’ (gift Culture) has been as important as understanding marketing and money-making, not just for khojis, but for the team as well.


Kamalbir and Ritesh, khojis of Swaraj Uni., selling their eco-products


These are some of the experiments we have been up to, and all these, at hands, heart and head level, add to truly experiencing our oneness with nature and move towards a sustainable life. To be very frank, we are just beginning to understand the vastness of what still needs to be done and undone and we are faltering and making mistakes. A lot needs to be worked to be in-tune with the ecological wisdom.These choices, actions and sometimes inactions are boosting our intent of shifting towards a more sustainable life.




The strangest species called Parents and children

”We have had an experience, which we don’t want our kids to have, but the kids want to plunge into the same experience again… I suppose this is what generation gap is”, A parent.

5 years back I had read a small article by Osho in one of the magazines where he is responding to a parent’s worry for his adolescent child’s erratic behavior. Osho replies (not in exact words) – Dear friend, I must congratulate you that the time has come, that your child is now beginning to find and make meaning out of his life. He has been living under your umbrella for all these years, accepting your values, beliefs, thoughts, and actions as his own. But now, he is coming of his age, he is making his own meaning of the world, he is beginning to question everything he was taught or made to believe. If he refuses to listen to you, your thoughts and desires, be happy, for now, this separation is the beginning of his new era, a new birth – a birth he would give shape to.

I was again reminded of this in a Dialogue on Education hosted by The Heritage School in Gurgaon. I was one of the participant and we were made to go through a process called the ‘Fish Bowl’ – a group of students (of age 16-18) sitting in the inner circle to share, whereas we, all the adults (including teachers, parents, youth) sat in the outer circle, to listen – listen with the state of wonder.

The students in the inner circle were asked:

What is it that you don’t get it about them (parents/adults of the society) and what is it that they don’t get about you?

Some of the replies they shared

– They ask why I’m silent when I am quiet, and when I talk, they say why I talk so much.

– They are way too helpful, and they don’t let us make mistakes

– They confuse us – sometimes they say be mature, you are grown up, and sometimes, they will say – act like a child, you have not grown up

– They always ask us the reason for our decisions, but they never share their reason behind any decisions

– They always crib that they have seen more life than us and are more experienced

– They label us like you are hard-working/lazy, etc., and they don’t give regards to the transition we are going through, they don’t realize that our personalities are shaping.

– They are hell-scared about what society might say

I was amazed to hear the young students share honestly what they don’t get about their parents. I wish their parents were there to listen. I have been associated with youth and youth organizations, one of them being Swaraj University, from last 5 years which has brought me to know and be face to face with many child-parents struggles. Tired of their parents’ expectations and the burden of societal pressure they dump over kids, I have heard the children crib about their parents, I have heard them cry, I have seen them run away from their homes and I have seen them rebel, rebel hard. I have also seen parents cry, longing for their child’s love, anxious and concerned, burdened with their life tasks. I don’t know who is stranger – the child or the parents, but it definitely pains to see the struggle arising out of their separation where such beautiful relationships get noisy most of the times due of lack of ACCEPTANCE – sometimes from self, from family, from society and so on.

One of the khojis was recently sharing with me a dialogue she had with her parents where she had to ask them to find and define happiness for themselves rather than finding happiness in her presence, actions or reactions – which brings us to another of the dreadful causes of these struggles – EXPECTATIONS. And I am sure it is quite difficult for parents whose whole existence depends on the child for so many years until one day when the child begins defining his/her own identity and I can sense how difficult could it be for parents to shift gears and let their inseparable part separate.

I would like to share 2 conversations which touched me and my conscience deeply. One of them was Dr. Quratulain Bakhteari, who heads a learning program called IDSP in Baluchistan, Pakistan. She was sharing about her program whose initial 2 months are focused on finding roots – going back to your family and searching for your ancestral roots. The biggest reason behind this initial stage of finding roots is to get back to the family, to tie back the thread which somehow in this rapidly transiting world gets torn apart, and she said, “That is how the parents would begin supporting you for such unusual lifestyle choices and studies”. I and my peers questioned her that the parents won’t do that to which she responded very beautifully – ये जो आपके वालिद और अम्मी जान होते हैं, वो बड़े अजीब किस्म के होते है, बाहर से तो बड़े सख्त होते हैं, पर आप के लिए इन का दिल पिघलते देर नहीं लगती । (Your father and mother, you know, are very strange. They may seem very hard from outside, but for you, they can quickly soften from within)

A small conversation with her inspired me to search for my roots, to get close to my father who is fond of history and I did. And it also inspired me to design a small program called Reclaiming your Roots for khojis at Swaraj University where a few khojis researched on their paternal/maternal history of last 100 years. One of the khojis Arpita Gaidhane from Thane share how she got close to her father when they both went on a journey together to know their ancestral history.

Another small and beautiful conversation was with Jeetu Dave, a khoji’s father who had come for the parents meet at Swaraj. He shared how our struggles or anger with parents as a child blocks the source of all the energy for us and once cleared, they are the ultimate source of energy for our work. He shared how his anger in the past got projected into the future and the anger towards his father did not let him blossom even in his adulthood. His realization came too late in his life but yet he asked for forgiveness, and led the anger in him rest in peace.

The fish bowl I mentioned above to which I was part of inspired me to host a similar circle for parents and children at parents meet of K5 khoji cohort at Swaraj University. Many parents were supposedly against the ideas of their children, and not just ideas – lifestyle, life choices, actions, everything. The children (khojis) too seemed in a rebellious mode as many of them constantly shared their struggles with the parents. And as a little expected, the parents meet did start with an intimidating note. The concerns and anxieties of parents rolled in and did burdened the excitement of khojis who had been preparing hard for the parents meet. The concerns ranged from ‘my child doesn’t even wear proper clothes in front of relatives’ to ‘what would my child do and which is the one last field which he/she would choose and work upon’.

My idea was to hold a fish bowl circle at the end of 2nd and final day where the parents and children can express to each other “what is it that they don’t get/understand about each other?” but on the day 1 itself, the parents and children were, without such a circle, such blunt and sharp with each other, blowing apart each other in every other session that what they didn’t understand about each other became very obvious. Of course there were some exceptions to that.

IMG_3987 (800x533)At the 2nd and final day, the anxiety did loosen up after parents heard the individual stories of khojis and what they are learning. On that evening, we held a circle of fish bowl for parents and the children asking:

What is it that they (parents/child) inspire you and you appreciate in them?

We very rarely appreciate our loved ones (especially the ones whose presence we have taken granted for like parents or children) but are very quick to depreciate, which is very often public. I remember a few years back, while I was away from home and chatting on facebook with my father one day. He suddenly said “I love you beta”. I did not know for few minutes how to receive the love my father had showered. I hesitated in replying but then I did. And it has taken me and probably him a good amount of time to overcome the formality in the relationship which stops us from hugging and sharing appreciation so often.

