Yesterday I met a Dilip-Kulkarni-in-the-making. Assuming many have heard about Dilip & Poornima Kulkarni, or are borderline interested in their 0.5 watt story, I have something to share with you.
How much money do we really need to get by?
How much money need one make every month?
What should our overall annual budget be?
Vikrant is a mechanical engineer from the prestigious CoE Pune and a post-graduate data scientist from IISc Bangalore. Mohini, his wife, is also an engineering graduate. They are both voracious readers and constantly seek new subjects to dig into. Between training engineers through corporate programs in metros, Vikrant is presently deep into psychology books, some of them on his Kindle. They belong to what could be the highly educated, intellectual 1% of India’s population.
But this part hardly describes the twosome. It also does not explain what a bright young mechanical engineer was doing at the Gramoday farmers’ meet, where I met him.
Thirty eight year old Vikrant & Mohini Patil have been living in Kudawale village near Dapoli for the last seven years, five of those with their little daughter of five, who was born there. They have built a house on their small farm, all 28 gunthas of it. For them, it began with a curious visit to the well-known Kulkarni couple who are probably India’s least carbon-footprint humans. Over past seven years, Vikrant & Mohini’s life is evolving beautifully amid working on their farm in Kudawale, without any hired help, without external inputs like seeds, fertilisers or machines. Vikrant told me, he needs hardly any money, in currency form, just about five thousand bucks or thereabouts each month! They grow nearly all the food they need, what they cannot consume, they donate; what they need but cannot grow, they acquire through barter; what’s money got to do with this, then?
Messers Mahajan, Pendse, Sawant, Patil, Bhat and other member farmers at the Gramodaya annual meet.
Vikrant makes the occasional trip to some big city, like yesterday when I dropped him off at Mangaon bus stand. In Pune or in Bangalore, he delivers his tech-training modules and sells the herbal oils hand-extracted by Mohini, to earn the few quid they need to get by. A few days every few months, is all he goes about the job of actually making money. Rest of the time, they just live! Doesn’t that sound fantastic?
The recent Annadata Food Festival brought us scores of registrations from city folk seeking to go back to their villages, get down to farming. Now, here is a real couple that got away from the city at 30 years of age. Someday soon I wish to spend a whole day at their farm. The Patils are creating a great example, becoming a role-model to those wondering where to begin their journey to a simple life. They are proving that we need not be running big businesses or work in corporate jobs in big cities, to be truly happy and living purposefully. It’s actually much the opposite.
Here, they work, they produce, they consume, they give. Between all this, they live.
They do not need to hoard to see tomorrow dawn. They harbour no fear of the unknown, because they now understand Nature. They trust the Earth, less than three quarters of an acre precisely, to give them enough to live, for as long as they do. His Kindle is only a recent acquisition and the two have retained a marginal city-connect for the essentials, quite sensibly. He says, the roads, the transport, the communication (read Internet connectivity) have improved over the years and there no longer remains anything attractive in the city that could put him away from his rustic lifestyle in the clean, open abundant countryside. Government yardstick would index anyone at 5k/month as below-poverty-line whereas Patil actually turns out to be one of the richest blokes around, isn’t he? Gramoday clearly is such a treasure trove of exemplary lives.
If I were a writer, I’d doubtless write a book on Vikrant & Mohini. Someone surely will, someday. I drove back home, alone through the oncoming torrent of restless MH12 cars making their way to some holiday resort down in Konkan. Most would make merry or buy a fleeting moment of unreal peace and return to cities. Maybe, some like Vikrant would stay back and live on. God bless Vikrant, may his tribe increase.