A while ago, as I was completing studies in engineering, around 2008, I developed a deep fascination with plants. During that time, I was continually frustrated at the lack of guidebooks to the wonderful world of plants, insects and fungi that surround us. Descriptions of plant behaviour, trophic interactions, evolutionary history were rarely mentioned, most volumes instead favour identification through black and white monographs, sketches and tons of dense vocabulary.
After completing my studies, it occurred to me that since no one was putting together books on native wisdom, I might as well take on such a project both to learn for myself and to share with other enthusiasts. But there was little support from a business-oriented family background that I was tied up in. So I bailed on them. But work in this sector doesn’t pay, and running around trying to make a living leaves little time for real living i.e. an immersive observation of nature. So I went back home to live as an outcast, politely putting up with taunts, always focusing instead to learn more from nature.
What is nature? As I took up volunteering positions and internships in farming, forestry and building with natural materials, it dawned on me from the spaces and people I was blessed to meet, that Nature is not a place to visit, an escape from what is manmade – it is home – and within that home territory there are more familiar and less familiar places. Often there are areas that are difficult and remote, but all are known and even have names.
And home is our living classroom. The less familiar can be magnified to familiarity. The remote can be a sanctuary of undisturbed life.
For most cultures in history, the careful observation of all the calendrical and ecological niches that a home territory offered was satisfying enough to devote a lifetime to. This created a sense of belonging to that land inextricably well. This was the territory I found myself navigating and yearning to learn about.
And in doing so I inevitably found myself exploring what it meant to be “Wild and Free” because the people that I was fortunate to meet in these circles, for better or worse, informed my decisions in crafting an escape from the fetters of mundanity.
Both the above words have become consumer babbles. Civilizations all over the world have been racing head-on into a collision course with nature and yet their terms for it too are wildness and freedom. Yet scarcely anyone seems to have noticed.
As I’ve learnt to define freedom over the years, the most meaningful to me is the simple acceptance of impermanence and the choice it grants us.
Wildness comes from those last wilderness shrines saved from all the land that was once known and lived in by the original people; the little bits left in groves and deep valleys across the country as they were the last little places where nature lives – also wails, blooms, nests, glints and wisps away.
I’ve seen more happiness in children growing up in this home – with nothing but mud on their faces than I’ve ever seen in the civilized.
Along the way, those gathering of like-minds in far-off villages and places of unspoilt nature taught me everything I know of ecology and sociology today.The permaculturists and whole systems builders; the cybernetic shamans and anarchists; the mindful educators and trickster behaviourists.
Yet, what seemed genuinely lacking was a place to put action to where my mouth was. And along came Bhoomi. They have offered me a space in Sharavathi to work on my ideas and provide valuable perspectives without any hesitation. A space that I plan to use to create a central repository for all types of plants, local, useful or exotic, while studying and making accessible to others, indigenous knowledge of ecosystem interactions and ways of living. Also, I am very keen on building appropriate technology devices that supplement this knowledge of ecosystems with autonomous power generation devices.
Thereafter, I hope to work with a team on end-to-end consultation to the implementation of holistically designed forest farms that sequester carbon, bring in income, generate power and build rural livelihoods.
Aliston Texeira lives and works in a remote farm in the middle of the Sharavathi Rainforest. He participated in the course on Sustainable Living (2016-17) at the Bhoomi College.