I too feel such formality in many of the relationship struggles between parents and children. Being the host of the fish bowl circle, I witnessed many parents and children finding it hard to even appreciate. But yet, I felt blessed to host such a circle, at the end of which, I could see some moments of joy and lightness, some khojis hugging their parents and parents yet again bridging the gap to trust their children and offer the support they often find it hard not to offer. Remember, the last scenes of LAge Raho Munnabhai, where Sanjay Dutt stops Dia Mirza on the radio from taking her father’s name. “He says – बाप का नाम पब्लिक में मत उछाल । अरे बीमार है वो, उसे फूल भेज ।” (not insult your father in public, he is ill, send him flowers)

We are all in some ways ill, trying to heal ourselves of this separation. What will heal us? What will help us blossom? Some flowers indeed, who will find their way, in their own strange ways, to our hearts. I believe our hearts know the answer … am I listening? Are you listening?

Reminds of a beautiful quote I read long time back –

हम कुछ न कहें और चाहें कि हमारी बात तुम्हारे दिल में ख़ुशबू की तरह उड़कर बस जाएँ

(I wish without uttering a word, my feelings spread like fragrance in your heart)

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The balloon of Guilt

I wrote this story 2 years back with lot of realness of my life into it but woven with a little pinch of fiction. As I was reading it today, I felt it is time to remove the little pinch of fiction, add more reality and share it with you all.

“My mother wasn’t keeping well from the last two months. I have been spending time with her, taking care of her well-being. The doctors have advised her not to exert pressure on the body and all she needs to do is take rest. It has been a learning experience for me. In a way, I am also learning to be patient enough to understand my mother’s needs. I have also learned cooking. All this while, I would cook simple food for all of us…” continued Zain as he shared his story of previous two months with us. Zain was my batch-mate at the Umitti5-3niversity We were meeting after our semester break and sharing what we all did. Gathering words for my turn of the check-in story-sharing, I looked back and wondered where I was during the semester break? – Down south in Andhra and Kerela, at least a thousand miles away from my parents, wandering everywhere with a back-pack and bare-minimum money.

“I am also learning to be patient enough to understand my mother’s needs” Zain’s words ‘patient, needs’ echoed, fuelling my mind with pictures of my parents, specially my father. Tall, fair and plump with large thick glasses resting on his short bulgy nose, a wrinkle-less face still shining in his late-fifties. It were his eyes that I got stuck at – dull  and heavy, tired with decades of responsibility – responsibility of earning a living for a joint family, getting the siblings settled in education, jobs and marriage, being a face to the society and so on. I could see those eyes. And just the memory of those tired and dull eyes haunted me. There I was, hundreds of miles away from him, wondering if my staying away from him is adding to his burden. Would he be craving for his son’s presence? “Am I not taking enough care of him?” I thought. I finished my dinner quickly that night. Instead of walking back to the room, I stopped and turned towards the terrace. The cold was sharp, heavy and it was beginning to get unbearable, yet I walked up the stairs. I realized giving pain of the cold to my body was the only way to remorse.

The sky was clean of clouds. Orion constellation stood with the bow facing north. It always faces the north. The north suddenly reminded me of the conversation I had with an old man I met at a northern Punjab town of Tuglaqwal – tall, with long white beard, clean purple turban and a spotless white kurta pajama. He owned a big school, and for last 40 years was a daunted, strict and unshakeable man, his spirit, acts and being spoke in his words. And yet, his unshakeable soul was weak as he spoke. “God bless you son with lots and lots of happiness. I wish you achieve success in life. But son, let me tell you this, I am unhappy for you, and it hurts me a lot because I am a father. I know the pain of being away from the son. You are so far away from your father, he must be dying for you to be close.” Said the old man in grief hugging me and giving me a box of jaggery as a gift.

The memory of old man’s words brought another set of memories. I couldn’t take off my father’s face from my mind. I had lied to my father and ran away to Rajasthan for a long backpack journey. He cared for me so much that he wouldn’t let me be away – away in terrains of life where my life could be in danger or surrounded by uncertainty. He has lived enough of uncertain life that he has wished to devoid me of such experiences, and that is what has created a one-hand-different views-distance between us. “He has never been selfish in providing me anything, then why am I being one? And living with the irony of not being able to express my appreciation for him life has been difficult. He, undoubtly, has been the unsung hero of my life. I have been running away from home all the time. I have so much got used to the freedom that a single question of ‘where are you going?’ from my father makes me impatient. I can sense his care and concern, but rebellion is what my every bone is filled with. I heard the shrieking call of a lapwing somewhere close to the college premises. It seemed there was a predator on the run to kill lapwing’s kids. I turned around and saw the Great Bear constellation to whom we Indians refer to as ‘Saptrishi’. Its presence up in the sky just above the dormitory confirmed that it was late in that winter night. I checked my cell phone. It was 3:27 on the clock. I left for the room to sleep but couldn’t all the night.

The overwhelming feeling stayed with me, walking with me as a shadow, making me feel the presence of a dark element within – the element which bluntly spoke on my face and labelled me ‘hypocrite’ and questioned my values of respect. All I had learned in my life – my books, stories from my mother, stories of the great Sufi saints – respect and care were permanent structures. And there I was, struggling to keep them in me for my father. We had a difference of opinion, well to put it right, opinions. But I still loved him? Then why did I not stayed with him, taking care of him?

A few days later, a counselor friend of mine Kokil offered a Taro card session. I gave it a try. From a deck of I don’t remember how many colorful cards, she asked me to choose two cards. I randomly chose two. I then shared stories of my relationships with family members, with friends and colleagues. After sincerely listening to whatever I had to say, she said “How much guilt are you carrying? With all your relations, you are carrying the burden of one strong emotion – guilt”. I sensed a bubble of heaviness in my gut. I moved my hand over my stomach; I was getting as plump as my father, may be carrying the extra flesh of guilt within me and so was he probably. I could figure it out then what moved within me with Zain’s words – it was guilt.

A few days later, I received a hand-written letter from a close school friend. I had written to her sharing my grief and guilt over not doing enough for my parents.

Dear Rahul, Sorry for the delay yaara! My pen didn’t want to stop writing. By the way, the letter you wrote was perfect for an #$&*@. It sucked – just one page, and that too an inland letter… …Do you remember sharing about your family and the guilt you have for not spending time with them? Yes, you are selfish, but who is not. Be selfish, but remember not to be self-centered. There is a saying if you don’t love yourself, you somehow can’t love anybody. You can only make and spread happiness around you when you feel it from within. So don’t worry if you want to stay outside your hometown, and not go home, just make sure the home is happy.  

Rahul, I would like to quote something here from a movie ‘The Heroes’. The hero says to his girlfriend – tere vaaste lakh jawaaniya, par ae jawaani desh vaaste.’ तेरे वास्ते लख जंवानियाँ, पर जवानी देश वास्ते! (I sacrifice my million lives for you, but this life is for my nation) Consider it in your situation; you have been with your family for almost 20 years, made your parents proud by being a sincere boy. Now, your rest of the life is not just dedicated to them but it is shared by your passion towards nature, environment and life. Live this passion Rahul, live it. Don’t guilt yourself of being selfish. Just let your passion drive you in a direction that creates a happy-happy situation all around you.

