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Escape India's urban jungles to live the village life you deserve
I have been living on a farm 30 kms outside Bangalore for almost 10 years now and I get different versions of the same question all the time: Why did you leave city life and live in the village?
Some people are just curious at this strange decision of someone in their early 40's, chucking a lucrative business and coming to live in the country. They are quite convinced that this was a loony decision, but for some strange reason like to hear the story from the loon's mouth.
Then there are others who want to do it themselves. Their reasons might be diverse and they may never take the actions to move from the city to country living but they WANT to do it. This much smaller group of people will question you about every major and minor aspect of village life with great gusto, sometimes taking notes, on what to expect - how to plan finances, find land, establish an income, and live happily ever after.
After having scores of these talks, I feel there is a dire need for a structured resource on this subject, because there is literally no help available for those looking for this information, particularly in the Indian context. In this book, I will not only recount my journey to finding my piece of paradise in rural India but will also address every step needed to attain this dream. In effect, this work is what I was looking for when I started out on my city escape, but it hadn’t yet been written.
There are a few features of this quest or journey which define this book: My own experiences have been in India, so this material will be most useful for someone looking to move to an Indian village.
In the west, we have seen a flow of city people moving to live in the countryside, at least since WW2. Ordinary, middle class folks in Europe and North America have enjoyed living in quiet, natural places, thanks to the infrastructure they have built. But apart from the rich who have weekend farmhouses–recreational places to flaunt to friends and family, the Indian middle class prefers to live in the city. Even the thought of living in rural or wild places is alien to them. So for an Indian city dweller seeking to live in the village in India, there is literally no place to turn to for advice.
This is now changing. I know several people who have quit their city lives and broken out. They now live full time in rural India, and make a living while doing so, which brings us to the second parameter that defines this work–making your rural life financially stable.
There are several people who want to retire to the country, but you need to be an Indian to understand the sheer mental challenge this poses for my countrymen. Is it safe? What will I do in the village? Won't I get bored? I need my friends and family around me!
And I agree with all those reactions – living in rural India or in the wilderness, away from the towns and cities, is not for everyone. You need a certain mindset to enjoy it and make the most of it. Even in the countryside, villagers live in villages, which are microcosms of cities, with their alleys, shops and houses clustered together. Very few live away from human habitations on the lands they farm.
Humans like the warm safety of numbers. They might bicker and hate each other, but they like to live in clusters. It is one of our evolutionary traits that we developed when the only way to ward off predators and marauders was to band together and live together. This created tribes, and the feature is so ingrained in our psyche that a few thousand years of civilisation cannot dull it.
But there are loners who like to go off on their and live away from the society of men. Even in pre-historic times, there were these hunters and travellers who would disappear in the jungles for days and emerge for a few days, to go off again, and again. These were explorers, searchers and adventurers at the forefront of discovering unknown places and carving a living out of nature. New knowledge is always discovered thus. It is this urge that drives human progress and the second feature of this book addresses this human trait.
When I say this, I do not mean that living in rural India is akin to renouncing the world to go live in the middle of the rainforest. I have supermarkets 5 kms from my farm and international airport is just an hour away, so I am hardly the model explorer. I am alluding to the mental makeup I see again and again in the people who moved out of cities – sub-consciously or consciously, they are dissatisfied with living in an Indian city, town or even a village. They want distance between themselves and other human beings. A healthy distance, and a quiet space of their own.
What is it that you want to do when you live in the country?Answering this question will be the third aspect of this book. Farm roses, keep cows, grow timber, write and read, enjoy nature, live healthy or just look at the grass growing under your feet – we are not concerned with why you want to move out of the city to somewhere nicer – whatever your motivation, you will find some small value from the story of someone who has done it – not once but twice.
For those very few who muster the courage to jump in, the enterprise is fraught with risks and dead ends. Where should I buy land? How much land is enough? How do I know which piece of land is right? Am I making the right decision? Will I live to regret it? How do I know for sure that this is right for me? How much will it cost to build my infrastructure? What all do I need? How much money will be enough? What will I do all day? How will I make a living? What about my children's education? Will my wife / husband get bored? I can fill pages with these questions.
