After our sickness in Mumbai we took a bus from Panvel Station. It took us up into the hills of Maharastra, and after a long drive we were dropped in a small place called Shenale. A man with a Rickshaw asked us “Sapna Ranch ?” and we get in his vehicle. We drove for maybe 45 minutes on a fairly bad road, when we finally arrived at Sapna Ranch. We are welcomed by Mossy from Thailand, Matéo from France and Sultan from Mumbai before meeting Hasmuk. Hasmuk is the person behind the ranch. We got settled in to one of his many bamboo structures, or houses, dont quite know what to call them, but we get a good sleep before the heat of the afternoon sun wakes us up. We found the ranch via Work awa.
Experience Based Holistic Learning Environment: EBHLE
Hasmuk wants to build a community with a school in its center. This school will not be like other schools, there will not be any teachers, there will be guides instead. The community will be designed around the child and his/her curiosity. Hasmuk says, and I agree, that the modern schooling system kills curiosity and creativity in children. How does a child learn its first language? Through listening and repeating. Hasmuk believes that the child should choose what he/she wants to learn, so in this school the kids will learn life skills. There will be different kinds of facilities, like a software center where children learn how to program, a physics lab and a chemistry lab, art, music, history and so on. Math and other subjects, like language, will be taught through applying problems to real life. For example, we are building a dome with a pentagone base. The triangles at the bottom will have an angle of 75 degrees, and the two side poles will be 25 feet long, how long is the bottom pole? But the child will choose what to learn and the child knows. Hasmuk says that the final test when the children graduate at the age of 16 is to survive one month in the bush, with the help of guides of course. If the child can do this, it has nothing to fear in life.
This will be a sustainable, self sufficient community. They will have farmland and orchards somewhere in Maharastra state and Hasmuk will manage it with a kind of circe based democratic system. They are in the process of buying land, A LOT of land. He wants people of all ages and backgrounds to come here, and give what they can to the community in form of skills and knowledge. As long as they share his vision and can live with sharing rather than owning. Everything will be owned commonly by the community. To learn more go here !
At the ranch there is a Hyperbar, which is a structure built like a half pipe one could say. its build to withstand the extreme weather that the monsoon brings and this is where our main hangout is. The kitchen is also located here and where we also eat our food. The kitchen was incredible well stocked with kitchen tools, everything one could need was there, from a grater to a mortel to a mixer to a filter coffee maker, to steamcooker and preassure cooker. This made it fun to be in the kitchen.
Then behind the hyperbar there is a small geometrical dome with two floors. Infront of the hyperbar there is a few small houses with only bunk beds and a gemoetrical dome with three floors, Hasmuk lives in the bottom, and we lived on the second floor.
Beside our dome, there was two eastern style toilets and a western one aswell as two showers. There was no water in the shower, so we used buckets. Im still amazed over how little water you actually need to shower!
To the left of the “bathroom area” was a laundry area and our main source of water. Next to this was the tool shed – which also was very well stocked – and like two or three more rooms with a upcycle area aswell.
We ate food all together and cooked every day. I learned how to make chapati (indian flatbread, not naan, another kind) but apart from that we didn’t cook much. All the Indian people contributed to the cooking though, and it was great to get their home made food, specific to their region and learn about food culture in India. We are not so good at making Indian food, so we didnt do much cooking, only porrage in the morning. We did however cook for Christmas and New years, but I’ll get back to that.
At Sapna ranch Hasmuk is designing a new area as a pilot project for a community he intends to build, called Ebhle. The first week or so we are building a Geothermal system, a system that is to replace indoor heating as well as cooling! Its a long pipe that pulls outdoor air through a long tunnel 10 feet under the ground (like 2,5 meters) and then comes out from a pipe inside the house. This form of technology is mandatory when building new houses in Sweden, Hasmuk says. At this depth under the ground the temperature is always the same. Its the average temperature of the region, and here, at Sapna Ranch it was 25 degrees. This means warm on a cold day, and cooling on a hot day. Hasmuk says that this system is superior to any form of AC, because 1. It requires less energy, 2. It takes in fresh air all the time, and 3. the air that comes in through an AC gains an electrical charge. This is not good for us, since our lungs are not built to handle this type of charge in the air.
Building the geothermal was hard. Its construction work with bricks and concrete and we learned alot about this type of work, like mixing cement for instance. The Geothermal system is going into a Geometrical dome that Hasmuk has designed, built with bamboo sticks placed into triangles. The ground on which the geo-dome is going to be built had to be leveled. The base is a pentagon with 25 feet between each corner and me and an Indian guy named Lochan learned how to use a leveling pipe together. A lot of trial and error with this type of work if you are new at it! So this was the main project, but there is alot of small things that had to be done before the dome could be built, for example, all the bamboo had to be cleaned and painted,a water-tower with a water tank had to be set up and planks needed to be tared and painted. Doing all this manually requires alot of time, especially since the heat made everything a little harder. At one time, around christmas, there were a lot of people at the ranch, almost 20 people, and we got a lot of work done.