Don’t stop and ponder about your selfishness but let it mingle with your selfishness itself. Enough of my speech…”

With me all around the world,


I read, read and re-read those lines – “तेरे वास्ते लख जंवानियाँ, पर जवानी देश वास्तेThese words made perfect sense. I was carrying huge amounts of guilt for things I was not able to fulfill, but never the satisfaction of things I was accomplishing. I felt exonerated. I felt the balloon of guilt within me, tightly tied to a rope of thoughts was now released into the air. It didn’t alter my concern for my family. But those words, I believe, came with a touch of helium and love. And with the touch of love, the balloon got pushed up in the air. With the balloon there was something else which got released – a single exhalation, which released me from that nagging pain of guilt.

All these years of my rebellion age, I have struggled to align my thoughts with my father’s and all I have got is his support. I would often praise my mother more because she aligns with my thoughts, and motivates me in my journey. And just because my father questioned my thoughts and acts, I resisted him. To cover that with an excuse – I am of the age where rebel and resist is the only weapon. My father or for the matter anyone close questions my acts, I shoot the question down, close myself for further interrogation and still do what I want to. But when I look in retrospect over all these years, my respect for my father has risen multi-folds. He has questioned me, but he has never let the societal pressure and questions even reach me. He has held fort and shielded me from all those pulls and pushes of the society, providing me every possible supported me in my journey.

* Hakuna Matata *

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Demise of Play-time

I played a lot. Once back from school, I was all the time on the roads, in the front corridor of our apartment, in the nearby gardens to play, play and play. Sometimes, it was cricket, sometimes it was hide and seek and sometimes it was badminton. I see it as a rare phenomenon nowadays in a child’s life. The roads and the verandahs where we used to play freely are now full with posh cars of people. So, roads and the verandahs are out of stock for the little ones as well as for the adults to play. Some who dare to play do get the brunt of neighbors for spoiling their cars. The gardens, which by themselves are in limited numbers, are now just ornamental places where adults come for walk, jog, do yoga but playing is not allowed because – “Gardens are not the place to play” – Yes! I heard someone say that too. And of course, half the parents are too insecure to RELEASE their kids to play as if draculas and fire-spitting dragons are wandering in the gardens, but they are ok letting them kill those dragons on their cellphones. And that is where it hurts me a lot. Half the world with their heads stuck deep into their cellphones trying to make and destroy the world of fantasy where one death is for sure – the death of playing – which is also the death of hands-on playing, and sportmanship. At the age, where the child is filled with high energy, anything else other than playing suppresses that energy, which the child then releases in rather dangerous manners – some of them being anger, frustration, fights, blackmailing parents, high food and stuff consumption, etc.

Here’s a small film I made with two kids from Ahmedabad, who have never been to school – Qudrat, 14 is very good at art, making warli art, film-making and tattoo making are few of his passions. Ajanmaya, 9 loves theatre.

Play……..and play….

and say…. Hakuna Matata🙂

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Where’s Sita?

Pre-noteIt has been a while that I have written something for my blog. The readers might believe, looking at the date of my last post, that the freedom walker might have stopped walking. I felt the same. May be I was waiting for a realization to happen – something to struck me hard. A few days back, an acquaintance of mine, Fiona, whom I was meeting for the second time, instigated me to write by pouring loads of satires on my no-writing spree and thus I began writing. 


A couple of weeks back, I was in Dharwad, the cultural capital of Karnataka for a learning journey with khojis of Swaraj University. We were hosted by Dr. Sanjeev Kulkarni, a gynaecologist turned farmer from Dharwad at his farm ‘Suman Sangam’. Every second day, he would share some of his life experiences with us. I am sharing what I captured in one of his sharing. And this is something which a lot of people would have written on, but still, a lot of it was new to me. Also some inputs from a social activist Anita Borkar.


Dating back to thousand years, the male member of the family used to go for hunting, whereas the female member stayed back in the caves (read home) with their children, taking care of the cave as well as their kids. And it is said that women, while being at home, noticed some edible plants. And she noticed it growing every year. And thus she started saving seeds and replanting them again every year. She started saving seeds; she started growing crops every year and thus the agrarian life of human begin. For thousands of years, women have been doing the majority of work involved in agriculture – right from tilling, sowing the seeds, watering, cultivating, harvesting, seed-saving and even going and selling it into the markets. No need to say that agricultural work involves hard physical labour and 70-80 percentage of agricultural work is done by women. And quite opposite to the stupid belief of ‘men are stronger than women’, women indeed are physically more stronger in that respect, and the mechanism of nature proves that. The child birth ratio is heavier towards men. Males are more prone to infant mortality compared to females and to balance it out, it is nature mechanism to produce more males than females (for example, for every 967 females, there are 1000 males)

It is after the onset of modern agriculture, when technology was heavily introduced (in India after Green Revolution) the role of women in agriculture started dipping. There were now tractors to till the land, irrigation and canal systems to water the crops. Women started becoming burden to the family. Her role started diminishing and was limited to handling household chores. Women-folk, who were once the strongest pillar of agriculture, became ‘one extra member to feed’. The age-old tradition of dowry added to the burden, and thus fueled the thought –

Why not do away with the female child?

I don’t know exactly how old is this tradition of female infanticide, but many patriarchal communities drowned the female infants in water when born. One of the communities went on to the extent of holding up a ritual called ‘Doodh Peeti’ (Milk drinking) where the female infant was drowned in milk and it was said that they are doing the honors to the infant by drowning her into something pure.

Taking references after watching Anand Patwardhan’s documentary Pita, Putr, Dharmyudh, Sati system was no different. Feeding the widow was as much burden for the family as remarrying her. And how better it could get if the widow is done away with her husband the same time? The sati is turned into goddess – a local deity – which opens up the scope of people coming and offering money at her temple.

It was in early 80’s when Dr. Kulkarni started working in one of the famous hospitals of Mumbai. He had just started his career as a gynaecologist. It was the same time when modern day medical techniques of IVF and Ultrasound were introduced in India which was originally introduced to check the normalcy of the foetus in the womb. Dr. Kulkarni began noticing a surging trend of abortion cases in the hospital.  He started collecting data on the same and after recording details of 100 abortion cases, the result was shocking. 99 out of 100 abortions were of female foetus. The only one male foetus abortion was because of some genetic abnormality. He wrote a report named ‘Missing Daughters’ describing this disgusting scenario.

These abortions were taking place at ever-increasing rates. The technology was put to use in every locality. Gynaecologists considered it as an act of honour – a social service they were doing – not letting the female child face the brunt of the society after being born – and thus terminating her before birth. There were open advertisements running on the local trains of Mumbai with the caption –

Why spent lakhs of rupees on dowry, when you can do away with the problem in just Rs.500…

The technology was easily available and the doctors had their full support to it. Dr. Kulkarni raised this matter at many levels. And it was obviously not easily taken. It took years before a law was made and years more before it started getting implemented. Until then, the damage was done. From 1980 to year 2005, 15-30 million women were estimated to be missing in India, majorly in the state of Punjab, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, U.P. And 90 million women were missing during the same duration in seven Asian countries collectively which means that there were millions and millions  of women who never made it to this world.


