“But I’m worried that I’m not being useful here”, says Bhanu, Shashi’s 23-year-old nephew, as we try to persuade him to stay at the farm a little longer. Twinkle, Dyuti, and I look at each other and exchange knowing smiles. After a few months of staying at the farm, we have mastered the art of not being useful.
As brilliant children who always emerged at the top of our classes and over-achievers through most of our young adult lives, we struggled to prove our worth to others and ourselves. By excelling in everything we did, we fought to prove that we deserved to exist. Because if we were going to have the audacity to have needs, we’d better be doing something with ourselves. Young women with a fiery passion in our bellies and a strong desire to change the world, we gave our work everything we’d got. And we gave. And gave. And gave. Until we had nothing left to give. Until the flames of burnout finally singed our wings and forced us to descend.
So here we are the Burnout Buddies. One can be found sitting atop a mango tree, reading for pleasure. The other lying on her stomach observing an industrious spider spinning its web. The third lost in the flow of her little dance in the angan of the Mudhouse where we stay. As Dyuti says, any outsider would take one look at us and say, “What a waste of such an able workforce”.
People think that not being productive is a waste of human life. In a world that glorifies hustle culture, eighteen-hour work days, and lack of sleep, we tend to define our self-worth based on our productivity. We feel like we deserve to exist only if we achieve something. And how damaging is that? No wonder today’s generation is hitting burnout as early as their mid-twenties.
The Madman’s Farm has become our refuge. The slow, lulling energy of this space is helping us heal. Shashi and his wife’s incredible warmth and kindness. The sounds of children’s laughter, the trees, birds, and crickets. The stars in the sky. The earth under our feet. The dragonflies, butterflies, and fireflies that decorate the farm. The sunsets and moonrises. The unconditional love from the dogs and cows here. From each other.
We have become a community that is healing through love, laughter, sunshine, and authentic connection. Through cooking experiments. Eating healthy, organic food. Moving our bodies. Walks to the mango tree. Soaking up the sun with a cup of Kishlay’s infamous chai. Music sessions. Simply observing nature. Deep meaningful discussions on topics like life, love, morality, and learning. Holding space for each other. These things have become our medicine.
The one good thing about burnout is that your body and mind are forced to rest. There is no other option. And what better place to do that than nestled in the lap of nature, with unconditional support from a small community of kind souls? The Madman’s Farm is a place for once stagnant energies to start to flow again. Tired, withered brains to bloom again.
I am so incredibly grateful to Shashi and his family for opening up their farm, home, and heart to random strangers; weary travelers on the journey of life who are desperately in need of rest.
As I hit the two-month mark of my stay here at the farm, I reflect on all the lessons I’ve learned in this wonderful space. The most important one is the Art of Doing Nothing. Slowing down and doing nothing has taught me that even if I am utterly useless(which is almost impossible no matter what I do or don’t do), I am worthy of love.