I am content with the alternate ways of doing, thinking and living in nature that have taken shape at Aman Bagh these past ten years of farming in Mangar. These ways that look effortless today unfolded slowly as my co-workers and I engaged with the land and made mistakes. Over these years, my view of the farm as primarily a place to grow healthy food has changed completely. Aman Bagh has instead became a place where I opened my heart and mind to the many rhythms of Prakriti, and to the 4 villagers who work with me. Our farming practices are now in tune with Prakriti, and farming is my window to a way of life rather than a set of techniques to grow crops no matter how complete.
Aman Bagh, I think, offers a working alternative to the broken food system of the modern market economy that has almost completely replaced a self-sustaining agricultural life in rural North-West India. Aman Bagh’s 3 acres did not set out to prove natural agriculture can or cannot be remunerative.
“In general, commercial agriculture is an unstable proposition. The farmer would do much better by growing the food he needs without thinking about making money. If you plant one grain of rice, it becomes more than one thousand grains. ….If you follow this line of thought, you will have enough to eat, more than enough, without struggling. But if you decide to try to make money instead, you get on board the profit wagon, and it runs away with you.” Masanobu Fukuoka
Instead, we have a vibrant farm that provides robust options to mechanised working and thinking; one that replaces chemicalised, mono-cultured, cash-crop farming. I welcome visitors, especially the youth, to see closely and examine for themselves the diverse possibilities natural farming offers. Aman Bagh can help bring a transformation in mindsets steeped in modern thinking and enable individuals take back ideas to re-imagine the food they eat; their health in its physical, emotional, intellectual and sacred dimensions; the community they engage with; and their connect with all of Prakriti not just with agriculture. Aman Bagh can progress such change, the pre-requisite is an individual asking the right questions than looking for answers. The process would be slow even for seekers, as looking deeply and changing one’s mindset takes effort.
Aman Bagh has established a harmonious community life. The 4 men and woman who work the land with me make the farm the efficient and peaceful place it is. Not all traditions from the rural past were good, specially oppression or conflict based on caste, gender and religion. Equally many traditions from pre-industrial village life are worth emulating: non-mechanised and non-chemicalised farming, inter-dependant village community with labour intensive livelihoods, and respect for wisdom. Less said the better about what can easily be given up from our modern lives! Aman Bagh takes as much from previous times as it gives up. My thinking is no longer mechanised, though the farm makes use of machines to reduce drudgery for the individual and conserve water. I am less of a slave to technological and solutionist thinking, and our small community is truly organic – alienated neither from the land, nor from each other. These 4 are materially poor and culturally wealthy, individuals providing me insight into the everyday lives of the majority of our rural brothers and sisters. They also provide a daily lesson, just in case I thought wealth made me in any way different, that material prosperity does not lead to happiness, contentment or the pursuit of a meaningful life. They too have challenges – village politics and society, aging, physical health, death of loved ones, a wastrel of a husband – but their contentment with their family and community lives is remarkable.
Applying natural methods to grow clean food and the establishment of a harmonious farm community led me to a deeper transformation. Building a small home that draws inspiration from materially and technologically simpler times, and building bonds with my farm co-workers connected with the amazing diversity of hundreds of species of plants, trees, birds and animals that make Aman Bagh their home. I am no longer as eager to become, and am learning the art of finding contentment in being.
“Similarly, it would be well if people stopped troubling themselves about discovering the ‘true meaning of life.’ We can never know the answers to great spiritual questions, it’s all right not to understand. We have been born and are living on the earth to face directly the reality of living. Just to live here and now – this is the true basis of human life.” Masanobu Fukuoka
Those who see deeply, beyond the glitter of materiality, witness little change in the human condition. There is widespread dissatisfaction in modern society where despite (or, indeed, because of) material progress there seems to be lesser health, peace of mind, contentment and harmony. Society looks for satisfaction in yet more material progress; however, this continues to remain elusive.
We cannot pick and choose from our times, neither can we precariously clutch onto a romanced past. But we can re-imagine and question – can there be other ways of living, in some form of harmony with the natural world, retaining traditions worth holding on to, while remaining engaged with the modern, man-made world? Can we learn from the past to construct a better present? Is simplicity possible? Is convenience desirable?
Aman Bagh enables me an opportunity to inhabit a simpler world, holding limitless possibilities that continue to unfold.