Hand Pumps and Heart doesn’t ….

We were travelling from my mother’s village to my father’s village, which is just 60km away from our farm for some religious meeting. It is getting hot in here as April approaches and we forgot to fill our water bottle. 20KM on the road, my elder son, 5yo Devagya, says – ” Dauaa (that’s what he calls me), pyas lagi ! ” (Father, i am thirsty). Thanks to Vindhyas on the north and Maa Narmada on the south, this area still has decent water table and most villages have operational handpumps with clean tasty portable water. Even if its not very pure, we prefer it anyday over the bottled water.

” Just look around Deva, we might see a handpump soon, and i will park the car by the side while you can go and drink water and also fetch it in this bottle for us.” , I told him in confidence.

Devagya is keenly looking outside the car window in search of a handpump that can quench his summer thirst. He gets little restless as every village passes. Finally, I spot a handpump and a small group of people around it , some drinking water , some perhaps waiting for the bus or a friend, some simply chewing tobacco – the favorite pastime of this area.

I park the car a little ahead of the handpump and give the bottle to Deva and tell him ” Ja , pee lena aur bhar ke le aana ! ” (Go, drink water and also get his bottle filled.) Handpumps are little tough to operatate for a 5 year old especially if not maintained well, which is often the case. He looks at the me with little surprise, ” How will I fill the bottle ? ” .

Ofcourse, you ideally would need someone running the hand pump while the other one fills the bottle. He was worried, how can he do the work of two ? How would he be able to drink water himself unless someone is operating the pump ? He could he my seat belts were on, so he knew that I am not coming out of the car.

I in all my confidence told him , and frankly I told him because I really meant it – ” Tum bus jao, bottle pakad ke handpump ke pass khade ho jana aur dekhna tumhari bottle bhar jayegi ! ” . (Just go and stand at the handpump and your bottle will be filled.)

I’ve always believed people are kind and loving. I have also experienced it. So, my faith is strong that when anyone will see a 5 year old boy next to a handpump with a bottle in hand , out of half a dozen people around the handpump, someone will definitely come forward and help the little boy. I , therefore, need not get out of the car.

I transferred the same faith on to him with more assurance, ” Beta, just go, someone will definitely help you …..you don’t even have to ask for help…” . Just like how every child has a trusting quality , Devagya , looked at me , trusted in what I said and went to the handpump.

Few minutes passed, he did not return. I waited few more when my wife said, Go, you only have to help him – no one is moving. I was surprised. This shouldn’t happen and doesn’t usually happen. Not at least in this part of the country where most people are still not so modern, not so educated and not so self-centered.

I looked out of the car window, I saw the boy standing with empty bottle in hand just next to the handpump, looking at the elders around as the elders also look at the child whenever they got time to go off their screen. A minute later, seeing that noone is coming forward to help – he put the bottle in front and ran back to operating handle – trying to fill the bottle all by himself.

I quickly came out of the car, and ran to the handpump and started operating it and filling his water bottle. He looked up and smiled so broadly.

“Aap bole the , jaoge aur bottle bhar jayegi…” (you said just go and water bottle will be filled…!?) he questioned me.

I lied to him and said, ” Yes, beta, I planned to quickly come out of car and surprise you by filling your water bottle…” See, didn’t it get filled ? Deva Nodded, a Yes. We both came back to the car and drank the sweet water and moved ahead….

As I drove, I wondered – what world am I gonna leave my child into ? Why no one helped the child ? May be another few minutes, someone would have helped the child ? May be they thought, he didn’t need water ? May be they saw the car and thought, some adult may also come …? So many may bes….

Amongst these may bes , my heart grew heavy…i was sad. I looked at the child and then remembered the entire scene of adults around….where is the love, care and sensitivity disappearing ? This feeling, this concern felt so real, even though it may not be directly applicable to his incident…..

Devagya , the handpump, the bottle and the people around…..

Technical Guide to Nirvana #3 Can human beings really change themselves ?