To answer these questions, we will start by exploring the real motives behind this urge to live in pristine isolation, away from everything that living in cramped localities means. You might live in a plush Manhattan or Mumbai penthouse, but in my book, you are still living cramped one on top of each other. Not having another human within earshot for extended periods of time is soul enriching, but that silence, filled only with night noises, can be scary for many people.
A clear moonlit night among groves of trees and meadows is the most ethereal experience but our own fears sometimes throw shadows that scare us, when we should be elated by its beauty. Which are you, the one who imagines ghosts or someone who can befriend his own demons? Read beyond this point only if you are comfortable with yourself and can be alone, but never lonely, in your own company.
So you have decided that this is the life for you. Where do you begin? You have been born and have lived all your life in the city and apart from holidays you have taken, you have no experience of living out of your comfort zone, out there. How do you take the first steps to transition into a new life? How do you ensure that it all works out?
There are no guarantees in life – like everything else, you take it as it comes. But it is good to know what to expect, in which areas are you most likely to make mistakes, and which mistakes you can correct and which you have to live with for the rest of your life.
Once you are into the planning stage, take a good, hard look at your motives – what is it, above all else, that you would like to do once you move into this life? How do you identify your calling in the country, that not only puts food on the table but also fuels a greater purpose in your life, the real reason you want to find your quiet place on earth.
Your purpose is what will keep your juices flowing, through thick and thin, and will help you grow as a person. Because life on your own terms, with no human interference, is a great powerhouse, waiting inside you. Once you start this engine, you are home and dry.
The most obvious enterprise that comes to mind when thinking about moving to rural India is agriculture, but beware; commercial farming in India is a dice loaded against you, and more often than not, you will lose money if you don't know every aspect of the particular farming business you are getting into. We will explore the ways you can make a living, without working full time, and using the least amount of manpower, because the less dependent you are on staff, the more successful your business will be.
There are practical difficulties you will face. As an outsider, when you move into a rural community, there will be a certain level of interaction between you and the people already living there. You can no longer remain the city slicker who sometimes visits his farmhouse – now, you live there. How you conduct yourself will determine the quality of your life in this community. Village people recognise both fairness and firmness, and although some will try to swindle you of a few thousand bucks, most will respect you if you remain friendly, yet keep your distance.
Legal help in India is very poor if you find yourself at the hard end of things. How can you ensure you don't make legal mistakes while buying the land, or buy into disputed property? How do you avoid conflict with neighbours, and if there is a conflict, how do you navigate local power politics and local agencies to protect your legal rights and interests?
I am making it sound as difficult as it can be because I want you to plan for the worst so you can create the best life for yourself and your loved ones, with the least pain.
And there will be pain. 'Breaking Out' –the title of this work- is a concept that is a threat to society and it's institutions. Every economic, social and emotional system humans have adopted keeps every member of the tribe locked in within a single order. Corporations, governments and every social or religious institution has restored conformity and adherence to their code. To achieve this, they exert pressure on the individual that takes many forms. You are born to serve the society's purpose, and this is no conspiracy theory.
Once you remove the different leverages that society has over you – money, status, children, religious or group affiliations – you discover a new freedom to choose your own life. This in the truest sense is 'breaking out.' Moving out of a job and city to find my path in rural India is just one expression of it. The real aim is to stop believing what society tells you about the things you need and find those things you need to be content-with who you are and what you have.
So what can you expect from this life? Clean air, water and food, while the cities choke on toxins, no external stress so you can move your mental space from negative to positive, no human interference in your life so you can choose how much you wish to interact with whom, the knowledge that you are resourceful, self reliant and independent, and that you don't need anyone or anything to be happy. But most of all, it is the sound of the night breeze in the trees, the pure oxygen you inhale that courses through your veins like fine wine, the trees that stretch to the horizon and the ever present, ever changing sky show of clouds, light, dark and everything in between.
I hope this book will help you in some small way in your journey to finding a better, happier life, somewhere quiet. Because it is worth it.
22nd Jan 2020