Anugrah, Drona and Shannon

Living at Navdanya is like life in fast forward. Its a small community, where we all live on top of eachother; and we make strong connections very fast. As soon as a friendship has been built and has some stability to it, they go. Life in fastforward means you love and you part in a matter of weeks instead of years. Its probably good practice for real life, but right now I cannot see what lessons it teaches me, and I certainly do not appriciate it.

Now we should only have another week at Navdanya, but we will extend our stay another week, I will tell you why later.

But first, some updates from the fairyland that is Navdanya, the oasis in a country of chaos. The fields are cleared and we have now started sowing seeds for the next season. In our own garden, the “Gyan Garden” (gyan means knowledge) we have prepared lasagna beds for about a month and a half and Monday this week we planted winter crops in our little plot and the mustard and fenugreek is already sprouting. We have learned about how to make natural pest repellents and how to identify different pests, fungi and bacterial / viral infections in our plants. It’s great to learn how to do something, but even more rewarding to know WHY it works. We have also done alot of bean sorting. The image below is various kinds of kidney beans 🙂

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Kidney beans of various sorts

Coordinators

Our beloved coordinators left on the 29th of November (last Thursday) not to return for a long while, most likely. We have grown close to these two amazing people, and I write this as a way to remember, but also to deal with the fact that they are gone.

Our coordinators do everything for us, they manage what work we will do in the field, they organise sessions, if we need to go somewhere they organise taxis’ or tuk-tuks’, if we are sick they give us medicine, and instructions on what to eat, drink, when to sleep when to work, etc.. No question is too weird for them. Drona has worked here for six years, and Anu has worked here for five years. When either one of them leaves, the other one stays to manage Navdanya.

Anugrah the Panda

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Anu outside the office in her normal outfit

Anu is an english teacher and 26 years old. She comes from West Bengal and has been here for five years. From what she’s told us, she’s learned alot about people while working at Navdanya. Not everyone who comes here are easy going, and there has been many problems in the past with crazy bijaks. I wish I could’ve met her two years ago, and then again now to see change 🙂

I love talking to Anu about life and culture. There are so many small things that are different culture-wise and its great to have a resource like Anu that have an understanding of our culture and can convey and point out small and big differences. Hearing about her life and her family and the history of her place has given me alot of insight. Her family is christian so her perspective is also a little different from other Indian people. Its also interesting to hear about boyfriend/girlfriend relationships in India from Anu’s point of view. Love marriages are a new thing in India, but even if two people can marry without it being pre arranged by their families, Caste and religion still matter alot. I still don’t quite understand the caste system, but it’s not neccesarily connected to how much money you have, so it’s different from the economic class-system we have in the west. Anu speaks four languages and has a very elegant way of speaking english. She is great with words, something I envy. She has held two sessions for us, one on Ayurveda, where she mostly spoke about lifestyle and food consumption, medicinal plants etc. and one Hindi session, where she taught us how to count and how to haggle 😉

In this past month, Anu came and sat with me in the sun at the gate before we went to work or before morning circle. Its a few minuets I cherish every day.

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Shannon, Anu and August with Kaliji in the background

Anu is sweet but only if you are sweet to her. She speaks her mind and takes no shit. Everything she says is worth listening to. She is a rolemodel and will be for many people in the future. She makes her own path and just does her own thing. She taught August how to sow with thread and needle, something I am very grateful for! :PShe is very independent and capable of great things. If she is still in West Bengal area we will go see her in March or late february. I miss her.

Drona the dragon and the country of Bhutan

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Drona in the seedbank

Drona is 30 years old and come from Bhutan, the only carbon negative country in the world. The Kingdom of Bhutan seems like one of the coolest places on earth. 90 percent of the country is covered with forest, and only 800 000 people live there. If you are a tourist you have to buy a tour with housing, food, a guide in order to enter the country, unless you have a letter of invitation from someone permanently living there. Bhutan used to be a closed Kingdom, the British empire was at their footsteps, but were satisfied with only taking the rich land in the west, where tea were growing. In 1952 the country opened their borders to India, where now over a million indian tourist come to Bhutan every year.

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Before 1907, Bhutan was ruled by a theocracy and 1907 they crowned the first king. Bhutan is a buddhist country, and everyone follows the same type of buddhism. Now the fifth king is ruling. This king does not live in a palace, but has a simple lifestyle, more similar to his subjects than the kings of for example Sweden (maybe we should do something about his Majesty Bernadotte, eh?).

When the word Development became popular and something to strive for, one of these kings of Bhutan decided to try another way that the rest of the world. How can the country’s values be developed, how can we develop but keep the culture intact and preserve nature? Instead of striving for a high GDP Bhutan wants a high GNH; Gross National Happiness. This calculates how happy the people of the country are based on a method of short interviews. In 2006, 82 % of the population were happy and the rest were not Unhappy, buth rather so-so. What I find really cool is their tool to calculate this which is called “Policy Screening Tool”. This tool is made up of 33 indicators and 121 variables and can be used on policy or projects, but in real life it can be applied to ANYTHING:

KFC and I think McDonalds wanted to settle in Bhutan and the government applied this PST on KFC and McD, and decided that they most certaily should NOT be allowed to do so. For example, one question is whether or not the policy/ project will increase stress in the population, another if it will discourage physical excersice, or what group in society it will favor, and so on. There is a powerpoint in the bottom of this link, so for all my teacher friends and family members, SPREAD THIS AMAZING TOOL! Click here >>GNH Policy Screening Tool <<. This is what we need you guys! GDP is not working anymore, its time to measure something that really matters…