The other connection

A lot has been written and spoken on the matters of female foeticide and pre-natal sex determination. But what captivated my attention to this issue this time was the other two connection it had. To me, at first, it was only the burden of dowry, carrying forward the family legacy, and traditions that allow man to undertake the ritual for e.g., the last rites of family members and social structure that pulls women down in every context. But what is it that fuels the same? Why such traditions? Why such social structure? How does it came to be?

The first of these connection is to agriculture and the reduction of women participation in it. The rise of modern automated technology and widespread cash cropping has reduced the status of women on the society. States where cash crops like cotton and sugarcane are grown, the rate of female foeticide is much higher than other states. Punjab, which was the heart of green revolution, has the poorest sex ratio of the nation. It is one of the scariest sides to the damage ‘modern day development’ has done.

The other connection which Dr. Kulkarni mentioned is the Hindu Fundamentalism connection. States where there is strong presence of Hindu fundamentalists are the states with much higher female foeticide rate (Gujarat, Maharashtra, U.P to name a few) The reason being that Hindu fundamentalism promotes and fuels patriarchal society. Till a a few decades back, posters, billboards, and hoardings would have Lord Ram’s picture with Sita and Hanuman along. After the onset of Hindu fundamentalism, and the whole Ayodhaya spectacle, it was only Ram who made it to the posters and hoardings. Ram with his mighty bow – the warrior Ram. Sita’s existence is a question now. I wonder where is Sita?




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The distances between hearts – a short story

Once, a revered saint was walking along the Ganges with his disciples. On his walk, he noticed a few people engaged in a furious heated-exchange of words. He realized that there might be a dispute between the people. One of the passers-by told the saint and his disciples that the people in verbal-spat are blood-relatives.

The saint made the disciples witness the fight. Later in the evening when the saint and the disciples got settled at a dharamsala located at the nearby ghats, the saint asked the disciples, “What did you notice during the fight?”

“A few people were furious and shouting at each other over some issue”, replied one of the disciples.

“They were not ready to listen to each other”, replied another disciple.

The saint then asked back, “Why do you think they were shouting at top of their voices even while they were standing physically so close to each other?”

“Because they were angry”, came a sudden reply from one of the disciples.

“Yes, it seemed they were angry. But, why did they shout when the other person was standing so near to them? Or for that matter, as you would have witnessed many other disputes in your life – between husband and wife, brother and brother, teacher and student, shopkeeper and customer – why do people shout at each other instead of sharing their anger in a way that keeps their differences to themselves and doesn’t opens it to the hawking eyes and ears of the world?”

The disciples were confused. They tried a few answers but to no avail.

The saint smiled and said “when two people have differences between each other and they are angry, it is not their close proximity or physical presence which matters. In spite of being so close physically, their hearts are at  distance from each other, at the extreme poles, and to cover that big distance from one heart to another, a person needs to shout. To make the other heart listen, a person needs to shout”



The saint continued, “And in quite the opposite scenario, when two person are in love, a mere murmur is enough to communicate. Have you witnessed two lovers communicating? You may give 200% of your ears to listen to their conversation, but you won’t be able to. When two persons are in extreme love, words take a back seat and just expressions are enough. The whole body communicates and it takes no time and no words to be interpreted by a lover because their hearts are so close”


* Hakuna Matata *


* Story shared by Subhashini Passi, Indore in one of the group meetings of Samanvaya (





















































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गुरु-शिष्य परंपरा

This week’s story comes straight from the Sufi singer Mir Mukhtiyar Ali:

हाल ही में मुंबई में आयोजित कबीर फेस्टिवल में मीर मुख्तियार अली जी को सुनने का मौका मिला ! अपने गीतों के साथ-साथ वो रोचक किस्से भी सुना रहे थे! एक रोचक किस्सा था प्रसिद्ध गजल-गायक गुलाम अली साहब का ! गुलाम अली जी बड़े गुलाम अली जी के यहाँ गायकी सीख रहे थे! 12 साल बीत चुके थे पर बड़े गुलाम अली जी न एक बार भी छोटे गुलाम अली को बैठा कर सिखाया नहीं था! वे जब भी रियाज़ करते, छोटे गुलाम अली को बाहर काम से भेज देते!

एक दफ़े की बात है, गुलाम अली साहब ने बड़े गुलाम अली साहब की मोहतरमा से दरख्वास्त की कि वे अपने शौहर से कहें कि उन्हें भी सीखने का मौका दें ताकि खानदान कि संगीत परंपरा को आगे ले जाया जा सके! बड़े गुलाम अली कि मोहतरमा ने छोटे गुलाम अली को सब्र रखने को कहा और कहा कि वक़्त आने पर उसकी सिफ़ारिश वे ज़रूर करेंगी! थोड़े ही दिनों में वे अपने वादे को पूरा करती हैं और बड़े गुलाम अली साहब को कहती है कि छोटे को भी गाने का मौका दिया जाए, न कि उसे हमेशा दूसरे कामों में मसरूफ़ रखा जाए!

एक दिन कि बात है, रियाज़ का वक़्त हो चला था! बड़े गुलाम अली साहब ने छोटे गुलाम जी को बुलाया और कहा कि आओ, बैठो और गाओ! छोटे गुलाम अली इस बात से थोड़ा झिकझिकाए! पर बड़े गुलाम अली ने उनका ढाढ़स बढ़ते हुए कहा कि गाओ और गाते रहो! अगर मैं उठ के अंदर भी चला जाऊँ, तब भी गाते रहना! छोटे ग़ुलाम अली साहब ने गीत चालू करा। बड़े गुलाम अली साहब घर में टहलने लगे! जब वे रसोई में पहुचे, तो उनकी मोहतरमा घबरा गईं! उन्होने घबराते हुए पूछा “कि आप यहाँ हैं, तो गा कौन रहा है?” बाहर बैठे छोटे गुलाम अली साहब उसी शिद्दत और शान के साथ गा रहे थे जीतने छोटे गुलाम अली साहब गाया करते थे! उन्होने यह कला उनके साथ बैठ कर तो नहीं, परंतु सिर्फ सुन कर ही हासिल की !

इसी तरह मुख्तियार अली जी ने अपनी ज़िंदगी की कहानियों के कुछ अंग भी बांटे । मुख्तियार अली जी राजस्थान के पूगल क्षेत्र के निवासी हैं और उनके पूर्वज भी संगीत से उतने ही जुड़े हुए थे जीतने वे हैं । पर संगीत की यह कला यूं ही नहीं सिखायी जाती थी, उन्होने दीवारों पर कान लगा-लगा के संगीत सीखा! और यह कहते हुए मुख्तियार जी ने अपने उन पूर्वजों को शुक्रिया अदा किया उनकी कुर्बत के लिए, क्योंकि आखिर संगीत तो उनके पूर्वजों का ही है जो इनकी रगों में दौड़ रहा है ।

Check out another story at a blog I just glanced upon:

Until we meet again,

Khuda Hafiz🙂

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Fill me with stories


Stories I believe have the power to change the world and the world within us. I have been deeply influenced by stories – stories my mother has been telling me from childhood, stories I read in books and stories I experience on the run. I also believe our life is a story and every moment, every interaction, every  heart beat comes with a story. Recently a friend shared that ‘an enemy is one whose story we don’t know’, and quite the opposite would be that people whose story we know are our friends. Being passionate about stories, I try and bring to you real-life stories, folk-tales and stories of every kind.   All the stories would be archived in the page of my blog.

