On new year morning, I started work at 6 am to complete yet another swale. After warming up the excavator engine I quickly got into a steady rhythm, enjoying the nip in the air and the drift of mist across the far casuarina grove.
In a few minutes I became aware of being watched. And there, not twenty feet away, stood a fox staring at me, unfazed by the machine, its buzz or me seated in it. It had been around the whole time for sure, watching. We locked eyes and were in sync, his presence pervading me. We were in communion for several long seconds.
There he was, at ease amidst the brush, almost quizzical about my presence in what seemed his natural habitat. Whatever the omen of staring a fox in the eye, first thing in the morning, it felt good that pointReturn had come this far from the bald hard land that I had adopted in 2006.
That fox was the cue to review the year gone by and to plan the year ahead.
Let me begin by restating the pointReturn mission: it is to turn the barren 17 acres into a productive one leading to self sufficiency in food, water, energy and cash for 40 people.
2010’s most significant event has to do with people. pointReturn managed to attract two committed, spirited, young persons in January. Karpagam and Sriram have rapidly made pR their home, and advanced the vegetable and agricultural agenda by at least two years. Had I been working alone, I would have gone ahead with planting trees,yes and maintained them and then awaited the arrival of people such as them. I had imagined they would come when the project had settled rather more than it was at the end of 2009.
Their arrival this year has quickened the pace all around. Their blog conveys their excitement and commitment. Their coming on board has attracted widespread notice. In September, their friend Siddarth became a volunteer too, committing himself to at least an year.
His arrival grew the pace of activities a further notch. Increased activities required greater presence and thus, 2010 became the first year the campus has been manned full time. A work routine is also evolving. Everyday something happens that nudges the project further and makes it a more distinctive place.
Regrettably Raju who had been with me for three years, helping build the infrastructure left in August. The project had entered a new phase, calling for a different routine and that rendered him a misfit. The parting was amicable; he is now employed in the city, which enables him to return to his young family every night. I owe him much gratitude for his contributions in those early years, when it was a stark land with no facilities, let alone comforts.
As 2010 drew to a close, I had a happy development to savour. Karpagam and Sriram came over to meet me on Nov 29. They simply and directly said: “We have discussed between us over the last several months and decided this is where we want to be and live our life. So we formally give you our long term commitment to the project.” They complete an year here on Jan19, and I was eagerly awaiting the passing of that day so that I may pop the question myself, and here they were, clear and decisive. I was overwhelmed.
I now have people to discuss issues with, plan developments and share responsibilities. We complement each other: their first love is to grow vegetables and grains and mine is to enable such activities and to keep the course to make pR a larger thriving community some day. As 2011 dawns, I am far more assured than I was soon after adopting this land in 2006. We can now raise this orphaned child together.
2010 saw plentiful rains. In fact since August there has seldom been a fortnight that did not bring a shower. Happily, we were ready to welcome them into waterbodies: there is today a total capacity of about 2.3 million litres between ponds, swales and percolation pits. The work continues to create more.
Thus far we had been dependent on just the windmill. Though it has been a reliable darling we had a scare on one or two windless days. We have now put in a hand pump as a backup.
In March and April we saw the windmill lose suction on many days as the water table fell. The bore-hole it draws from is 200’ deep. The suction pipe was 140’ into it. We had it increased to 180’ this year. Between this move and the good rains we hope to be water secure in 2011.