Back to Drona. He speakes 11 languages, has two master degrees and have lived an intense life up until this point. His family is known in Bhutan and he could have skated through life on a golden tray, but he wanted to make something out of himself, by himself. He plays every sport, he even played football for the Bhutans national team when he was like 18! Then he hurt his knee and had to stop playing. He went to India to work, and lived a modest life on a low wage. He studied for his bachelor degree, went back home and then went back to India so get his master degrees (in plural) by taking evening-courses and now he has two, one MBA and one in the environmetal field. He tried the high-life in Dehli, having so much money he didn’t know what to do with it, he came to the peace and quiet of Navdanya, then went back home to tour Europe and talk about GNH and work at the GNH center in Bhutan. All of this in his short life. (A phrase from my father rings in my head when i write this, you know which one, pappa).

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Drona and Anu on Diwali

Drona inspires me and he speaks with such confidence and passion that he can convince anyone of anything, if he just tries hard enough. Drona has helped Dr. Vandana Shiva write books and reports, he has also collected data and made his own research. Drona says that everyone can be replaced, but it will take many years before anyone will do Drona and Anugrahs job here as well as they do. Drona knows so much about Navdanya and about Dr. Shivas work, knowledge one can only collect with time. He gave farm-tours and Q and A’s about Navdayna and in these two months I think we’ve had four Q&A’s with him, each time we learn something new. Each time it’s interesting.

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Q/A with Drona

Drona is my smoking buddy and that was a highlight every day when I got a nice conversation with him on the beedi-bench (beedis being tobacco rolled in leaves), or when he dropped wisdoms randomly and gave us advice about life. Me and August were planning on not applying for our masters, and instead get practical knowledge (not really planned) but Drona said “Having a master degree is good”, and that was all it took to change our minds.

Drona also taught us to play volleyball. Our main crew is me, August and Shannon. In the beginning me and August sucked bad, but by living the first rule on Navdayna volleyball: Just enjoy, Drona taught us to be valuable members of our team. Now that he is gone we will continue his legacy and play every day! I miss him alot. Btw Shannon is a pro at volleyball.

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Volleyball!

Having them here has for sure contributed to our stay being pleasant, smooth and inspiring… and FUN! I wish they’d come back and I expect them to just show up one morning, walking past me on the beedi-bench.

About that. Now me August and Shannon are temporary coordinators of Bijaks at Navdanya. We have been here the longest and Drona and Anu have made the judgement that we know this place well enough to make sure that the schedule continues to run smoothly and that we know who to ask about what. So we hold morning circles and organise the work and the afternoon sessions, making sure that there is a connection between the office and the bijaks. This is why we will stay a bit longer here aswell.

Shannon the Lynx

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Oh Shannon. She leaves on the 3rd or December, which is tomorrow as of writing this. And it makes me terribly sad to see her go. She is in our main crew here, we hang out all the time. She is also my roommate and we’ve watched various comedy shows, Bo Burnham, Broad City and a bunch of movies together. Other people join for half an episode or so, but the main crew remains. Now we watch something every night.

Shannon is from Baltimore, Maryland in the USA. She is a farmer, a fermenter and has a bunch of cool skills and knowledge about medicinal plants and makes various salves and tinctures for medicinal purposes. Her favourite plants are Mugwort and Holy Basil (Tulsi) which she has tattooed on her arm. We’ve gone to Rishikesh twice together and numerous visits to Dehradun. Last weekend we actually managed to find a night club and we danced! I wish I could party with Shannon in a safer environment. But maybe this will happen sooner rather than later! She has applied to get sponsored to study at SLU (Svenska Lantbruks Universitetet) this fall. Its located in Uppsala. Magdalena has also applied to go there so I WANT them to come there! The project Shannon will join if she gets the money is related to food security and quality, sponsored by a government body in the US. I really hope that she gets it!

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August and Shannon in a restaurant in Dehradun

Shannon is 22 years old, a little shy but still badass somehow. She is great at haggeling and we will miss this skill dearly! She has this soft way of talking, where others would be aggressive or angry, she navigates around it somehow, whith her smooth tounge. We always go to the village toghether, she hangs out with me on the beedi bench and yeah… we’ve done everything together for two months! Life in fast forward as I said earlier. Worst part is that she leaves us with the responsibility of coordinating. She would have done so well with resolving conflicts where me and August would get fired up.

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Tulsi picking in the herbal garden

Tomorrow she goes to Thailand, where she will spend two weeks before going back to the states. It’s very sad for us and amazing for her.

So that’s whats happening here at Navdanya. Soon we will be alone, and without Anu and Drona to help us plan our next move. It’s been so great to have people who give such great advice. I’ve been thinking about the psychology of humans cramped together in a small place like this. It does something to the human brain, but I dont know to what degree or in what way. But this must all be real, right? This love I feel for these three people. But we are just drops in a sea of people that pass through this place. Add after we are gone, more will come. Life in fast forward.

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August, Drona, Anu, me and Shannon, shortly before they left ❤

4 thoughts on “Anugrah, Drona and Shannon

  1. I so enjoy reading about your life in India. Keep up the fantastic work you are doing. Understand its difficult when good friends leave, hope you will see them again ❤️ Hugs from me

    Liked by 1 person

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