Karpagam and Sriram

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.

35 thoughts on “Karpagam and Sriram

  1. Hi!!Sriram & Karpagam. I guess it’s now almost 8 months that u r there at PR. How r u both doing? Do believe u r enjoying every bit of it. My best wishes to both of u. Take care

  2. Your heading of the article says “Karpagam and Sriram” and then you talked so many things but nothing about THEM ! May i know what is it this esssy wants to convey to a new reader, me?

    osai chella
    Blogger and Writer

    1. hello osai chella…
      it was my personal statement. i had been working alone since 2006. i had hoped that someday people would come and join me to further the work. then suddenly, unexpectedly and most pleasantly karpagam and sriram extended their helping hands. this article celebrates this development. it is meant to underline my belief that when you sincerely undertake something worthwhile you will receive all the assistance you need.

  3. Dear Sriram and Karpagam,
    When Vinay told me about you and your experiment, I had no idea what I was about to witness. Let me tell you when I saw you I was awed at the ease with which you guys have transformed your thought process, your very being, and it has put me in a serious rethinking on the very essence of whatever we are desperately trying to achieve in the world outside!
    May you succeed in your point of return! And, hoping to see you again soon,

  4. dear Dr Swatantra,
    we thank you for the great gift of fruits. we will meet you on your next trip.
    wrt the replacement of jaggery with banana peels, it is certainly an acceptable option for making manure. in fact over-ripe bananas are commonly recommended for making amrut pani/jeevamrit and other organic concoctions.
    we have a regular supply of fermented jaggery (gone unusable due to moisture ingress) from a source in chennai and that takes care of all our needs.

    we concur with DV on the toilets. instead of moving the toilets around, we move the composted humanure around to where we require.


  5. Hi Sriram and Karpagam,

    I am a retired pediatrician, and my friend Shyamala is a retd GP..we visited pR 2 days ago…yes..we went all the way….missed you both….will come again…my scientific mind tells me banana peels can make good manure..of course you will need animal/human excreta too..but instead of jaggery, banana peels with fructose sticking to the inner surface…could do the work of jaggery…which is sucrose…i would like to know your thoughts…secondly…..the shifting toilet where a team of three ppl could use a toilet for say a week, the toilet is nothing but a pit dug in the ground and after each usage we put a small spadeful of mud and dry leaves…put some crushed banana peels and leave it for 45 days….then plant a tree

    let me know your and DVs views

    1. dear swatantra…
      i enjoyed meeting shyamala, yourself and the two young men. i appreciate your interest and thank you for your warm words- and the huge gift of fruits.
      when i mentioned the gandhi designed toilet – which is a hole that is left alone after full, and then planted- i neglected to tell you that he used to leave it alone for months. pointReturn’s approach factors in other considerations: 1- separation of urine and faeces, 2- ease of use for everyone in all weather, 3- total avoidance of any leaching, 4- and recovery of compost for managed use. the last feature gives us the freedom to use the compost where we want. we need to plant trees over 15 acres and can’t be moving our toilet hole everywhere. thanks for your thoughts though.
      karpagam and sriram are the foodies and am sure will answer your question on fructose from banana peels. yes, you missed meeting an interesting couple. the lemon you gave has been planted as a whole as you suggested.

  6. Hi Sriram and Karpagam and DV

    You are truly inspiring, for may of us who wish to take this step and don’t have the courage to do so, citing various reasons.

    A thankful prayer to god, for you both found each other. Most of the times the couple do not share these passions, and You are blessed to have found each other to live your dream.

    Sriram, it will be wonderful if I can come and spend some time there with you. Let me plan this with you.

    The Amrut Mitti has been briefly documented here” Amrut Mitti in six steps”.


    Dear DV ( what is your name? ) Wish to meet you soon. I can well appreciate your your thoughts and happiness on having these two angels around. do read our blog at http://www.urbanleavesofindia.blogspot.com . U will know why.

    Warm Regards
    Hope to meet you soon

  7. It is so warm in my heart to hear the stories of you both, Sriram and Karpagam, infusing your dreams and passion at point return. I have been following DV’s progress sometime now, from his first hauling of soil and his first sketch of a farm. I have prayed for him to find the right partners. You have brought the star of hope to his dreams. Congratulations for finding such a man of discovery and commitment. Never forget you are admired from those far away, that read your posts and news and generous ideas!

    For me personally, I would love to read a journal of arts that you entertain, living there. The design from an engineering perspective of course is an art, but the other arts like weaving the grasses into a mat, or boiling local plants to find color for dying cloth, are interesting too. Perhaps you use local materials to sculpt an instrument of some kind reed. With all your hard work, what pleasures come with the quiet times, when the sun fades and tasks are completed for the day? What beauty are you building into pr? I would be so interested to learn from you, how you balance the work and play.

    Thank you for all your hard work and being an inspiration for all of us!

  8. My dear permaculture friend DV – Congratulations! We must be on the same wave. My time since the course has been wrought with difficult, but valuable, lessons. My true flow just recently returned to me, and it is such a beautiful sight! So worth the challenging journey. Of course there were so many beautiful moments during the journey that made it so much more joy than pain. I have such an incredible balance in life right now that i do feel truly blessed.
    Thank you Karpagam and Sriram for giving this incredible man hope and help in bringing his epic dream to life!

    Much love to you DV, my brother in farms! I can’t wait to come see it…and i will.