Today I bring to you the story of Chimamanda Adichie, a novelist who with her experiences shares the risk of listening to just one story and making our judgement. The world comprises of many stories and what if we take that one more step to know stories behind a single story. Here comes Chimamanda with her story:

* Hakuna Matata *

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टोकरी वाला

This play is adapted from another play called Basket Maker, originally adapted from B.Traven’s ‘Assembly Line’. It explores the contemporary definition of economics and happiness and how a contrasting yet beautiful aspect exists in the same world. Here it goes:

(एक लाइन में सब खड़े है! ढफली बजने पर सब आगे बदते हुए एक अर्ध-गोले में बैठ जाते है! एक और ढफली बजने पर सब अपनी जगह बददलते है और अपने पात्र में आ जाते है! एक और ढफली बजने पर अपने केरेक्टर के जीवंत कर देते है! ढफली वाला कुछ पलों बाद इन केरेक्टरों के बीच से गुजरते और ढफली बजाते हुए आगे पहुचता है और ज़ोर से चिल्लाता है टोकरी वाले… इसी पल सब पात्र उसकी तरफ झटके से देखते हैं)

गीत की शुरुआत:

चला रे, चला रे, चला रे

नाना, चला टोकरी बेचने

चला चला रे होय!

चला चला रे होय

चला चला रे – 2

जंगलों से लाता,

जंगलो से लाता होय

रंगों से सजाता होय

टोकरी बनाता – 2

(इसी पल टोकरी वाला टोकरियों के पीछे से निकलता है और गाता है)

 टोकरी वाला: ले लो भाई टोकरी ले लो

मैंने हाथों से बुनी

अपनी आँखों से देखो

सुंदर रंग बिरंगी

ले लो भाई टोकरी ले लो

टोकरी… (कहते हुए घर पर खट खटाना)

पुरुष: कौन है भाई सुबह सुबह? (गुस्से में) (दरवाजा खोलते हुए)

टोकरी वाला: मैं टोकरी…

पुरुष: कहाँ से आए हो? (गुस्से में)

टोकरी वाला: मैं गाँव…

पुरुष: क्या चाहिए? (गुस्से में)

टोकरी वाला: टोकरी बे…

पुरुष: नहीं चाहिए (गुस्से में), पता नहीं कहाँ कहाँ से आ जाते है सुबह को! (दरवाजा ज़ोर से बंद करते हुए)

टोकरी वाला: ये तो रोज़ का हो गया है (थोड़ा मायूस होते हुए)

ले लो भाई टोकरी ले लो…

(कुछ बच्चे भाग के आते है)

बच्चे: अंकल अंकल, ये क्या लाये हो आप?

टोकरी वाला: बेटा, टोकरी है ये रंग-बिरंगी

बच्चे: इसका क्या इस्तेमाल होता है? (एक बच्चा टोकरी के अंदर घुस जाएगा और दूसरी टोकरी से अपने आप को ढक लेता हैं !

टोकरी वाला: हाँ तो सुनो, शादी के लिए फल हो, या पुजा के लिए फूल

टोकरी वाला: छुप जाना इस में

दूसरा बच्चा: जब न जाना स्कूल (टोकरी से निकलते हुए)

पहला बच्चा: क्या आप हम को ये बनाना सिखाओगे?

टोकरी वाला: इस बार नहीं, पर जब अगली बार आऊँगा, तो ज़रूर सिखाऊँगा !

बच्चे: बाइ! अंकल, बाइ!


टोकरी वाला: ले लो भाई टोकरी ले लो, मेरे हाथों से बुनी, अपनी आँखों से देखों, सुंदर रंग बिरंगे!     टोकरी… (कहते हुए घर पर खट खटाना)

(घर के अंदर से आवाज़)

महिला: अरे, छोटू के पापा, ज़रा देखो दरवाजे पे कौन है! मैं इसके पोथरे बदल रहीं हूँ!

पुरुष: ठीक है! क्या है भाई? (दरवाजा खोलते हुए)

टोकरी वाला: बाउजी टोकरी लाया हूँ!

पुरुष: अच्छा, दिखाओ तो!

टोकरी चाहिए क्या? (चिल्लाके अंदर बीवी से पूछते हुए)

महिला: हाँ! हाँ! देख लो!

पुरुष: कितने में दी?

टोकरी वाला: पचास में एक बाउजी!

पुरुष: पचास!!! कम कर!

टोकरी वाला: बाउजी आपके लिए पाँच रुपये कम कर देंगे!

पुरुष: भाई, बीस में देना है तो ठीक है वरना रहने दे!

टोकरी वाला: बाउजी, बीस में तो हमें भी घर में नहीं पड़ती!

पुरुष: देख, तुम्हारा बोनी का समय है, बीस में देना है तो ठीक है, नहीं तो बाज़ार में पंद्रह की मिलती है!

टोकरी वाला: बाउजी!! ठीक है, ले लो!!

(टोकरी वाले को रुपए मिलते है)

(दो लोग पुराना पर्दा पकड़े हुए आगे आते है, और फिर पीछे जाते है)

 सीन 2

(टोकरी वाला और उसकी बीवी)

बीवी: अरे, आ जाओ, खाना बन गया है !

टोकरी वाला: हाँ, आता हूँ, आता हूँ!!


(बाहर से एक युवा प्रवेश करता है और टोकरी उठा के देखता है, और दर्शकों को दिखाता है!)

युवा: नमस्ते जी!!

टोकरी वाला: नमस्ते!

युवा; बहुत ही सुंदर टोकरियाँ हैं, कैसे दी?

टोकरी वाला: पचास की एक!

युवा: पचास!! हम्म!! (पचास, बस!! इतनी अच्छी टोकरी सिर्फ पचास कि! कुछ हिसाब करते हुए अपने मोबाइल पे)

वैसे तो ये टोकरिया कुछ उपयोग की नहीं है, पर फिर भी, अगर मैं 10 लेता हूँ तो कैसे पड़ेगी?

टोकरी वाला: 5 रुपये कम कर देंगे बाउजी!

युवा: (थोड़ा और हिसाब करते हुए) हम्म…!! अच्छा, जैसे आप और मैं जानते है कि इस टोकरी का कुछ काम तो नहीं है, पर फिर भी, अगर मैं 100 टोकरी लेता हूँ तो?

टोकरी वाला: बाउजी, आपको 40 में दे देंगे!

युवा: तो ले आओ 100 टोकरिया!

टोकरी वाला: ठीक है बाउजी (टोकरी वाला अपने घर कि और नज़र फेरता है) एक, दो…, पाँच, नौ, बारह, पंद्रह! बाउजी पंद्रह है, चलेगा?

युवा: सिर्फ पंद्रह टोकरिया है, बाकी के कब मिलेंगे?

टोकरी वाला: आप ऐसा करिए कि दो चार दिन में आ कर देख जाना!!