The question of change has been one of the most important and valuable for me. Perhaps , it is for many. Why don’t we change ? I look around , I wonder why don’t they change ? I look inside at my shortcomings affecting my life negatively enough to be worried – then I wonder why don’t I change ?

Is it more a question of “don’t” or of “can’t” ? I wonder.

Whatever it is , to change is both one of the most difficult and most rewarding experience. My journey so far has bought me to my current understanding which is gonna disappoint most i.e.

We are what we are ! We can’t change ! We got to live with who we are.

Now I know that’s a tall claim and quite contradictory to what most of us believe or most of the so-called motivational marketeers make us believe.

To understand it , let’s get back to technology to draw a parallel. What constitutes this computer I am typing on right now, or the mobile on which perhaps you are reading this post ? Broadly –

  1. It has hardware – which is like our body ! This is quite dead by itself unless other layers wake it up.
  2. Second it has something like a Bootloader program or BIOS which is the first software , often embeded in hardware. When we boot or start a device, this bootloader wakes up , making alive the hardware. This bootloader will later transfer control to the device Operating System (OS) like Android or Windows or iOS. This is like our 98% of mind which we don’t use – call it subconcious or unconcious or whatever.
  3. On top of this boot loader is OS, which is the first quite visible part of a device and most accesible to us and to other devices. This OS comes with its own version, flavors , programs, apps, strengths and weaknesses. This is our concious mind. All the apps , programs are our experiences imprinted on our mind. Some apps can be removed, customized or updated. Some apps such as say clock , network , connectivity apps are often part of OS and can’t be easily changed or deleted.
  4. Lastly, there are apps, programs, wall papers, music files, video files etc.. the application layer which has the UI and is most accesible, most visible to others – easy and quick to change.

With this parallel, we can see that to change the upper most layer is easy and doable – the cosmetic changes. This is the case with us as well. We can change our outer layer – say appearance, hair style, religion, beliefs, associations to institutes, gurus, “isms” etc. This is easy to change and this is what we do most of the times and this is the place where people think – change is doable.

Just like the OS, the deeper layer -we have deep habbits, characteristics, desires , fears and whims ! We don’t know why we are like that , often difficult to clearly understand the reason behind that behavior – but we are that ! This is very difficult to change. Often , strong events like death of a loved one, a calamity, a war have power to alter this side in us. In mundane life, I would say it’s almost not possible to change it. You can see this in yourself and in people around you – they grow up, they change a lot, they switch jobs, marriages , countries – but something about them you’d know is still the same ! – that’s the OS.

Lastly, the bootloader in us – call it DNA , call it SWABHAV , call it SANSKAR – the deepest core is almost impossible to change.

Ofcourse , I am not talking of exceptions like one person transforming herself overnight totally or one event changing a man forever ! These are exceptions and they don’t make the rule. The part which we have to accept is that , NO – change is not easy , and if I may insist- change is almost impossible ! (PS : there are perhaps ways to change OS, bootloader as well ,but just like in case of devices, most of us don’t have access to it and it calls for a depth of understanding and work -that’s a topic for a different blog post)

Why I said while opening up this post hat we can’t change -who we are is pricesely because the true change is only when we change our core – our boot loader , or at least our OS -which doesn’t happen most of the times. We do make cosmetic changes in the application layer – we delete old apps, install new ones on the SAME OS, and assume a lot has changed. Looking deeply , one can realize nothing much has changed from the time we were 10 to the time we are 100 !

That’s the reason my friends, we don’t change because we can’t change.

Perhaps, this is making you feel sad. So, let me end this blog with the positive side of this story.

Perhaps there is a message nature or existence is giving us here –

Don’t try to change yourself, don’t try to change others. Accept , “what is” !


Technical Guide to Nirvana : 2 – Who am I ?

I feel sorry for the title 😉 , the dull branding MBA in me is still alive. Nevertheless, now that we’ve started the series , let’s move on with it.

Who am I ? has been the central question of spirituality. This is where the search begins and this is where, perhaps the search ends.

