Sunday Anchor

Karpagam and Sriram, 40

Sriram and Karpagam working in their field. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam  

Karpagam points outside her window: “This is the view I wake up to every morning.” Ragi and neem seeds are drying in the sun. Parrot green paddy fields roll out into the distance, their borders dotted with palm trees. A gentle breeze drifts in — there is no need for a fan, even though it’s peak summer in this quiet village near Maduranthakam in Tamil Nadu.



A commerce and management graduate, Karpagam was a top-ranking executive in a shipping company, her job taking her around the world. While volunteering with a non-profit organisation, she met her husband Sriram “We both wanted the same things in life,” she says. Sriram is an IIT-IIM graduate, degrees he dismisses. “Why is it important?” he asks. “What is more important is what I was doing (or not doing!) for society.”





Before: Corporate Executives
Now: Farmers, Tamil Nadu
Reading Gandhi and Kabir, Sriram realised that “Nature, and not human beings, is supreme”. What bothered him most was the chemicals in the food he ate everyday. “It’s poison,” he stresses. He was sure he wanted to quit and “do something with food”. Karpagam says, “I had an out-of-body experience one day,” when she was sales manager in a company. “I suddenly thought, ‘will the world stop because a new model of car is not sold every six months’?”



Five years ago, the couple quit their lives in Bombay to take up farming. How did their families react? “Violently,” Sriram laughs. “They were shocked,” says Karpagam. Eventually their parents came to respect their decision.



The transition itself wasn’t difficult. “We hit the ground running,” smiles Sriram. “Farming is physically taxing, that was our only worry. Mentally, we were both prepared.”



Today, they grow rice, groundnut, sesame, ragi, green gram, and urad dal. They distribute some of the produce to family members; the rest they sell. “We spend about Rs. 15,000 on one acre of paddy and make about Rs. 25,000. Commercially, I can make much more but there’s no point escaping an exploitative society only to return to it,” says Sriram.



They farm and drive away parrots and cows from their field. In the evenings, they read, blog, or do their accounts. These well-educated farmers quote Dharampal, Wendell Berry and Gandhi, but don’t consider them as inspirations. “Less than 200 years ago, this is how people lived. Our inspiration is our farmers. We are alive because of them,” they say.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 9:55:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sunday-anchor/story-of-farmer-couple-karpagam-and-sriram/article7188754.ece

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