Me and August was in charge of wood. We fixed a laundry drying line, and the ladders that kept breaking. We started fixing the staircase also that went up to our room. Doing this work, I realise that I should not start any major renovation project on my own :P.
We made alot of friends at Sapna ranch. This is also a workaway place but many Indians also come here to share and learn from Hasmuk and to get involved in his project. We made friends with a family from Mumbai, Nimathulla, Joon, 5 year old Mossa and 1,5 year old Abraham. Wonderful people! Everyday Nim came to us workers with Nimbo Pani: Lemon water. Mossa, the oldest boy was very keen to help out and he did, with every project unless someone told him it was dangerous. To be honest, most of the work was dangerous; One could fall into holes, things could fall from above, sharp tools and saws, and home made electricities, snakes and scorpions… “You can do what ever you want, except this and this and this…” Anyway, we had alot of fun with Mossa and we hope to see them again soon!
Then there was Lochan from Bangalore, an artist, extreme sports man and yoga teacher. He is a skillfull man and we learned alot from working with him. He was on our team and we fixed stuff together.
Then there was Madoo and Sampada from Pune. They are joining Hasmuk in Ebhle to be farmers. It was very fun to talk to them, they described alot about the Indian culture, its differences from region to region and religion and politics. We learned alot from them!
For two or three days there was a group of five young Indians from Mumbai at the ranch, Jogita, Toni, Joel, Nikilesh and Linsha. We got on very well with these people and we had a small danceparty together and discussed philosophy and politics and music… OH it was sooo much fun haning out with them! Linsha and Nikilesh invited us to Mumbai to stay with them, and we took them up on that offer, but I’ll talk about that later.
Sultan lives in Mumbai and is in his forties. He is like Hasmuks right hand, and took care of the seven cats and four dogs that were permanent residents of Sapna Ranch. He used to work as a banker, but got tired of it and found Hasmuk. Today he is volunteering with kids and he will be a guide in the school. He was great with Mossa and Abraham, and I have no doubt he’ll do great as a guide in Ebhle!
Then we have Mossy and Matéo that were there when we arrived. The Internationals. Mossy is a sweet soul with a good sense of humor. He worked as an editor in Bangkok before quitting and going travelling in India. He left before new years though which was sad. Matéo on the otherhand stayed longer than us! Both me and August got along very well with Matéo and in a place like India, it feels good when you can share cultural references with someone. Europeans share alot of culture, both old and new and alot of internet and meme culture. Matéo is a perfectionist and somewhat of a pessimist as well, which to us was hilarious. He also likes reggae music which made for an obvious connection. He is making a similar journey as us, but he has to leave India in two weeks, as of writing this.
People came and went alot at Sapna ranch and we appiciate everyone we met, but these people we hung out with the most. A shoutout to all of you who I haven’t mentioned!
Christmas and New years
For chrsitmas we had Italian night. Me and August cooked all day, because I really wanted some swedish christmas food. We ended up making mayonese and a beet root sallad and the very swedish “pizza sallad” which basically is cabbage and vinegar. We were very happy that we celebrated christmas at all, even tough we did it on the 25 instead of the 24th which is the swedish way. Me and August arranged gifts for everyone, books, a shawl, a lighter, a hat… just some stuff we picked up along the way and no longer needed, just so Santa could come. Hasmuk took the role as Santa. we played christmas music all day, and it was really fun to show the people there a small part of our favourite holiday. The two of us and Matéo was the only people from a christian country.
For New years we also had italian night with pizza and pasta. Matéo and August made a Napoli sauce which was a huge success! In the evening a friend of Hasmuk showed up with a telescope and we watched stars and planets and he told us about the different constallations on the sky and how to navigate, using only the stars. It was great!
Corruption and Cashew nuts
But let’s get real for a moment. Hasmuk told us about the corruption within Indian authorities which runs trough Indian society, top to bottom. He told us how he was being harrased by the villagers, because politicians had paid them money to do so, in order to scare him away and buy his land. The police, the justice system, the politicans and other officials, the corruption runs deep within Indian society. I find this scary.
He did however have some friends in the village, one of them celebrated new years with us, and he also owns a cashew nut factory in the village. We were invited for a tour, and it was very interesting to see the process. Every year about 7-8 TONS of cashew nuts passes through his factory!! He employed 11 women who processed the nuts and he mainly focused on local cashew, preferably wild cashews. We bought a kilo ^^ .
So, to conclude, Sapna ranch was a learning experience. All our clothes are red with the dust of construction, and I think we still have not gotten all of it out of our skin even! It was great to be in a place where foreigners were in minority and to make friends with so many indians. What amazes me is how easy it is to hang out with the Indians, despite our HUGE cultural differences. Not many has travelled to the west, but still, somehow they understand and know. What I love most about travelling is all the great people we meet. I am very grateful to Hasmuk for his patience with us and all the knowledge he shared with us.
Lots of Love
Linnea and August ❤