I look inside of me, with open and closed eyes – I hardly get any answers. I can feel my body, I can, to some extent , sense my mind and I can also sense presence of emotions. Is that what I am ? Sum total of body, mind and emotions ? If yes, why am I not satisfied with this answer. If no, what else am I and why I am unable to see it within me ?

As one digs deep into various scriptures and teachings of ancient texts, a number of theories / realities appear. I specifically like this one suggested in Bhagwat Geeta and other Vedantic texts.

महाभूतान्यङ्ककारो बुद्धिरव्यक्त मेव च |
इन्द्रियाणि दशैकं च पञ्च चेन्द्रियगोचरा: || 6||

mahā-bhūtāny ahankāro buddhir avyaktam eva cha
indriyāṇi daśhaikaṁ cha pañcha chendriya-gocharāḥ

The field of activities is composed of the five great elements, the ego, the intellect, the unmanifest primordial matter, the eleven senses (five knowledge senses, five working senses, and mind), and the five objects of the senses.

ज्योतिषामपि तज्ज्योतिस्तमस: परमुच्यते |
ज्ञानं ज्ञेयं ज्ञानगम्यं हृदि सर्वस्य विष्ठितम् || 18||

jyotiṣhām api taj jyotis tamasaḥ param uchyate
jñānaṁ jñeyaṁ jñāna-gamyaṁ hṛidi sarvasya viṣhṭhitam

He is the source of light in all luminaries, and is entirely beyond the darkness of ignorance. He is knowledge, the object of knowledge, and the goal of knowledge. He dwells within the hearts of all living beings.

Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta Chapter 13

“We are made up of two componenets – Prakruti & Purush , Prakruti is Material , Purush is Conciousness, Further Prakruti is made up of 8 elements – 5 Mahabhoot (Fire , air, water, earth and sky) + 3 inner components called – Man (Mind) , buddhi (Intellect) and Ahamkar (Ego). (the translated words in english do not pricesely explain the meaning , that is a limitation. Try to understand directly in sanksrit or your native language if possible.) These 8 may be different in different beings and are forever changing.

Purush is the soul, atma or the conciousness. Conciousenss is one , same in all, undivided and never changing ” . Similar theory/reality appear in different texts as “Sharir + Shariri” or “Jad + Chetan” or ” kṣhetra  + kṣhetrajña“, while the name differs the fundamental explaination is the quite similar.

Now let’s consider any electronic device. Let’s say a mobile phone or computer and try to understand this. A computer is also made up of “physical components” like keyboard, screen, processor ,memory, mic, speaker etc.. All the input and output devices are the senses of computer through which the computer interacts with the world. To be more specific, input devices qualify as “gyan indriya” – through which one gets knowledge of the world and output devices as “karm indriya”. However without a driver for a device, the device is of no use. So, a driver of device is nothing but our mind. Our eyes alone are of no use unless backed up by mind. There might be many sounds reaching our ears, but we only listen when our mind pays attention to it. If mind is absent, we don’t see what exists right in front of our eyes. So, in that sense, mind acts as activator or deactivator of our senses. The processor is equivalent to the buddhi or intellect – where data is processed and decisions are made.

Ego – the sense of “I” , I guess, doesn’t have an equivalent so far but with emerging Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning – we might have something. The machines till they don’t have an ego stay a servant. If we are able to give them a seperate ego, which means they have an independent existence – desire and will, the fictious fear of AI going out of human control becomes real.

All the physical components and processing power – is absolutely useless , unless we power it up with electricity. This electricity is akin to “chetna” or “soul” component. Interestingly , irrepective of type of device, size of device – the electricity is same in every device. Precisely how “atma” is same in all. The nature of current is exactly same in every device from a tiny chip to a huge machine. The atma from an ant , an elephant and a man is same.

विद्याविनयसम्पन्ने ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि |
शुनि चैव श्वपाके च पण्डिता: समदर्शिन: || 18||

vidyā-vinaya-sampanne brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śhuni chaiva śhva-pāke cha paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśhinaḥ

The truly learned, with the eyes of divine knowledge,

see with equal vision a Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater.

-Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta 5/18

It’s quite interesting to observe the patterns of human life in nature, in machines. The natural laws seems to be present in some form or the other – everywhere. The core question, “who am i ? ” , remains unanswered by any explaination from the outside. Someone asked Shri Ramana Maharishi , Who am I ? To which he sharply responded First go and see inside, Who’s asking the question ? What is the source of this enquiry ?

Here is the beautiful conversation compiled into a book ….Who am I …? – From https://www.sriramanamaharshi.org/

PS : This blog involves generalization & simplification – just to communicate the idea, please feel free to build on it further , correct it, negate it , criticise it. You write to us at themadmansfarm@gmail.com.

Next Article : Technical Guide to Nirvana : Can human beings really change themselves ?


A technical guide to Nirvana : Part #1 World is a Dream

With the background of engineering and a deep interest in Indian scriptures , I’ve been trying to make sense of the theories, models or realities proposed in our ancient texts through my exposure to modern technology and this blog series is all about it. It may sound strange at first so let me begin with the incident that prompted me to start this blog series.

” I was working at the computer , typing something while my elder son, 5 year old Chiku, came running by and paused his own play and started looking at my screen. He observed for a while and then he saw me typing and deleting some characters on the screen. He asked me ” What are you doing ? ” , I am working beta, i replied. Further I explained that with keyboard we type and its visible on screen and with backspace we can delete if we have written something we don’t want.

He noded gently and continued looking at the screen and then curiously asked with the deep interest that every child exhibits till we kill it by sending them to the schools – ” Accha , yeh batao – jab aap kuch likhte ho , fir use delete karte ho , to woh kaha jata hai ? ”

(translation : ” tell me when you type something and then you delete it, where does the deleted letters go ?”)

I , with my teacher tone, said ” they get deleted , they disappear …”

Unsatisfied , he asked again ” Yeah, yeah but where do they go ? Where do they disappear ? ”

The all knowing adult teacher in me was about to explain it further , luckily I took a pause and deeply looked at the question without trying to answer. I was for the first time , just wondering at the beauty of the question , the experience of being with a question – patiently. Few moments of silence and i said, ” I don’t know beta….I really don’t know..” , he looked at me and then the screen and then went back to his play.

As I sat with the quesion,few days later a different clarity dawned on me. I’ve been studying a lesser known text called ” Yog Vashishtha” where Shri Ram 14 year old, unenglightened , filled with remorse, questions and confusion is asking questions to Guru Vashishtha about life, about world, about everything. In a way this is similar to Bhagwat Geeta where Arjun is asking his questions to Shri Krishna. However, Yog Vashishtha is more than 16000 verses and has a more complex commentary which is why this is often not so commonly read. Even I wasn’t aware of it till a saint (Late Pandey Ji from Buddhashetra) from nearby village suggested me to read it.

One of the very strong idea proposed in Yog Vasishtha and in various other scriptures too is “this world is not” . While we may see it , we may feel it, we may consider it real – but this idea stresses on the reality that just like how you dream and the world of dream looks real yet it is not – similarly this world that you are walking in – is nothing but a dream, its not real. I had tough time digesting this idea/reality.

There is another hindu saint who is approachable , Shri Nityanand Ji Maharaj – so I sent him this query few months back – here is the snippet of my question and his response.

This is a page from Yog Vashishtha which says, all that you see is an illussion, nothing real.
There is nothing. World doesn’t exist.

I sent this quote to Shri Nityanand ji and shared how i find this truth , difficult to digest. To which he responded –

Nityanand Ji reminded us of age old analogy that just like we mistake a rope for snake in night and then do all the arrangements thinking its snake but its snake only because of our “agyan” or “lack of knowledge”. Once we know its not snake , it never was.