युवा: ठीक है!!

(पैसे और टोकरी का लेन-देन होता है) (युवा के जाने के बाद, बीवी उठ के आती है)

बीवी: कौन था? कहाँ से आया था?

टोकरी वाला: पता नहीं!!

बीवी: काफी बड़ा आदमी लगता था!

टोकरी वाला: ह्म्म!! हो सकता है!!

बीवी: अरे, बहुत ही सुंदर टोकरी बनाई है!


टोकरी वाला: कुछ दिन पहले एक तितली आई थी, उसी के रंग जैसे रंग इस टोकरी में भर रहा हूँ!!

(गीत चालू होता है)

तितली रानी, तितली रानी, मुझ को दे दो अपने रंग…

ला ल ला ला

ला ल ला ला

ला ल ला ला

ला ल ला…

(ढफली बजती है नासिक स्टाइल में और सब युवा के पीछे नाचते हैं और 3 लाइन में खड़े होते हैं!)

युवा का मन-1 : आज तो मेरी लॉटरी लग गयी!

युवा का मन-2: अंबानी बनूँगा, रिलायंस बनाऊँगा, सारी दुनिया मुट्ठी में कर लूँगा!!

युवा का मन-3: अरे वाह युवा भाई, नयी गाड़ी, नया बंगला, और नयी बीवी भी! एक दिन क्रिकेट टीम भी खरीद लोगे! (सब हुर्रे करते है)

युवा का मन-4: खयाली पुलाव मत बनाओ, धरती पर आओ!!

युवा का मन-5: Don’t worry man, I’ve an LIC khwab surakhsa plan, that too with guaranteed profits. Hahahaha (ज़ोर से हसना) Mutual fund is subject to market risk, please refer the offer documents before investing.

(सीन बदलता है)

सेठ जी: भाई मिश्रा!!

मिश्रा जी: जी सेठ जी!

सेठ जी: वो जो आदिनाथ नगर में जैन साहब हैं, उनके यहाँ दस पाकेट मिठाई भिजवाओ, और हाँ, बिल ले आओ !

सेठ जी (अपने नौकर से): कुछ काम ढंग से नहीं होता तुम्हारा, चल पैर दबा

युवा: नमस्ते सेठ जी

सेठ जी: नमस्ते नमस्ते जी, बिरजिए! बड़े दिनों बाद आना हुआ!

युवा: हाँ, सो तो है!

सेठ जी: कहिए, लगवा दूँ आपकी मनपसंद मिठाई?

युवा: नहीं! आज तो हम कुछ लेने नहीं, कुछ देने आए हैं!

सेठ जी: अच्छा!!

युवा: ये देखो!! (सेठ जी को टोकरी देते हुए!)

सेठ जी: अरे भाई, कोई सब्जी मंडी व्यापारी थोड़े नहीं है, मिठाई बेचते है हम!


युवा: अरे सेठ जी, ज़माना जो है बदल गया है! इन डब्बों में से बाहर निकलिए! आज जो है, दुनिया बाहर की चमक धमक देखती है! अंदर क्या है, कोई नहीं देखता! और वैसे भी, इन चमचमाती हुई टोकरियों में मिठाई बेचोगे, तो होगा न डबल मुनाफा! बॉस!! जो दिखता है, वही बिकता है!

सेठ जी: बात तो तुम पते की कर रहे हो, और माल भी चौखा है, दाम बोल!!

युवा: एक के दो सौ!!

सेठ जी: सौ दूंगा!

युवा: देखिये सौ में क्या होगा? इतना तो हमारे घर में नहीं गिरती! एक काम करते है। न आपका, न मेरा, 150 में नक्की कर देते है!

सेठ जी: शर्त है हमारी!!

युवा: बोलो

सेठ जी: कम से कम 10000 टोकरियाँ चाहिए!

युवा: हो जाएगा, कोई दुविधा नहीं !

(दोनों हाथ मिलते है)

सेठ जी: भाई मिश्रा, मुह मीठा करो भाई साहब का!

युवा: सेठ जी, आपने तो हमारे मुह की बात छिन ली!!

अगला सीन

(दो लोग पर्दा ले कर आगे आते है, जब तक पीछे सीन बदलता है!!)

टोकरी वाले का घर

युवा: नमस्ते जी, क्या हाल-चाल?

टोकरी वाला: नमस्ते, नमस्ते बाउजी, आइये बैठिए! माफ करना, अंधेरा होने से पहला थोड़ा काम खत्म करना है!

युवा: अरे, काम तो चलते रहेगा! पर मैं एक ऐसा सौदा लाया हूँ जिससे आपका भाग्य खुल जाएगा!

टोकरी वाला: अच्छा?

युवा: पर मुझे बताओ 1000 टोकरी बना लोगे?

टोकरी वाला: 15 बना ली तो 1000 भी बना लेंगे

युवा: और अगर मैं कहूँ कि 5000 बनाओ तो?

टोकरी वाला: हज़ार बना लेंगे तो 5000 भी हो जाएंगे!

युवा: और अगर 10000 कहूँ तो?

टोकरी वाला: बाउजी, आप जितना कहोगे हो जाएगा! हमारा तो काम ही येही है!

युवा: और कितना वक़्त लगेगा?

टोकरी वाला: बाउजी वक़्त तो लगेगा! लकड़ी ढूंढने जंगलों में दूर जाना पड़ता है, जड़े धुंदनी पड़ती है! कुछ जड़े तो सिर अमावस्या और कुछ सिर्फ पूनम कि रात को ही मिलती हैं! पर कोई फिक्र नहीं बाउजी, आप जितना बोलोगे, उतना हो जाएगा, तीन दर्जन भी!

युवा: तीन दर्जन? तीन दर्जन? ये तीन दर्जन कहाँ से आया? आपने तो कहा था कि मैं 100 टोकरिया लूँगा तो 40 में एक दोगे! तो मैं दस हज़ार टोकरी लूँगा तो एक टोकरी कितने में दोगे? सीधा सीधा बताओ!!

टोकरी वाला: बाउजी दस हज़ार टोकरी… सोचना पड़ेगा! समय लगेगा बाउजी, थोड़ा समय दीजिये, मैं हिसाब लगा के कल बताता हूँ!

(युवा वहाँ से चले जाता है और टोकरी वाला फिर काम में लग जाता है! रसोई में सुन रही टोकरी वाले कि बीवी पूरे किस्से को सुनते हुए अपने पति के पास आती है)

बीवी: दस हज़ार टोकरिया, दस टोकरिया का कोई भला क्या करेगा?

टोकरी वाला: पता नहीं क्या करेगा!

बीवी: कहाँ से आया था? कहीं दूर से आया होगा!

टोकरी वाला: तुम्हें हिसाब करने में मदद करनी पड़ेगी!

बीवी: हाँ हाँ, अब चलो, खाना खा लो, भूखे पेट थोड़े ही कोई हिसाब होता है!

