I have posted a more detailed account of how my work with GoodNewsIndia led me to pointReturn. In case you are interested here it is. I must warn you however the article is 3,000 words long!
In 1980 I had the same urge as I did in 2003 and now again, in May,2006. Bereavements seem to nudge me to return to land in a fundamental way.
In 1980 I heeded the call. I was a total illiterate in the ways of nature. I was a mere refugee running away from a heart-break. Shaku, my wife had died in 1978. We were both 36 and in the event, something snapped inside me. I wanted time-out to ruminate.
I bought 6.5 acres of barren sands by the sea near Chennai [-then known as ‘Madras’] and groped my way towards greening it. I built a sail windmill to pump water, endured -and enjoyed- being without electricity, money or a social life. The silent spaces and the coconut and other trees inching their way up made enough amends.
Magically, money, friendships, learning and a new confidence began to arrive. I realised that far from me growing the trees, they were growing me. I growed.
Along the way, a conviction also grew that the world was moving too far away from the land. While technologies that lead to sustainable, permanent, people- and nature- friendly solutions are beneficial, those that are mere fixes can lead us in a wrong path. To give a quick example, plastic shopping bags are a menace while technologies that make a cloth bag possible -weaving and sewing- are essential and welcome.
I tried and failed in an endeavour to develop a Stirling engine of my own design but that only reinforced my anxiety about our ways with energy use. What could I personally do?
In the late 1990s, the Internet arrived. I saw the point of it almost instantly, and felt an exhilaration a sailor adrift at sea might on sighting land. Learning, connecting, expressing and growing were at once possible for anyone. Paying Rs.70 an hour for access over 56 kbps rickety, dial-up lines and first version of Netscape Navigator did nothing to abate my excitement on discovering the Internet in 1996 at a net cafe.
The GoodNewsIndia website was born in 2000. Publishing it has been my tribute to what may be ‘the good work’. I discovered many people all over India, pegging away at their missions and solutions.
It seemed a good way to spend the rest of my life… travelling, meeting people, writing about them, mining the Internet, watching India change. But after a time, that too felt inadequate.
Then in just 8 months following July 2002, a young nephew and his sister were carried away by cancer. I was at inflexion point again. I was 60 now and realised I was entering the last lap of my life. There was the farm, now worth sinfully high prices thanks to the economic boom but the same boom was also ruining my peace. Development for tourism and leisure homes were destroying old habitats and the environment. Over a hundred swimming pools were built in the mid-90s in a 5km stretch of the coast near me. The spanking new East Coast Road was ruinously changing values.