Alright now let me come back to what chiku’s question made me realize or brought a certain clarity on this subject. So, when chiku asked me where did the characters go when deleted , I realised the very existence of those characters was illusionary. Isn’t it ? When those character were alive on screeen, they felt they are something ,even those who looked at them felt they exist. Infact in one way they did exist. The moment we press backspace, they get deleted – they disappear -where ? Well, technically they are erased out of the screen pixels , out of the computer memory etc. can be an explaination.

But fundamentally, we can say that those characters do not exist in the very first place. Their existence itself a sort of illusion. What exists perhaps in more concrete form is the keyboard, the operator, the screen and the software. The interplay of all these create something which is temporary by its very nature.

A file on computer exists in an illusionary realm from the perspective of more concrete components. A file talking to other file , will not see it. They both will say they are as real as life could be. When someone comes and tells them , listen folks – you are ilussionary , you frankly dont even exist ! – those files will have tough time getting it. I am one of those files, I guess.

Next article : A technical guide to Nirvana : Part #2 Who am I ?


I Met My Soulmate at The Madman’s Farm

by Rhea Rego

It was love at first sight. On a blissful November morning, I was basking in the glorious sunshine at my writing spot: the stone bench near the Gaushala. The tranquility at the Madman’s Farm, enhanced by the gentle rustle of leaves and lively orchestra of crickets, frogs and birds provides the most conducive atmosphere for creative juices to flow. This was enough to put me in a trancelike state and I was lost in the moment when I met my soulmate, who was casually ambling along. Our eyes locked and my heart was filled with an inexplicable joy.

Gouri, my sweet little cow friend, came forth to lick a stretched-out hand and stole my heart in the process. She’s my favourite thing about the farm. Whenever I was sad, I’d go sit next to her. She’d put her head in my lap and lovingly gaze into my eyes as I sang to her. My morning routine encompassed walks to the Gaushala where the very mention of her name would make her stop whatever she was doing and rush to meet me. She goes crazy for guavas and I found this out in the cutest way. She came up to the bench where I was sitting, licked me, and then went up to the guava tree and looked at it suggestively. She did this two or three times before I got the idea. And so I went up to the tree (the farm has an abundance of guava trees, plenty for all the insects, birds, animals, and humans) and plucked one for her and one for me. This became our new ritual. We’d spend a few moments every day happily munching on the delicious juicy fruit. Feeding her brought back memories of my parent’s story of how when I was nine months old, I got lost and the result of their frantic search was that they found me in a leaf pit, feeding fallen amlas (gooseberries) to a very bewildered cow.

Fun fact about cows: they have best friends! There’s this heartwarming article on cows which is a must-read.


“Studies show that cows with similar dispositions gravitate toward one another, forging close relationships in the process. So, essentially, cattle bond like humans do: they’re driven to seek out relationships with like-minded individuals, and they can even form lifelong friendships in the process.”

And so, Gouri introduced me to her best friend (I call him Gautam) and I was elated to be a part of this new group. In the short period that I’ve known them, Gouri and Gautam have given me enough love to last a lifetime.

“Caregivers at farm animal rescues and sanctuaries see firsthand how cows get attached to humans. Like other species, they give and receive affection through grooming one another. Thus, they love when their human caregivers give them pets and scratches, especially on the chin or behind the ears. If a cow spends enough positive time with a human, they might start to see them as part of the cow’s “herd.” They’ll show affection back to humans by licking them, following them around, or even cuddling with them.”

Unfortunately, the lives of Gouri, Gautam and their herd are at risk. As the freezing gusts of wind blew through the farm this winter, they took with them the life of a fragile newborn calf. The whole farm was devastated. This isn’t a new story: every winter, thousands of newborns, elderly, and sick cows die in Madhya Pradesh’s freezing cold. Shashi’s plan is to cover the Goushala with sheets to protect the cows from the icy winds. While Shashi is too humble to ask for donations, I, on the other hand, am shameless. A little help would go a long way in making sure they are safe, warm, and comfortable through the biting North Indian winters.

It is on that stone bench under the bowers of a slender tree, soaked in sunshine that I was accepted into a herd and provided the purest form of love. My cow friends are the most intelligent, loving animals who deserve to be protected at all costs.