(चादर को 360 डिग्री गोले में घूमते हैं  – जो अगले दिन के सीन परिवर्तन को दर्शाता है)

युवा: हाँ जी, हो गया आपका हिसाब

टोकरी वाला: हाँ जी बाउजी आइये! पूरी रात जाग कर जो हिसाब किया, तब जा के हिसाब हुआ आपका! तो अगर आप 1000 टोकरिया लोगे तो एक टोकरी होगी 300 रुपये की, अगर 5000 टोकरी लोगे, तो एक टोकरी 900 की और अगर 10000 टोकरी लोगे तो एक टोकरी 1500 रुपये की!

युवा: क्या? एक टोकरी पंद्रह सौ रुपये में? आपके हिसाब में कोई गलती होगी, देख के बताइये!

टोकरी वाला: नहीं बाउजी, हिसाब तो बराबर है!

युवा: अरे कैसी बेवकूफी वाली बातें कर रहे हो, धंधा कर रहे हो की क्या कर रहे हो? हम तो माल थोक में उठा रहे है, दाम दो कम होना चाहिए, आप तो 30 गुना कर रहे हो!

टोकरी: बाउजी, यह हमारा धंधा नहीं, हमारी ज़िंदगी है!

युवा: अरे क्या ज़िंदगी, ज़िंदगी तो हम बना रहे है आपकी! इतने पैसे कमाओगे कि आगे कि सात पुश्ते आइशों-आराम की ज़िंदगी जिएंगी!

टोकरी वाला: बाउजी, हम तो कम में ही खुश है! एकौर बात बाउजी, यहाँ पे तो एक फिरोजी रंग की जड़ ढूंढने में 4-5दिन का समय लग जाता हैं! दस हज़ार टोकरी बनाने में तो सौ साल लग जाएंगे! और सिर्फ टोकरी बनाना ही तो हमारा काम नहीं, गाये भैंसे है हमारी, और खेती भी तो है! खेती नहीं करेंगे तो अनाज कहाँ से आएगा, अनाज नहीं आएगा, तो रोटी कहाँ से आएगी?

युवा: आपको रोटी की फिक्र करने की जरूरत ही नहीं है! आप इतने पैसों से तो हजारो अनाज की बोरिया खड़ी कर दोगे घर में! और जो आपके गाय-भैंस और खेत है, वो तो आपके रिश्तेदार देख लेंगे! क्यूँ, आपके रिश्तेदार नहीं है आस पास?

टोकरी वाला: रिश्ता तो हमारा पूरे गाँव से ही है बाउजी! पर अगर वो हमारे खेत पे काम करेंगे, तो उनके खेत पे कौन करेगा? और खेत पे काम नहीं करेंगे, तो अनाज के दाम बढ़ जाएंगे! और अगर अनाज के दाम बढ़ गए, तो हम तो भूखे रह जाएंगे! अब तो आप समाज गए होंगे कि दाम क्यूँ बड़े!

युवा: अरे आपको भूखे रहने कि तो नौबत ही नहीं आएगी! ऐसी एक टोकरी आप चालीस में भी बेचोगे न, तो चार लाख रुपये कमा लोगे, मैं पाँच लाख देने को तैयार हूँ, कहो तो एडवांस दे देता हूँ अभी!

टोकरी वाला: बाउजी, कम तो नहीं होगा!

युवा: पागल हो क्या? बेहरे हो? कब से कह रहा हूँ कम करो कम करो, आप वहीं 1500 1500 कि रट लगा रहे हो (झल्लाते हुए)

टोकरी वाला: नहीं बाउजी, वो तो नहीं हो पाएगा! और बाउजी, हम जो टोकरी बनाते हैं, उसमें हमारी आत्मा जुड़ी हुई होती है, हर एक में मेरे और मेरे बीवी के गीत बुने हुए होते हैं! इतने सारे बनाऊँगा, तो न इसमें आत्मा होगी, न ही गीत! माफ कीजिये, कल हाट का दिन हैं, और मुझे काफी काम हैं! आप आए, बहुत बहुत धन्यवाद!

(युवा गुस्से से घर से निकाल जाता है)

बीवी: दस हज़ार टोकरी (आश्चर्यचकित)

टोकरी वाला: मैं तो बीस का भी नहीं सोच सकता

बीवी: अरे अरे देखो, एक नयी तितली

टोकरी वाला: हम्म और एक नया गीत!

(गीत चालू होता है)

तितली रानी, तितली रानी, मुझ को दे दो अपने रंग…

ला ल ला ला

ला ल ला ला

ला ल ला ला

ला ल ला…

हाथ में पर्दा पकड़े हुए: बेचो- ले लो – 4 (गाते हुए)

एक पात्र: बोलो प्यार का क्या दाम दोगे?

गीत कि शुरुआत: सभी गाते हुए


(सभी उस पत्र को देखते हैं)

बोलो प्यार का क्या दाम दोगे?

नींद कैसे खरीदोगे?

क्या भाव कोयल का गाना?

पहली बारिश में नहाना?

कब तक चलेगा व्यापार?

आत्माओं का बाज़ार?

जीवन खेल इंसान खिलौना

बेचो ले लो

बेचो ले लो

बेचो ले लो

बेचो ले लो

बेचोगे क्या अपने दिल का चैन

चेहरे कि हसी और आँसू भरे नैन

चेहरे कि हसी और आँसू भरे नैन

सोचे सोचे हम, सोचे हम

सोचो सोचो तुम सोचो तुम

–          3

 —————————–( समाप्त )—————————–

 Hindi translation, edition and songs by: Vartika Poddar, Rahul Karanpuriya, Karen D’Mello, Rahul Hasija, Nachiket Kulkarni, Nachiketa Doctorr, Kamalbir Kaur, Arjun Aiyer, Qudrat, Ajanmaya

To read the english version :


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Around the South in 45days

दिल भी कहीं है पहाड़ों में !
थोड़ा सा कहीं है किनारों में !!

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The above lines are apt for me as I have been traveling all over – from the hills of Udaipur to the forests of Andhra, from the jog falls of Karnataka to the sea shore of Chennai, and with every journey I make, I leave behind a few colors of my heart, partly in every place and I carry with myself the shades these places leave on me and in between exist some shades that don’t fit in words, neither in my expressions, nor in framed pictures of my camera. The purpose of the 45-day travel was to meet people who could be possible mentors for khojis of Swaraj University ( or for a large network of associated people. Here are some events, and stories from my journey:

Pied Piper in the train 

It was during a day’s stay in Chennai when I was travelling from karturba nagar to Chennai Park in a local train, comfortably seated on one of the seats and glancing at the Chepauk cricket stadium from the train, I saw a blind man walking out from the connected train coach towards my coach, wearing black glasses and a stick to check for the obstacles in the path. He was playing a flute. I was wondering if it was a Bollywood song or a Tamil song but whatever it was, it made its way to my heart. I was enthralled by it and for the time he played it, I couldn’t think of anything else.

I unexpectedly had my hand in my pocket, took out some coins and dropped it in the box he carried. As he made his way to the next coach, I could notice more and more people walking up to him for giving alms. I am usually a person who would think much before giving away alms, logically accessing factors like – he/she is a child, I should give them something to eat rather than money, or I avoid looking into the eyes of someone I don’t want to give or sometimes even think that what I received and got from my parents for the whole of my life is something I have not earned by myself. I just got it by-default. Then why do I think before giving away alms thinking that they don’t earn it? But this one time, my logical mind went numb. He never went person to person asking alms, he just played the flute, and people by themselves gave it to him.


