Trample around Travel

The return of the native

A river sutra Astream at Sirsi, a spider catcher and the cottage PRATHAP NAIR

A river sutra Astream at Sirsi, a spider catcher and the cottage PRATHAP NAIR  

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To be one with Nature is on many people’s wish list. George and Sushie Varghese show us how by choosing a slower, simpler and sustainable life

Most of us want to live in harmony with Nature — that when we open our living room windows, we’re greeted by the cackle of noisy barbets and emerald parrots fighting over their morning meal of fresh guavas from the neighbouring tree. That, sometimes, slender-beaked spider-catchers, drunk on some nectar, fly straight into our living room, disoriented. That fresh breeze sweeps our curtains, from the lush forest just outside our homes. Well, not quite as specific as these wishes, but you get the drift.

The return of the native

Almost every real estate developer peddles these promises and boasts about offering views of rolling hills and lakes that hopefully don’t catch fire or froth up someday like an overworked washing machine. Since we cannot afford to drop all we have in our cities and go live in a forest, we buy into these promises. But some of us don’t. And I met one of them a few years ago.

George and Sushie Varghese wanted, for a long time, to live on the land, grow their own food and live a slower, simpler and sustainable life in a rural setting. After 11 years in the IT industry, 10 in the US and Australia, they moved to Sirsi, bought a piece of land and became organic farmers.

“We wanted to get out of the urban, corporate and consumerist life that we were once a part of and settle some place where we’d be more producers than consumers,” says George. Ten years later, the family has grown to include three daughters and a large number of dogs, cats, chicken, cows, ducks and buffaloes.

Sure, he still can’t access high-speed Internet, and there’s no way to watch Netflix, but after going back to basics and the daily grind of harvesting and tending the earth and raising cattle, George and Sushie are living a full life.

“We’ve settled into the rhythm of life on the farm, the various seasons, crop cycles, joys, inconveniences... wouldn’t trade this for anything else, at this point in our lives,” he says, with the satisfaction of a man who has moved away from the crazy urban circus our lives have become.

George has a cottage in his property, available to rent for small, responsible groups. It’s a bamboo and tiled-roofed structure whose unplastered walls are made of laterite. The bamboo was harvested locally and treated by soaking in water for about two weeks. The glass door opens out onto a veranda and offers views of the surrounding hills and forests of the Western Ghats, separated only by a stream from his farm. Its windows do not have bars, “to maintain a feeling of openness”, says George.

When I stayed with George and company, all the above-mentioned incidents with barbets, parrots and spider-catchers did happen. And for those of us who cannot afford to drop everything and go become organic farmers in Sirsi, a stay at George’s is a perfect alternative, in my opinion.

(The writer is an independent journalist who lives in Stuttgart, Germany, and often writes stories that intersect food and travel)

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 6:08:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/the-return-of-the-native/article17466772.ece

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