Lessons on Resilience from a Five-Year-Old

By Rhea Rego

Four minutes and the pain will pass. This profound sentence from Chiku, Shashi’s incredibly wise and mature five-year-old has taught me so much about resilience and sitting with the pain until it passes.

While enthusiastically pedalling on the rocky road to the Learning Centre one evening, Chiku and his cycle had a terrible tumble. He crumpled up into a ball and started to cry. I picked him up, brushed off the dirt, and we went and sat by the side of the road together. I could tell he was in a great deal of pain, so I asked him if he wanted to go home. “No”, he said. “Let’s just sit here for four minutes. I’ll be okay after that.” 

And indeed he was. After a few minutes, despite a badly grazed knee, he got up and we continued our evening jaunt to the Learning Centre. 

Being a Highly Sensitive Person, pain is a part of my everyday life. The things around me affect me so deeply: my personal pain, the pain of the people around me and that of the world: it all accumulates into one giant boulder that feels too heavy to carry. The only way I know how to cope with it is to distract myself. I talk to my friends, throw myself into my work, listen to happy music, or attempt to fill the deep void inside of me with all the food I can find. But band-aids don’t fix bullet holes and my bullet-ridden body is tired. If we don’t really feel our emotions, we tend to suppress them and they manifest in twisted, often unrecognisable ways. They show up in our bodies as anxiety, stress, or depression, of which I feel all three. And the harder I try to get rid of the pain, the longer it stays.

The harder we try to get rid of pain, the longer it stays. The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain.

Chiku taught me a valuable life lesson that day. It’s important to sit with the pain until it passes. Pain is inevitable, and the only way is through. 

 It’s a human tendency to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It’s innate in us to turn away from what hurts and to run back to safety. Which is why my first instinct was to ask him if he wanted to go home when he was hurt. But this little one, wise beyond his years, knew that he needed to sit through the pain. 

Katie Kacvinsky, the author of the book Awaken writes:

“Pain’s like water. It finds a way to push through any seal. There’s no way to stop it. Sometimes you have to let yourself sink inside of it before you can learn how to swim to the surface.”

So thanks to Chiku, I’m not running away from pain any longer. I’m going to sit with it, be it for four minutes, four months, or four years. There is no timeline for when I should be over these emotions. I am learning to give myself permission to feel the pain. No more resistance. To stay present, acknowledge it, accept it, listen to it, and breathe through it, even though it’s overwhelming. To feel it, in all its excruciating messiness, is to heal it. 


On Flowing Through Life

by Rhea Rego

This Too Shall Pass.

Shashi’s favourite quote, beautifully and lovingly painted at the entrance of the Mudhouse kitchen by Anjali from Bangalore perfectly summarizes the transience of life. 

A message of solace to the brokenhearted but also a reminder to savour the present moment, while remaining detached.


Everything flows, the good and the bad. Some might ask, what’s the point of it all if nothing lasts? Why fall in love, make a new friend, or start something new? Ah, dear friend, the beauty of life lies in its impermanence. Just because something doesn’t last forever, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bask in the wonder of that moment. Our life is as beautiful and fragile as the wings of the butterflies that flitter from plant to plant, flower to flower. 

As I run my hands through her waters, the ripples of the holy Narmada whisper to me: Everything flows. We cannot step twice into the same river. When you step into the river for the second time, neither you nor the river is the same. 

Every moment of every day, we are all changing. The same goes for the farm. Every second of every day, it is changing. Seasons come and go and with it, an array of different fruits, crops, and vegetables. Every day, the sun rises and sets. This is a fact of life. Yet each time, every sunrise and sunset is so unique: sometimes an explosion of colour in the sky, scattered by clouds, sometimes a quiet descent behind the mountains. Even our beloved ancient moon goes through the same old phases, yet each time it waxes and wanes, it ages. 