    Keep looking to the horizon

  9. dear shri vijayaraghavan – look forward to seeing you at pR soon. you will notice a lot of changes rendered by nature and be insipired yourself :-)
    taking this step together (as a couple) sort of helped us manage the parents issues. they could not adopt the ‘divide and rule’ method!! also we have been appraising them of this plan for over 1 year.
    while they have accepted this move, they have not fully approved :-)

    dear shri madhu – thank you for the link.
    the jeevamrit and beejamrit of shri palekar are similar to amrut paani.
    simply put, the cow excretions are superb composting accelerators and the rich microorganisms that help the cow digest biomass is fed back into the soil for them to do some more :-)


  10. Dear Sri DV & Karpagam and. Sriram,

    Kudos to all three pioneering souls who have embarked on this wonder nature trail.. which most folks only visualize but cannot get themselves to live out.

    We can at least get our inspiration/high reading about your adventures.

    I saw on the blog some questions about amrit pani etc so thought I should throw my 2 cents worth as well.


    May the force of nature always be with you..

    Best Regards,

    Madhu (From Pittsburgh. USA)

  11. Hello Karpagam and Sriram

    It is nice to see that a couple at the prime of their corporate carreer have chosen to give a helping hand to my good friend DV whom I have known for over 30 years since he quit the sea & settled for land

    What was the reaction of your parents when you decided to move into a rural

    I have been to DV’s pointReturn a year back and plan to visit again in the near future when I will have a chance to meet you

    Wishing you success in your venturing spirit


    g s vijayaraghavan

  12. happened to see this post late..hence this late comment..
    I am probably the only one privy to all three of you. I can understand how happy and relieved DV shud be. i am sure it’s a mile-stone for pR.

    This trio is an amazing team and so it’s only a matter of time before it grows big with more like minded ones coming in.

    to k&s here again are my best wishes for a long association with pR and many achievements out there.
    now that u have WLL, happy (regular) blogging too..

  13. Hey karpagam & Sriram!!!
    Wish you all the best and my sincere prayers for achieving the goal you have set for yourselves.You both are truly exceptional and unique.
    Hope you are enjoying every bit of this wonderful journey you have set upon yourselves.

  14. Hey Didi/ Bhaiyya

    I hope you both are doing well.
    I really miss you a lot and many at times i think about you because my grand mother has gone to village for farming and i know you are farming too. So whenever i miss her i miss you too.
    I realized one thing ,when people are close to us,we don’t even give them value but when people go far away we realize how precious they were. And you were very precious. I will pray to god that you get whatever you want in your life because you both deserve everything on this earth.All the very best…….

    (Your Student )

  15. Integrity, preparation, clarity…. it is no surprise that they see this in you.
    PR’s gain is mumbai’s loss
    Will be following your progress…


  16. Wow! this is amazing ! I wish you the best and pray that your dream succeeds and becomes an inspiration for several many more to follow. Rama

  17. Dear DV,
    Your writing is wonderful as always. You are an inspiration.

    A tear came to my eye thinking of you and your new partners Karpagam and Sriram. They are very lucky and wise to have found you, and you them.


  18. Dear karpagam and sriram,

    Very inspiring indeed. A dream that many of us have been contemplating for a while now … the life you have embarked upon! Wish you all the very best!

    Could you share your website address please.

    Warm regards,


  19. kedar…

    i am afraid i must point to my own writing-rather skimpy, too- to explain amrit paani:

    “Almost any terrain can be farmed : roof-tops, barren rock and derelict land. All you need is access to a lot of biomass. Cow-dung, -urine and small quantity of jaggery are fermented for three days to get what is known as Amrit Pani in Natu Eco farming. Then green and dry crushed biomass is pickled in the Amrit Pani for a day or two. The drained mass, crawling with soil animals is layered with a little earth, wood ash from cooking and piled 1 foot high. In 45 days, this turns into sweet smelling nursery soil or Masala Mitti in Natu Eco. ”
    from http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Magazine/story/ymc/P3/

    there is such little on the internet on the subjecT. i hope sriram or karpagam will explain in detail

  20. dear friends – pR is an enriching place and DV has made many steps towards ‘making it hard to leave’ :-)
    i thank the friends of pR who have shared their wishes and blessings.
    to paraphrase DV – ‘there is nothing as too much best wishes’. he said it in reference to mulch :-)
    our experiences are being blogged at our website and we will try to answer some interesting queries that have been raised by surveysan.

    karpagam and sriram

  21. One needs to look inside to know what one wants to do. Obviously the two have done a lot of soul-searching before taking this road. Requires a lot of guts and commitment.

    You guys are doing what a lot of others dream of doing but never get down to it.

    I hope you can inspire others to at least spend a few days with mother nature.
    All the best.


  22. Hey Karpagam and Sriram,

    This is really an amazing task.
    Undoubtedly you guys are gonna be an inspiration to many of us.
    My hearty wishes for this excellent job.

    Deepa Sunder

  23. wow! truly amazing.

    i would love to get some insights on what thought process they went through before embarking on this new journey.

    kudos and best wishes to Karpagam and Sriram.

  24. Hi DV,

    In his book ‘Good to Great’ Jim Collins observed that almost all CEOs who built “Great” companies gave almost full credit to one factor for their success -“Being Lucky to have great people”!!

    Isn’t it Luck that we meet great people once-a-while?

    Best regards to Karpagam and Sriram.

    – Kedar

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