"I am still interested in projects and plans. But I am more interested in people who make these plans, than the plans themselves. "Are you willing to truly listen, suspending your judgments to consider radically new perspectives? Are you willing to deschool your mind? Are you able to stay humble and at the same time, claim your true power? Are you striving to walk your talk? Do you believe in the power of the sangha and are you willing to be co-creators of the new world through personal and collective practice at the same time? Are you willing to work more and more sincerely to make yourself worthy of being a guardian of the planet? Are you comfortable with who you are and what is in this moment? Can you imagine yourself as a mother nurturing children?" These are the questions I am interested in asking people before knowing what plans they have."
Sangeetha is based in Chennai, India.
I moved on from middle-class activism to angry activism over a long period of ten years. During that time, I had collaborated with many activists who believed that the world would change with projects, protests, blueprints and manuals, which in hindsight, is a very masculine way of thinking. After years of letting this directly clash with my true inner calling, I went through a physical and mental burnout and was forced to stop my work, heal and consolidate my lessons to move forward. That is when my second phase of work began.
Six years ago, I started gardening nature's way. Four years ago, I became a mother. Entering the world of natural farming and attachment parenting (along with unschooling) mark two very significant landmarks in my activist life. Those were when I began to really observe how life worked. I started getting insights into the intelligence of life and healing, the thing that is most needed in the world today. Healing at many levels and in many forms.
Charles Eisenstein wrote "What the doomsayers say is true: our situation is beyond hope. Perhaps if we had reversed course in the 1960's, if we had zealously applied all the ecological and social understandings that arose at that time, there would still have been hope. No longer. It is too late. Only a miracle will save us. And so I say, "Let us devote ourselves to the study of miracles."" And that to me is tapping into the feminine; getting closer and closer to the source of creation itself; aligning with it. For it alone knows what is to be done in these times of utter chaos and conflict. We can be mere instruments of the divine plan.
And so, my work these days is largely about consciously shifting from operating from the masculine part of myself (which is about thinking, analysing, planning) to the feminine (which is about surrendering to the wisdom of creation, accessing life's intelligence and preparing myself to be worthy of receiving grace). I spend my days in prayer that 'I may be used as an instrument to manifest that which is for the highest good of all life'. In prayer and in preparation for undertaking that which is directed towards.
I am still interested in projects and plans. But I am more interested in people who make these plans, than the plans themselves. "Are you willing to truly listen, suspending your judgments to consider radically new perspectives? Are you willing to deschool your mind? Are you able to stay humble and at the same time, claim your true power? Are you striving to walk your talk? Do you believe in the power of the sangha and are you willing to be co-creators of the new world through personal and collective practice at the same time? Are you willing to work more and more sincerely to make yourself worthy of being a guardian of the planet? Are you comfortable with who you are and what is in this moment? Can you imagine yourself as a mother nurturing children?" These are the questions I am interested in asking people before knowing what plans they have.
In the material plane, I am interested in gardening. I am part of 'reStore gardens', an initiative of 'reStore' through which we take up community gardening. We practice permaculture, which is a radically new way to approach gardening for urbanites here in Chennai. We are now working in three community gardens. I see these as spaces for connecting over co-creating. When people get introduced to nature's way of farming, it seems to have a profound impact on their way of approaching life itself. They learn to wait patiently, become respectful of life, be receptive, observe and tune into life's intelligence at work. The most amazing conversations happen during our gardening sessions.
One of my continuous pursuits in life is to simplify my lifestyle. How can I make my life easier, simpler, healthier, lighter on the planet so I can be more available to pursue my true life calling? Being very interested in 'product design', I enjoy making new products from upcycling used stuff.
My family enjoys hosting seekers and organising gatherings of individuals and families looking to connect authentically over their seeking.
Writings by Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, J.Krishnamurthy, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, Masanobu Fukuoka, J.C.Kumarappa, The Mother, Joseph Chilton Pearce, John Holt and many others have profoundly impacted my life. I continue to read to expand and deepen my understanding of life and its purpose.
I blog extensively about my life: aspirations, explorations and insights. The following are some defining ones.
Lessons from the Soil
The Motherhood Retreat
Letting the Feminine Lead the Way
1996-1999: Worked with Exnora International. Managed projects on community waste management, environmental education in schools, urban waterways management, evolving city plans for community-based 'Zero Waste Management', etc.
1999: Spent 6 months in Earth Corps working on eco-restoration projects with youth from across the world. Attended series of workshops on globalisation and participated in the WTO Seattle Protest.
2000-2001: Pursued my post graduate studies in 'Sustainable International Development' at Brandeis University, USA. Was a core member in the Rejuvenate India Movement. Worked with a Gandhian Panchayat Leader in understanding 'Gram Swaraj' - economic, social and political freedom with the village as the basic self-contained unit, (as articulated by Gandhi) and implementing it in a network of villages in Tamil Nadu.
2001-2002: Traveled across rural and tribal India (about 40 villages) to find answers to gnawing questions about social change. Began my involvement with the Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers Movement.
2002-2003: Pursued PhD in Environmental Policy at CEEP, Delaware University, Newark. Losing interest in one-dimensional and purely intellectual approach to learning, I quit and returned to India. Before my return, for about 6 months, I visited and volunteered in organic food-cooperative stores, intentional communities and free schools to understand their role in birthing the new world.
2003-2004: Participated in the campaign against Interlinking of rivers in India, researching and writing articles, giving talks, participating in campaign meetings. Participated in the 'Jal Satyagraha' with Rajendra Singh and co-organised the National Water Convention. Traveled and researched alternative education initiatives for the 'Source Book on Alternative Education' to be published by Other India Press.
2004-2005: Was the Coordinator of the National Service Scheme at IIT-Madras, where I worked with 240 first-year students. My work involved creating a platform for exploring questions around 'development, technology and industrialisation'. Students visited and worked in suicide-prone villages of Anantapur, polluted industrial belt of North Chennai, learnt organic farming, raised herb gardens, etc.
2005-2006: Worked with the Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers Movement documenting their effort in restoring tsunami-affected agricultural lands in Nagapattinam district, Tamil Nadu. Was editor of their monthly magazine.
2006-2008: A burn-out from my marathon activism run of the past ten years! Took up natural gardening to heal spiritually and physically, and consolidate lessons learnt. Traveled to and volunteered in organic farms.
2008-2012: Co-founded reStore, envisioning it as a community space in Chennai where people concerned about sustainable living could come together and share their journeys with each other. A retail store became the face of reStore. Been volunteering at reStore, which just completed 5 years! With a group of activists, coordinated the state-level campaign against the introduction of the first genetically modified food crop 'Bt Brinjal' in India, in 2009.
2012-...: Started the 'reStore gardens' initiative with a focus on 'Community Gardening'. Networking with homeschooling families in Chennai to see how families can learn together and share their journeys to understand and explore more meaningful and fun ways to live.
2013: My first book is published in Tamil titled 'Pasumai Puratchiyin Kathai' (The story of the Green Revolution). This is a collection of 17 articles that appeared in a Tamil magazine since 2004. The book uses the story of this mega-experiment of the humankind which has re-structured not just our soil, but our society and its soul along with it. It concludes that the root of the problem is in the flawed perception of the 'self' as separate from nature, of 'knowledge' as a product of thinking, which are what need to be understood and corrected in order for any meaningful solution to the agricultural crisis of our times, to emerge.