The farm has lovingly welcomed hundreds of visitors over the years. Some stay for a few days, some for a few months. Eventually, we all have to leave. Even if we do return after a while, neither we nor the farm are the same. Regardless, we always leave a part of us behind. A quote at the entrance of the Mudhouse, a painted logo on the gate, books donated to the Learning Centre, bamboo saplings lovingly planted, weeds carefully removed. These are only tangible contributions. The intangible ones are often the most memorable. Food lovingly prepared, songs sung, hugs exchanged, hands held, laughter spread, tears wiped, comfort given, philosophies discussed, memories made, lessons learnt: every single person who visits the farm leaves a mark in some way, and the farm leaves a mark on them.  

A farm favourite melody by Kabir goes:

क्या लेके आया जगत में,

क्या लेके जायेगा,

दो दिन की जिन्दगी है,

दो दिन का मेला

What have you brought into this world, and what can you take away from this world?

Life is, after all, just a two-day fair.

Why do we take ourselves so seriously? We come here with nothing, we go back with nothing. Might as well enjoy the carnival of life.

Ever so often, the winds of injustice ruffle our feathers and we are determined to change the world. We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, as though it is up to us to save it. It is for people like us that Aldous Huxley writes:

“It’s dark because you’re trying too hard. Dark because you want it to be light. Lightly, child, lightly. You’ve got to learn to do everything lightly. Think lightly, act lightly, feel lightly. Yes, feel lightly, even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. So throw away all your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly, my darling. On tiptoes; and no luggage, not even a sponge bag. Completely unencumbered.”

 This life can be taken away from us in the blink of an eye. So we must tread lightly and love deeply. Remain detached, for everything changes, yet enjoy the beauty of NOW. And always, always remember, for both the good and the bad, This Too Shall Pass.


an experiment of learning and love…

(by Rhea Rego)

As the gentle morning sun rises heralding a new day, it warmly embraces the Learning Center, the stoic white hybrid mud-cement building that cordially welcomes everyone to The Madman’s Farm. It has been two weeks since its shutters were drawn open and a sea of curious children streamed in, filling the room with laughter and mirth.

Initially, children weren’t quite sure what to make of the place. School to them is a place where they are made to sit behind a desk for six to eight hours, maintain silence, listen to the teacher, recite like parrots, and write down whatever is written on the board, regardless of whether they understand the content. The genial environment of the learning centre is alien to them. No being scolded or beaten? No stress or competitiveness? No bullying, failure, or rejection? Learning through music? Dance? Games? Outdoor activities? Could it possibly be… that learning can actually be… enjoyable?

Sadhna Vidyasthali is an early childhood alternative learning space at the farm that caters to children from three nearby villages between the ages of 4 and 13 years old. The entire endeavour is one sincere attempt to explore whether children learn better in an environment of love, care, and respect. Academic learning is secondary here. The focus is on providing a healthy, happy childhood. We use fun and games to explore experiential learning, relationship building, and imbibing values. According to our team member Twinkle, at the core of this experiment is the question: Can we create a learning space where children learn more by being nurtured with love rather than disciplined with fear?

For a long time, the burning question of “How do I make the world a better place?” lived in Shashi’s mind, rent free. After giving it much thought, he realised that it all boils down to two things: Children and Nature. If we nourish children and plants, they both have power to nourish the rest of the world. While keeping the alternate education philosophies of Gandhi, Warldof, Montessori,Jiddu Krishnamurti and in mind, the aim of this experiment is not to align with one particular philosophy but to start from scratch with the inquiries into the “what, how, and why” of early childhood intervention.

The time, effort, and courage required to start something from scratch without following a blueprint created by someone else are immense. It’s easy to just Google lesson plans or watch YouTube videos on what to teach. But how can we bring ourselves and our ideas to the space as authentically and creatively as possible?

A lot of well intentioned social initiatives have often ended up harming instead of helping. Thus, the thought of conducting a learning experiment on children, not creating a positive impact on the lives of students or, worse, impeding their future in such a way that they neither fit in at the village nor in the city are valid fears that grip both our learning facilitators. However, after multiple requests from the community and years of pondering, Shashi finally decided to give it one genuine, sincere attempt.