While in Secunderabad, I got a chance to visit Care4Autism, a center for Autistic children recommended by a friend Bhumika. Having no basic idea what autistic is, I landed up at the center to meet Mansi Bagwe, director of Care4Autism. With her motivation, I decided to visit the center for the remaining days I had in Secunderabad and spend some time with the kids there. I always feel a state of blankness with an inability to decide my reactions when a child or a adult with some sort of developmental or mental disability comes by. This chance, although for 3 days, helped me understand the blankness within me and also the gift they have. I realized the amount of patience and love one needs to have to interact with these special kids. One of the days there, I was telling a story to three kids present in the class. All of them were occupied in some other work, and no one looked straight at me. At that moment, I felt a sense of awkwardness, but I continued to share the story. They responded correctly to Mansi when she asked in a special manner a few questions regarding the story I told.

c4A c4A 001

Overall, it was one of the memorable experiences of my travel. To know more about the center and  autism, check (

Revolutions flow through the bang of a dafli

I got a chance to attend the screening of ‘Jai Bhim Comarade’ at the Ninasam Culture Course, Heggodu in Karnataka. It’s a documentary made by Anand Patwardhan over a period of 14 years traveling across Maharashtra and video-documenting the dalit revolution. The documentary revolves around the protagonist Vilas Ghogre, a dalit folk singer whose voice reached out to many and inspired many with his stirring poetry and music. This revolution is no ordinary one, it’s a musical revolution and it happened with the bang of his dafli. A few scenes later, he is dead. His body is being carried out in his locality with everyone mourning. He committed suicide.

Why someone, who had the power to inspire mass, took this drastic step? Why after such long decades and centuries of humiliation, people are still humiliated and discriminated based on their castes? Why group members of Kabir Kala manch, who only sang songs to demonstrate their protest against dalit atrocities have to go underground to prevent police arrest and torture? Why people from the cities and metros think they never think about caste, but underlining processes of decision-making in families is all decided based on the caste. Here’s a poem written by one of the members of Kabir kala Manch from jail –

किस किस को कैद करोगे?
लाखों हैं मुक्ति के पंछी, कैद करोगे किसको
लेकर पिंजरा उड़ जाएंगे खबर न होगी तुझको
इस पिंजरे की सलाखों का लोहा हमने ही निकाला है
ये लोहा पिघलाने हमने अपना खून उबाला है
लोहा लोहे को पहचानेगा, फिर क्या होगा समझो
लेकर पिंजरा उड़ जाएंगे खबर न होगी तुझको
इस पिंजरे की दीवारों में हमने पसीना बहाया है
ईंट बनाने, सीमेंट बनाने मिट्टी को भी भिगोया है
मिट्टी कभी गद्दार न होगी, क्या बतलायें तुझको
लेकर पिंजरा उड़ जाएंगे खबर न होगी तुझको
इस पिंजरे के पुर्जे पुर्जे हमें बताते अपने किस्से
कितने मज़दूर दफन हुए हैं इस पिंजरे के नींव के नीचे
वो मज़दूर हैं साथ हमारे, कौन रोकेगा हमको
लेकर पिंजरा उड़ जाएंगे खबर न होगी तुझको
कैद में डालो, फांसी लगा दो, हंटर से चमड़ी भी निकालो
न्याय के रस्ते चल पड़े हैं, बाँध लगा लो, कांटे बिछा लो
कितना ज़ुल्म करेगा ज़ालिम, थक जाना है तुझको
लेकर पिंजरा उड़ जाएंगे खबर न होगी तुझको

Shri Gopal Guru, a professor from JNU, Delhi was hosting the discussion after the movie. There are a few things he said and that still remain with me:

1)      “Can we be small? Can we be mediocre?” – It could be a very simple solution to all the universal problems. The unending urge to grow and develop has led everyone down. Either it is the unarmed, monitory weaker section of the society, or the environment/nature who bears the brunt of this growth. What has the urge to be in power, to own the resources done to the world? Can we be contended with little, and leave little-little for everyone?

2)      Usually, the statue of Ambedkar is shown carrying a book in his left hand (which signifies the book of constitution) and his right hand pointing somewhere between sky and land. He said, his pointing is a request to his people (and for that matter, I think, for every one of us) to be self-critical of the steps we take. Because, he knew, if in power, people from the sections of the society considered lower might do the same, which the sections considering upper are anyways doing.

Caste and the wave

While in Secunderabad, I saw a movie named ‘Die Welle (The Wave). A high school teacher does an unusual experiment to demonstrate to his students what life is like under a dictatorship and how it turns out of control. Not-so-united students turn into a strict social unit, like a rigid religion with orthodox traditions to be followed, not complying to which leads to humiliation or violence. I realized after watching that movie and also reading Animal farm by George Orwell during the same time that how love or unity towards the cause of sustaining a social structure (caste, religion or any form of group) turns violent. I wondered if the caste-hatred or religion-hatred is also because of the same reason. It’s all a fight of identification. For example, identifying myself as Hindu, or Sindhi, or Indian, or a walk-out, gives a purpose to my life and these tags define my power, my status and exclusivity devoid of which, I may feel vulnerable of losing out my identity. If these identities are questioned or not accepted by all, I should compel those sections of society not complying by to agree to my purview of identities. And this vicious circle continues. Can we live life without tags of identities?

Visit to Dharwad

To the north of Karnataka is the twin city town of Dharwad-Hubli. The only person I knew was Dr. Sanjeev Kulkarni whom I had met in Bangalore sometime back. Apart from being a doctor, Sanjeev anna is active in organic and natural farming and also in education. Living in his house, I felt a few thing were worth noticing and sharing it with all. Every Tuesday and Saturday, his nephews and a few relatives used to gather in the house courtyard and share different stories every time. The first day, they asked me to share about Swaraj University. The next time, one of Sanjeev Anna’s nephew Sharath Shared his story of cycling alone to Mumbai and back to Dharwad in a span of two days. Sharath has taken a gap-year post his 10th class and now exploring different things. Every day at dinner, they used to sing a song praising the land and the sources where the food comes from.


There are many small stories of my travel, of meeting countless number of people, of the challenges and advantage language brought me, of the frustration and excitement of travel, and of the mild and turbulent waves of the sea. These stories would make their way out some where some time. Sitting on the edge of the Jog falls watching the rainbow colored water pouring down, touching the east and the west coast of India in Udupi and Chennai respectively, coming close to experiencing cyclone Nilam in Auroville, and falling in love (read admiration) with an Odissi dancer and her expressions at Ninasam are a few other shades I carry on my memory.

Until we meet again,

# Urzu Durkut #



1) The Hindi phrase is from the song ”Kitni Haseen Zindagi’ by Lucky Ali.

2) Anand Patwardhan’s website :

3) Urzu Durkut is a Kashmiri blessing meaning ‘good health (ur zu) and strong knees (dur kut) ’

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