On March 16, 2009, I received an unusual mail. Sriram wrote that he and his wife Karpagam had decided to quit Mumbai for a rural life and that they “would like to volunteer/spend time (around 1-2 months) at pointReturn in 2010.” They were planning similar stints on a few other projects. I wrote back and said, “if you and your wife can live basic and work manually you’d be welcomed with gratitude!”. He confirmed they would. In August they came over and met me in the city.
I am a fair judge of passion bubbles. In them I sensed an integrity, considerable preparation and a well etched clarity. “I can’t pay you any stipend. Do you have enough money? What happens when you have children? The last-mile to pointReturn is hard to traverse- how would you manage that? I would like you to be not dependent on me for getting there and out.” To each of these, their answer told me they were a couple who have spent hours together, thinking things through, firming up plans and determined to break out – now!
They had many entrapments to break out from. Both are professionals with glamorous, well paid careers few would care to leave. He left his 6 years ago to work in education for children. Both are management graduates used to assuming responsibility for operations and planning. He is a IIT alumnus. She grew up in the idyllic environs of Chennai IIT. Both are 36.
I suggested they visit the stark acres of pointReturn and then come back to me. In August, 09 they spent a day there. It was more intimidating than it is today. Before they returned to Mumbai, they met me again. They were going to put their papers in and return to Chennai in January 2010. Could they stay longer than the month they had mentioned earlier? For a year, maybe? Maybe more? Hmm. Obviously I had not noticed them coming over the horizon, despite the vigil. I gazed at the two for long, more or less half my age. 36 was also the age I stopped being a full-time city man. I sensed kindred spirits in them – only, they were far more spirited and positive than I had been a 36. I quietly told myself not to pressure them over their commitments. I must instead let pointReturn make it hard for them to leave.
As I write, they are at pointReturn and I am in the city for a few days. They are organising the work, bouncing around, enjoying their tiny space in the pavilion’s loft, cooking great meals for everyone, preparing vegetable beds, working themselves to the bone, reading up, dreaming- and infecting everyone with their spirit.
For me personally, it is so salutary to have people I can wrestle ideas and plans with, have them critiqued and have them implemented. Just a few more like them willing to risk going out on a limb, and much can change rapidly at pointReturn. And, the planet.