It has been a roller coaster of an experience for Shashi and Twinkle. Every day brings a fresh palette of chaos that splatters the four walls of the learning center. Since both facilitators are products of the mainstream educational system, their conditioning occasionally takes over while dealing with the children, and they have to be careful to make conscious decisions out of love. New questions arise like su babul trees. How do we make sure these children are academically on par with their peers in traditional schools? How do we fit all this into just two hours? How do we deal with parental expectations?

Their guiding light through these uncertain times is their pure intention. Sometimes the only way to navigate uncharted territory is to keep in mind that you only want what is best for the child. They speak to mentors and take feedback from people who have started similar endeavours. They maintain their sanity through these stressful, uncertain times by making time for self-care through meditation, running, journaling, dancing, and other things that give their souls joy.

And so, every morning, our two warriors prepare to battle their fears with love. Despite the dark clouds of worry that often crop up in their minds, they arrive with full gusto to illuminate the space with diyas and their dazzling smiles. The gentle sound of bhajans floats through the air, dissolving any negative energy. Cloaked in the warm, golden light of the morning sun, our dedicated facilitators Shashi and Twinkle prepare for another day of love, learning, and play.


The satisfaction of being Utterly Useless !

“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”.

Madman’s Farm’s Flow Community ! – Bhanu, Rhea, Dyuti, Shashi, Sourabh, Priyamvada, Devagya & Janmejay

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.


Udder Disrespect of the Divine Bovine

by Rhea

In a land where the cow is considered sacred, the ancient scriptures have foretold that the descent into Kalyug or the dark ages begins with the disrespect, abuse and illtreatment of this gentle creature.

On my bus journey from Bhopal to the farm, I witnessed hundreds of cows huddled together in the middle of the highway. I didn’t think much of it, assuming that their owners would soon arrive to round them up. Until I saw my first cow carcass. And the next. And the next. By the time I reached Deori, I’d seen at least ten dead cows rotting in the middle of the road.

This isn’t a rare site in this part of the country. As agriculture shifts from bovine centric to more modern methods, the use of the cow is rapidly dwindling. Male cows which were once utilised to plough the fields have been replaced by giant red tractors. Cow dung, traditionally used as manure, is being supplanted by DAP and urea, which are incredibly harmful. From the most valuable asset of an Indian farmer, the cow (especially male) has become a liabilty. And so, the number of cows that are being abandoned is increasing expeditiously. Old cows who have lost the ability to lactate. The Desi cow, in favour of more milk yielding varieties. Thus, these docile creatures are forced to fend for themselves with no one to take care of them.

In order to tap into the religious sentiments of their vote bank, the government has set up Gaushalas across the state. Pristine buildings erected, with not a single cow in sight. Of course, there are many ongoing community projects. One such shelter is the Ma Ambe Gaushala that has been dedicated to cow welfare since 2016. Located in Dugaria village near Deori, it is a refuge for over 150+ old, sick, and unwanted cows.

For the past eighteen months, Shashi has made Gau seva a weekly ritual.
Every Tuesday at 8:30 am on the dot, the residents of Madman’s Farm pack into Shashi’s trusty Maruti Suzuki and make the thirteen kilometre drive to the Gaushala. (When the car is overloaded with people, I sit in my favourite spot: the boot). For three hours, we sweep, scoop, and wheel out barrows full of dung. My favourite part about going to the Gaushala is connecting with and being around these gentle souls. Scratching them under the chin: their favourite place and the only place they can’t reach. And of course the sugar shot of piping hot chai that we are served by the ever smiling caretaker once we’re done. There are two friendly dogs who have recently become proud parents to nine little nuggets, cosily nestled under the hay machine.

According to Shashi, we really don’t know if the community project of Gaushalas is really helping the larger crisis of the Indian cow. It’s the least we can do to solve the cow problem. We talk a lot about changing the world and making a difference. The question is, if you notice certain problems in your community, are you on the side of the problem, or the side of the solution?